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Can children be gun proofed?

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While toy guns might seem like harmless objects to children who want to have fun, there are concerns that they reinforce violence as a normal part of society. In a world where movies portray guns as a means of defence and where gang life is often romanticised, should children be exposed to toy guns?

Joan Van Niekerk, a child rights consultant and a member of The International Society for The Protection of Children, said exposing children to imitation guns could damage their level of thinking and ruin their innocence.

“Playing with toy guns gives the children the impression that guns are acceptable and can be played with. I’m very concerned about the ease in which children are exposed to guns, toys or real, as it reinforces aggressive behaviour. I would like to see a stricter application of gun laws. I would also like play guns to look less realistic,” she said.

This comment follows the latest incident in which a minor allegedly shot and killed a Cape Town toddler with a pellet gun. It’s understood that the suspect knew how to load and fire the pellet gun and had used it in bird hunts with another family member.

Director of Gun Free SA Adèle Kirsten said incidents of this nature are common, however, children can not be held accountable as it is the responsibility of the parents or guardians to ensure guns are kept safe and out of children’s reach.

“The unfortunate incident that happened proved once again that parents should not expose their children to guns of any nature because unforeseen incidents such as incidental suicides and or murders can damage a child,” she stated.

“Our role as Gun Free SA is to help people understand the risks of having guns, leaving guns in close proximity to children amongst other things. The incident that has happened angers us because the gun was accessible to a child who as a result is now labelled as a suspect in a case,” she said.

Van Niekerk said according to law, anything that looks like a gun is classified as a gun be it a toy or not, so essentially parents should not allow their children to be exposed to toy guns at all.

Further questioning of the suspect, expected to take place next week, will now be conducted with the assistance of a child social worker.

Van Niekerk said the child will be referred to a probation officer because the child justice law provides for it. She said before any steps can be taken against the child the safety needs of the child should be taken into consideration.

“We need to establish why the minor was left unsupervised with a gun so easily accessible. The parents should be held accountable because they should have safe guarded the gun and kept it out of the child’s reach,” she stated.

Police spokesman Andre Traut could not comment as the investigation is ongoing.


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