those innocent days of cap pistols and water guns

These days, guns are no laughing matter because kids are killing each other with the real thing, intentionally or accidentally, and it’s generally illegal to make toy guns that look too real or to make a toy gun without a splash of yellow or orange coloring at the end of the barrel.

Back in the old days, we played cops and robbers or ar army with cap pistols and water guns and the police and our liberal parents saw nothing wrong in that. When you got shot, you fell down, counted to 50, and then got back in the game.

Mother used to tell the story about the time she walked into my bedroom and I shot her with a water gun which, like the guns of detectives and mobsters, was at the ready in the righthand drawer of my desk.

Even though we were both laughing, she said, “What have I told you boys about loaded water guns in the house” and I said, “What have I told you about coming into my bedroom without knocking?”

We agreed to do better. When asked why she was all wet, I said I thought the sudden opening of my door was part of a mob hit.


“Well, you and dad live at the safe end of the house, but when you come back here, you’re in a zone so dangerous that even the cops won’t patrol after dark. This is the part of the house you see on TV detective shows: it’s just not safe.”

“Oh my,” she said. “How can we fix it?”

“You and dad need to start carrying,” I said.

That was funny then, but it wouldn’t be now because kids are doing the same thing with real guns. I don’t know if our kind of playing turned evil or if changing times brought evils into our homes and schools we didn’t know existed fifty years ago. So far, the answer to the problem seems to be that all of us need to start carrying, and then when friends come over for dinner, everybody has to check their guns and ammo at the door.

As a pacifist (yeah, from that childhood, who’d have thought it), I despair at every stupid gun death in the home, the latest school shooting, and the unchecked violence against cops and others in our cities. I wish somebody had an answer. It bothers me that “they” don’t.

Counting to fifty just doesn’t work anymore.