Four-year-old Prince George was photographed playing with a toy gun at a polo match on Sunday, sending social media into a frenzy over whether or not children should be able to have fake weapons.
Headlines from media outlets summed up the outrage from the left, with the U.K.’s Daily Mirror proclaiming, “Outrage as Prince George plays with toy and knife on family day out amid surge in violence,” and several citing quotes from Twitter users such as, “sad to see him playing with a gun when the UK has a crime problem.”
But while many criticized the fact that the little prince was allowed to play with a plastic gun, the debate has been ongoing as others have risen to the defense of children playing with such toys. Several users dismissed the criticism, arguing they themselves had toy guns as kids, and that such play does not encourage violence.
Even an opinion piece in The Huffington Post assured parents in the aftermath that allowing (specifically) young boys to play with guns would not make them grow up to be psychopaths.
Parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith told The Independent, “I understand why gun play worries parents, however research shows that any aggression demonstrated while engaging in ‘war play’ is not carried over into real life. ie: kids who play with guns become no more violent than those who don’t.”
Another expert, parenting coach Bea Marshall also weighed in, saying: “In my experience of raising my own sons, and also working with families around the world, one thing I have learned is that many children will find a way to create a gun no matter how hard you try to keep guns out of their world. Sticks, lego, wooden spoons and more are often turned into a gun and the intention behind it is completely innocent….
“Guns only become ‘bad’ when we give them that meaning. In doing so, we introduce fear and control into our relationship with our children rather than focusing on connection and joy.”