We sat there, my son and I, for a few minutes without saying anything. I had set up the intervention in hopes that he would simply accept my line of reasoning and fall in line with the family edict: No First Person Shooter Games. It seemed like such an easy sell, especially given my son's sensitive nature. I showed him pictures of some of the first graders who were murdered in Newtown. He showed the proper respect and sorrow for the tragic events in Connecticut. I launched into my own account of the number of kids that I have known and the countless others that I never met here in Oakland who never reached their eighteenth birthday because of guns. Or, to be NRA-specific, because of bad guys with guns.
That's when he came back with his best response: "Do you really think that I would do that?" He wasn't being petulant. He was curious. I told him that I couldn't imagine a reality in which he would pick up a rock in anger, much less a gun. I also never imagined a future when playing with guns would be such a conundrum.
In the neighborhood where I grew up, one kid had a trash can in which we stored our toy arsenal. Several times a month, we would find ourselves standing around that trash can, taking turns picking our rifles and pistols. These were the days when making toy guns as realistic as possible was the goal. No need for that bright orange tip on the end of the barrel. We wanted it to look like the real thing. Before audio chip technology, we all became quite effective at reproducing the sounds of various automatic weapons fire with our mouths. I spent years of my life playing "Gunner," a game in which the object was to gun down all my friends before they had a chance to resuscitate one another. All in good fun. How could I sit in this chair and argue with my son that there was no reason for him to play the same kind of game in a virtual setting.
How could I explain to him that the world is different now? How can I be sure that it is? Maybe it's just the sheer number of people and guns on the planet now that make events like what happened in Webster, New York more likely to happen, or that the twenty-four hour news networks feed on such calamities.
Or maybe it's time that someone saw an alternative. I told him that it definitely wouldn't be any fun being the kid who told his friends that he wouldn't be joining them for any "Black Ops," but ti would be fun to have all those friends around for his eighteenth birthday.