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Close to Home: Our job as teachers and as parents

  • A police officer displays a real AK-47 alongside the BB gun carried by Andy Lopez. (The Press Democrat)

It was probably my fifth-grade teacher who taught us how certain industries use deception to attract children to buy their products. For example, why has the tobacco industry never had a problem with candy cigarette companies replicating their cigarette packs, or why has the gun industry allowed close replicas of assault rifles to be sold as copycat-like toys?

McDonalds discovered long ago that if an industry gives toys to children under the guise of a side benefit of eating fast food, it could create lifetime consumers. In other words, fast-food manufacturers realized that if you attach something fun and magical to a product, you could make the experience a long-lasting memory.

Interestingly, the toy gun industry seems to have had free rein in the replication of guns for our children. Last year, in a second attempt to introduce toy-gun legislation, a state senator from Los Angeles sponsored a bill that would have required any pellet gun sold in California to be manufactured with transparent or brightly colored bodies to eliminate any deadly confusion. That bill died in committee.

This brings me to the issue of toy guns and the tragic death of a 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy who happened to have a toy AK-47 gun replica at his disposal. We do not need to ask why a 13-year-old would want an AK-47 replica that shoots pellets. Children see adults using guns in violent acts on TV, movies and video games all the time.

The power a child feels with a toy gun that actually shoots objects gives the child a false sense of power. Or, protection? Excitement? Identity?

The child's brain develops rapidly, especially up to about age 14, or when the frontal lobe, our highest center of the brain associated with higher order thinking, reaches maturity. However, it is before 14 when the essential molding of character takes place. Those early years are the time periodduring which parents need to realize the negative impact of various industries.

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