I like to keep an open mind, and I admit that it's a wise parent who asks, how can I protect my child against the weapons I keep at home because that's relevant to some professions.

But some questions go more in the downright scary direction of What is a good starter firearm for children?

I find the topic itself quite worrisome, and merely by allowing the topic here, we grant the mix of weapons and children some degree of approval which I am against. I'm not going to burden this question with arguments of my personal opinion up front, but I think we need to discuss our stance on whether weapons questions should be allowed.

I suggest this policy:
Safety questions, yes.
Weapons choices, no.

Wow, this sparked a very good discussion with many contributions to either side.
Clearly, weapons is a highly controversial area (unlike, say, stroller selection). I'm pleased to see that nearly every contribution was constructive. So far a few clear distinctions have emerged:

  • Weapon safety is considered on-topic by everyone. End of discussion.
  • Weapon training is the controversial issue. This answer most eloquently states the argument against. Arguments for are more scattered.
  • It has been suggested to keep even the controversial questions, but add answers that argue against the issue; and then let the voting do its work.

I suggest this policy:

Safety questions, yes. Even related to weapons; it's simply yet another dangerous object in the home, just like that chainsaw or this detergent. That's good parenting.

Weapons choices, no. That's not a parenting question but rather like sports training. Think of archery, go-cart, or horse riding as other skills to train that are dangerous if not properly trained.
In the chat, @hawbsl suggests to close such questions.

  • 2
    So questions like "How to choose a soccer ball for my sever-year old son" should off-topic too, you think? – Nikita Barsukov Apr 7 '11 at 12:42
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    @Nikita Barsukov Probably so, sounds an awful lot like shopping ... – C. Ross Apr 7 '11 at 13:01
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    Yes, now that you ask. Soccer ball selection criteria is also more sport than parenting. There are proposals for at least seven different sports sites in SE; it would be on-topic in several of those. An on-topic parenting issue could be like My son is afraid of balls. How can I address this fear? or even Should I let my seven-year-old choose a soccer ball by himself? – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 7 '11 at 13:07
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    -1 if I had more rep. If you are going to close the gun question, you must also close this question. parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/520/… – John Dibling Apr 7 '11 at 15:22
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    @John, why? Is there a stroller-selection SE I have missed? If so then the question you link to should be posted there; otherwise it's fine here. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 7 '11 at 17:02
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    Stroller selection is not related to anything BUT parenting and its a question that almost every new parent will face when they first bring their infant child home. Gun safety is also a topic that (I would hope) nearly all parents are concerned about. Gun selection (and Soccer ball selection) are not. – Justin Standard Apr 7 '11 at 17:46
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    It's really hard to separate out the "sporting" aspect from the "safety" aspect in a question like "which gun should I start my child on?". The Question is relevant, in that it pertains to child safety. Responses that contribute knowledge to "better child-safety in this activity" are relevant, and responses that contribute to "better performance at the sport or skill" are not, the latter are off-topic. IMHO. – funkymushroom Apr 7 '11 at 18:03
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    -1 because it misses the point: ALL "which $thing should I buy?" questions are already off-topic. There is NO value to censoring anything on the basis of its controversy. I happen to think that teaching Christianity to children is dangerous and ill-advised, but still I don't try to eliminate all positive mentions of it -- as a matter of fact, I've upvoted at least one answer that referenced a Christian perspective because I felt it was generally the right advice for people who subscribe to that philosophy. – HedgeMage Apr 8 '11 at 21:49
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    +1 I agree that choice of (guns, sporting goods etc) are offtopic for a parenting site. – Rory Alsop Apr 10 '11 at 18:45

IMO weapons-related questions are no less worrisome than, say, questions about bullying, or teen violence. They raise important issue about lethal objects and children. Should parents restrict children from accessing such objects? Is it safe to teach a child how to handle such an object? What dangerous objects are OK in the house, and what are not OK?

So, as for me I actually find discussing such a topic extremely fruitful.

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    Wait, there's a distinction: discussing the safety is on-topic, but discussing the benefit of one firearm over another is decidedly off-topic to me. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 7 '11 at 11:40
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    @torbengb - the OP of the question you referenced wants to teach his kid target practice and gun-safety, and he stated it in question. IMO it is OK to discuss how to start it. – Nikita Barsukov Apr 7 '11 at 12:25
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    But that's not parenting, that's more like sports training. Archery questions would be just as off-topic to me. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 7 '11 at 12:28
  • Exactly. Which bike should I buy my child would be better off at bicycles.stackexchange.com - which gun should I train my child with, is just straying over the line. – Unsliced Apr 7 '11 at 13:30
  • However children have an education, which most of the time involves sport. – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 13:53

I suggest this policy:

Safety questions, yes.

Weapons choices, yes.

You've suggested that you think the question "which gun should I choose" should be closed because, in effect, the best gun is no gun at all. Your opinion is perfectly valid, and for the record I think I share it. But that doesn't make the question itself invalid or off-topic.

The question is still about parenting in that it was asked in the context of a parent trying to make an informed decision. It is just as much about parenting as questions about which stroller to buy are about parenting, and nobody has called for the stroller question to be closed.

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    I don't think that adding "for a child" should automatically made any question on-topic. Is "What kind of boat should I buy to take my child on?" on-topic just because it involves children? Strollers are a child-specific topic (there's no difference between "which stroller?" and "which stroller for a child?"), so the stroller question is not off-topic. – Gabe Apr 8 '11 at 7:23
  • @Gabe - You're boat analogy is complete different. The child would not be driving the boat. A better analogy would be, what type of bicycle should I buy my child as a first bike. Would you vote to close out that question? – Javid Jamae Apr 9 '11 at 1:13
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    @Javid: "Bike, trike, or scooter?" or "When to take off training wheels?" would probably be fine. "Which kind of bicycle?" seems more appropriate for bicycles.stackexchange.com/search?q=children – Gabe Apr 9 '11 at 1:23
  • @John, so the topic "Which drug should I introduce my child to first" would be on topic? – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 13:47
  • @Jonathan: Freedom of speech means sometimes hearing things you don't like or don't agree with. – John Dibling Apr 10 '11 at 17:53
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    @John, however wouldn't you be disturbed that a parent was going to drug their child? And do you not think that freedom of speech is less important than the safety of children (talking about drugs here not firearms)? Also wouldn't the legal departments of the country, like child protection services be concerned that this site is encouraging parents to [seriously] mistreat their children? – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 20:29
  • Here's the trick though. Any parent who would want to give their child a gun, would also be the sort of parent who would already have firearms in the house, and as such would already be knowledgeable about where to start (like a pellet gun would be one place to start, as is traditional). I deeply suspect that the thread in question is in fact actually a troll post intended purely to stir up controversy and flame wars. Trolls often are interested in pushing boundaries and bending rules and arguing that what they're doing is legitimate, and well within their rights. – Ernie May 19 '11 at 19:32

I just don't understand why it's scary to see these kinds of questions here -- the audience here is parents (not children).

I, personally, would never consider having a firearm in our house, but it wouldn't' scare me to see parents asking questions about that here. I'd rather allow "What is a good starter firearm for children?" than to disallow questions about what kinds of soccer balls or strollers someone would recommend, which I view as valid for this forum.


Both are absolutely on-topic and should be allowed. Just because some people get their panties all in a wad any time firearms are even mentioned, does not mean that everyone abhors the idea of teaching their kids to shoot. In plenty of areas it's perfectly normal and routine for kids to have access to guns on at least a part-time basis, by their teens. Heck, my grandfather bought me my first rifle before I was even born. And my dad started teaching me to A. respect firearms and their seriousness, and B. shoot, before I was a teen. With proper supervision and training, it is hardly a "big deal" for kids to interact with firearms (or other weapons, as far as that goes.)

  • Surely; if it acceptable, as it was in your case, for children to be using guns, the parent would already know what firearm to use? The only reason they'd ask here and not a family member/neighbour/friend, would be if they lived in an area/or family where children generally don't have firearms. – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 13:51
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    @Jonathan. No. It's not "surely" at all. Let's analogize your question another way: "Surely, if a couple decides to commit to having kids, they should already be familiar with parenting strategies before they undertake such a momentous decision as bringing a new life into this world? Why can't they ask their parents how they did it? Why do we need to pollute the StackExchange network with subjective questions and nannying personalities that come part and parcel with a Parenting site?" Would that be fair? – Uticensis Apr 10 '11 at 18:40
  • No that it is not the same, parenting is far more widespread than teaching children to use firearms. Say certain places in America are more likely to have parents which wish to show their children about firearms, it's more specific than just being parents. – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 20:21
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    @Jonathan What is "just being parents", exactly? Are you saying that parenting can't intersect any other unrelated topic or it will be closed? E.g., that a question like, "What kind of bike would be good for a 3 year old?" should be closed because not all parents bike, or have children who would be in the position to do so? – Uticensis Apr 11 '11 at 1:25

A large part of parenting is knowing how to teach your children. A large part of knowing how to teach your children is knowing what tools to use. Based on the argument that torbengb is making, the question "What is a good math book to start my child on?" would be off topic, because it is about education rather than parenting.

The core question is whether questions about educating your children and tools for educating your are off topic. I would say that they are absolutely on-topic, and the question about selecting a first firearms for your child is a perfectly legitimate question for this site because it is related to helping to select a tool to educate my children for gun safety and sport shooting.

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    Education is key part of a child's life, shooting isn't. – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 13:49
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    @Jonathan - Maybe not where you live, or in your family. But in the US, we have a constitutional right to bear arms (with good reason), and many people choose to exercise that right. Censorship should not be tolerated on sites like this. If this site develops a culture of censorship, then I want to have no part in it. – Javid Jamae Apr 10 '11 at 15:10
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    @Jonathan: That's your opinion, nothing more. Others have a difference of opinion. Just because another's opinion might be different from yours or mine is not a reason to silence those voices. This is the point I've been trying to make over an over again which nobody, apparently, wants to hear. – John Dibling Apr 10 '11 at 18:10
  • @John, I'm not silencing anyone, simply putting my opinion here.I know the US's constitutional right to bear fire arms, however bearing firearms is a right, education is a legal must. You have the option to bear a firearm, however children don't have the option of going to the school or not. – Jonathan. Apr 10 '11 at 20:24
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    @Jonathan - no, but parents have the right to exercise their rights to educate their kids in piano, swimming, karate, knitting, French, art, and.... guns. Any of those things (even guns) can be a key part of a child's life. Different kids will have different activities be key parts of their life. This site shouldn't discriminate against people asking questions about any of those areas, even if its unpopular. – Javid Jamae Apr 10 '11 at 20:45
  • @Javid, so the question "what drugs should I introduce to my children is ok?" Would it be ok to answer that question with "you shouldn't be giving you child drugs", but not ok to answer the same question about guns with "you shouldn't be giving your child guns"? How about the right to educate about drugs (practically, as are piano, karate, knitting, French and art) Would a stack exchange site on bombs be ok, because you don't want to discriminate. Do you think 3 year olds, fully understand what life is? would they have fully developed hand eye coordination? – Jonathan. Apr 11 '11 at 7:33
  • Plus there are limitations to all stackexchange sites, I don't see why this is any different. – Jonathan. Apr 11 '11 at 7:34
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    @Jonathan: I suspect you're using "drugs" and "bombs" in your example hoping that others will share in a reaction of shock... However, many children are introduced to drugs, at a young age, by their parents, for legitimate medical reasons. I would sincerely hope questions from concerned parents wouldn't be excluded simply because they include "drugs". – Shog9 Apr 12 '11 at 15:57
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    @Jonathan - Your point is moot because you're comparing a legitimate sport and pastime that is constitutionally protected to an illegal activity. You may not agree with children taking up shooting as a sport / hobby, but censoring people's right to discuss and ask questions regarding something legal goes against the culture of these site. I would definitely vote to close out a question on "giving my child illegal drugs". You comparison is ridiculous and is attempting to discredit through association when there is no association. Using my parent voice: "shame on you". – Javid Jamae Apr 12 '11 at 16:25

Asking for advice on how to teach a child a skill used by a parent seems on topic; including what kind of equipment is child appropriate.

I have not formed a strong opinion on what is an appropriate age a child could begin learning how to use firearms. I learned in the Air Force at 17 years old. Others in my squadron were marksmen and expert at this age. At the time I wished I knew more than nothing about using firearms.

Frankly, the question of a starter firearm is inherently a firearm safety question. Those who have no experience using firearms can be excused for not realizing this, but maybe they should be reluctant to answer questions so far outside their expertise.

I think the whole purpose of our Parenting Q&A site is to allow difficult questions about parenting to be asked and then answered by experts, or at lease those more experienced than the asker.

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    While I agree with you in principle: what firearm to train a child on is a matter of safety (among other things), that doesn't make it on-topic here (what kind of training to provide is another issue). We don't allow any shopping questions -- be they about what model of stroller to buy, what firearm to buy, or what brand of formula -- because the information becomes out of date too quickly. Anything that will be markedly different in a year or five doesn't really fit on a site that is meant to be a living reference for people to search later. – HedgeMage Jun 11 '11 at 3:01
  • Thanks for reading my comment, HedgeMage. Perhaps an editor experienced with the kind of questions allowed could generally modify a question towards compliance rather than down-voting? It seems like "what attributes do the best strollers have?", "what type of firearm is an appropriate first to teach and learn with?", and "what criteria should I use when picking formula for my baby?" could all be relevant and valuable over time. – Paul Cline Jun 15 '11 at 17:07
  • Absolutely, and don't forget that you can edit them, too! – HedgeMage Jun 15 '11 at 21:43

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