Mountain View Voice

Opinion - September 18, 2009

Toy guns out of bounds at Art & Wine Festival

by Charles and Kathleen Alley

Sitting at our favorite Starbucks in Mountain View this Sunday, we had a different-than-usual view in front of us as we watched our fellow citizens walk/browse by the vendor stands at the annual Mountain View Art & Wine Festival. Old, young, in-between; walkers, strollers ... it was great to see the families stroll by, chatting and taking care of each other.

Suddenly we heard an incoherent sound in this peaceful scenario, a child's voice making the sound of a gun. We turned to our right, and there was a youngster, around 7 or 8, holding a wooden replica of an Uzi, pointing it at us and "pretending" to shoot us. Behind the young boy was a vendor's stand with items we had not noticed previously. One display held a wooden machine gun, another a wooden Uzi, another a wooden assault rifle, another a wooden hand gun. There were obviously other items as we watched a young girl pick up a wooden cork gun, point it at her father and "shoot" him over and over.

Our first reaction was surprise. Having lived in the Bay Area most of our lives, and this being probably our 100th or so festival, we could not remember ever encountering a booth with toy machine guns and AK-47s for kids.

Our second reaction was to be uncomfortable. We didn't like having even a toy gun pointed at us.

As we collected and processed our thoughts, our third response was to be disturbed. Innocent children were being marketed to, real-time, with replicas of lethal weapons. They now had the opportunity to pick them up and do with them what they see, unfortunately, on TV and in video games: point it at someone, someone they love or a stranger, and pretend to injure or kill them.

Why are we marketing assault weapons, even pretend assault weapons, to our children 2 to 10 years old (the counter was very low so even toddlers could reach) in our socially responsible community and home town of Mountain View? Especially with Mountain View and our neighboring communities being embroiled with tragic incidents of guns being taken to schools and children and young people being shot and killed?

We are certainly for the rights of responsible adults to bear arms. But one would also hope that adults would make responsible and socially conscious decisions about what we market to our next generation at Art & Wine Festivals — a place parents take their families for art, entertainment and food.

That thought would also apply to the people and organizations making selections and providing oversight on what is being offered at their event.

Charles and Kathleen Alley live on Cuesta Drive.


Posted by Carl, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm

My first reaction to this letter, is mind your own business.

My second reaction, is that you've got too much time on your hands.

My Third reaction is, get out of your chairs at Starbucks and go do something socially conscious. You can start by supporting small business coffee houses rather than a multinational business like Starbucks.

Posted by J, thoughtful and concerned in MV, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2009 at 12:45 am

Where is it written, that having an opinion, and speaking it in a thoughtful, reflective manner should be construed as minding someone else's business?

This speaker was also surprised to see the toy gun booth at the Art & Wine Festival. My sister and I were both brought up short as we approached the vendor and saw several groups of young children aiming guns at patrons passing by, pretending to shoot them. It was disturbing and offensive.

It is my belief that artistic freedom should never be discouraged or censored. It should be nurtured whenever and wherever artistry and artisan connect, but creating miniature uzi's and assault weapons and promoting them as art seems a stretch.

Having worked for many years in a major trauma center's ER, I saw first hand the destruction guns can wreak on the human body. Have we forgotten Kent State, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University? Have we forgotten how many lives were shattered by guns? Do you wonder whether those gunmen started out with artsy toy guns? Have we as a nation not witnessed enough senseless killing because someone mistook a toy gun for an actual weapon?

And what about the zero tolerance policies in schools? Are we not sending our innocents confusing messages about what is tolerated and accepted? It's okay to buy wooden guns at the weekend art show, but be sure to leave them at home during the week. It's ludicrous to believe toy weapons are simply an innocent expression of art. They plant seeds - ones I would prefer were weeded out before taking root in impressionable minds.

I would like to think the organizers and jurors of future festivals would rethink these issues and consider restricting such vendors in the future.

Posted by Mary, a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 19, 2009 at 7:32 am

The paper should focus more on Real Guns Out of Bounds at Public Schools. I'm tired of seeing the Police at my son's elementary school with their guns trying to impress all the low-income kids. Police and their guns and macho attitudes do not belong on school campuses.

Posted by Old Vet, a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 19, 2009 at 4:23 pm

My friends and I all grew up playing with toy guns and turned out fine.

I'm more concerned with the overly-sheltered kids who haven't. Or the ones who have never killed a chicken for dinner, or slaughtered a pig, or God forbid, have had to take a walk in a Southeast Asian jungle. That's all a part of life as is sitting in a coffee house bantering away.

Guns have little to do with it. It's about morals and upbringing and family values. Our society is raising criminals on one hand, and weaklings on the other that run to mommy for the slightest problem. They are told to never defend themselves, but just call 911 to have some one else do it.

Posted by Another vet, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 19, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Growing up playing cowboys and indians as well as cops and robbers, we did a lot of pretend shooting with our fingers. As we got older and started to get toy guns, it was sternly drilled into our heads that pointing guns at people wasn't allowed. Even toy guns. The original poster has every right to feel uncomfortable when this happens, as would I. While it does bother me that children point and shoot toy guns at people, (in my opinion from watching tv and movies) there may be no better time to give them the correct fundamentals and proper handling skills. But unfortunately at school little 6 year old Johnny can't even draw a picture of his daddy, a soldier with a weapon who may be in Iraq. He risks getting expelled or arrested.
As Old Vet mentioned, it's about values and peronal responsibility. If those were my kids at the festival, they would have recieved a quick lesson that it's inappropriate to point even toys, followed by a safety lesson in the field with a bb gun and some aluminum cans.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 19, 2009 at 10:35 pm

USA is a registered user.

Old & Another Vet -- Thank you for the perspective. The twisted logic of the politically correct never ceases to amaze me. They just do not get that idea that children should be taught the basic respect for our fellow humans and to handle responsibility particularly when dealing with deadly force even if just pretend.

Charles and Kathleen -- Alcohol kills and destroys far more lives than guns. You saw children exposed to the open, conspicuous, and repeated consumption of alcohol and yet a toy gun is what you chose to complain about? That's twisted.

Posted by Toby, a resident of Castro City
on Sep 20, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Agree with USA. They might as well outlaw alcohol (i.e., wine) at the Art and Wine festival.

If any one remembers, this same attitude is what killed the awesome beer festivals that MV once had.

A lot of the art represents hippie drug culture as well, so we should outlaw the art too.

Let's not stop there. Panels of socially conscious judges made up of people like Kathleen could tell us all how to live.

Posted by SG, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 20, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Fine to express your biased opinion, but lets just hope the chamber and council dont over react to this type of nonsense. Some people get offended at the slighted non PC stuff. The authors were a little bit disingenious with "holding a wooden replica of an Uzi". These are clearly wooden toy rubber band guns. No rational person would be confused that these are even close to replicas.

When my kids were young, we bought these rubber band guns every year. They are fun to play with. None of us have ever shot or owned real guns.

Posted by rediculous, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 21, 2009 at 1:12 pm

What a rediculos waste of time even drafting this. I bet the author supports censorship and supported prohibition. Get a life.

Posted by Paul, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 10, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Marketing this kind of crap to kids is tasteless, but so is most everything else at the mv "art" and wine festival.

It's nothing but an over-priced flea market serving over-priced booze.

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