by Cheryl Jackson Monday October 6, 2008

When my son was little, he never asked for a toy gun, at least not that I can remember. I'm pretty sure he made weapons out of other things, however even on this I'm a little sketchy. I guess this means that the boys and guns debate never really manifested itself in my home, but it does in many, many homes with little boys.

Boys seem to like to play with toy weapons, whether it's guns or swords or light sabres. If they don't have their own toy gun, they have been known to make one from Lego, or sticks, or even their morning toast.

Why do they have such a fascination with weapons? And is this healthy?

When I was a kid, toys guns were everywhere. I know we had them in our house, along with leather holsters and cowboy boots, a little cowboy vest and a cowboy hat to go with it. None of us has grown up to own a gun or even want a gun. In fact, we're appalled by gun violence.

Times have changed. For the past 20 or 30 years weapons play has been actively discouraged, with some experts saying that it leads to violence.

Other researchers, however, are now saying that's not so. They argue that boys are hard-wired in utero to need these sorts of toys because weapons are spatial and they encourage active fantasy play that allows the kids to set and follow rules of honour and moral conduct. They say it also encourages safe risk-taking and insist it does not create violent adults. In fact, experts say boys denied weapons toys may shut down and suffer negative self-esteem because they are being told this innate inner drive to wave their arm around is bad.

So, who's right?

We're staging a friendly battle between both sides of this issue on Your Voice. Be sure to watch.