Francesca Zeno
Signature Assignment
History of Toys

Growing up surrounded by boys definitely made an impact on how I played as a child. Even though I did have a few dolls, I also had a lot of “boy” toys. I had fake guns, beyblades, bionicles, and hot wheels. But, I never really had one specific toy that I absolutely loved. I never had an incredibly deep connection to a toy that I could ever remember. With this particular set of toys, it wasn’t really the toy itself that I have memories with, but more so how I used them and who I was with. The memories created and the connections I made while I was with this toy mean and meant so much more to me than the actual toys ever will.
    My childhood consisted of all of the kids in the neighborhood coming together to play games in my family’s backyard. We would all get together and play ghosts in the graveyard, running bases, baseball, or my personal favorite, “The Country Game”. The country game is something that my older brother, Anthony, made up. It’s kind of a terrible game, but parts of it were pretty fun. The idea that someone decided to make this is better than the game itself. My brother turned our neighborhood block into its own country, which he made himself king of. He made a weekly newspaper and had my little brother, the country’s mailman, deliver them to each house in the “country”. Then, more often than not the “country” would go to war with another “country”. That was pretty much just my brother planning an airsoft war with his friends. So, after all of this, I reveal to you that my toy is the airsoft gun.
    So, before I tell you anything else about my personal connection to airsoft guns, I’m going to tell you the straight facts about them. What they are, the history, and controversy surrounding them.
Airsoft guns are replica firearms that fire plastic Airsoft pellets (also known as BBs) by way of compressed gas or electric and/or spring-driven pistons (WikiMedia). In the early 1980’s in Japan, all firearms were made illegal. So, this made the demand for fake guns and firearms increase. At first the airsoft gun was just used amongst the hobbyist, but then the big companies caught on and began to mass manufacture airsoft guns (airsoft station). At first many users just used the airsoft gun to practice target shooting, but then people began shooting each other with them! Why wouldn’t they? The main audience of the airsoft gun was young males. You should expect males to always try to find a way to bring war into anything. Young males used the airsoft gun to play out their ideas of being a adventurous war hero (Airsoft Guns Gas Electric Spring).
When airsoft reached America in the 2000’s it became incredibly popular. It was easier to bring into neighborhood games than paintball guns, they hurt way less when you got shot, and were less expensive (Airsoft Guns Gas Electric Spring). They replaced pretty much every other toy gun that kids used to play with. But, no matter how “great” something is, there will always be some sort of controversy surrounding it. I guess it’s expected to have controversy around fake guns being given to children to play with.
The biggest controversy that surrounds replica guns is the dangers they bring to whomever is possessing one. In 2013, a young 13 year old boy, Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California was shot and killed because a deputy mistook his airsoft gun for a real firearm (McClatchy). Something like this happening is definitely a reason for some sort of uproar and discussion about the laws surrounding replica guns. The only law before this shooting was set in place in the late 80’s or early 90’s that most toy replica guns had to have a orange tip (Par 9). This law was proven to not be enough multiple times in many different studies, as it’s not enough of a difference between a real and fake gun for police to tell the difference in a matter of seconds (Par 10). After the shooting, police Chief Charlie Beck pressured the state to pass new laws on the matter. A new law then took effect that all toy gun replicas must be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips on them. Unfortunately this law only covers toys made in California (Par 12). Luckily, other states have also taken matters into their own hands. In 1988 a bill passed in New York City that banned the sales of all realistic looking toy guns (Toy Guns, Real Crimes). The law basically has the same content as the California law, all toy guns must be brightly colored with distinguishable markings (Par 3). Now while this is probably the most important controversy with airsoft and toy guns, there are still more issues.
There will never not be those annoying, overprotective parents that ruin the fun for everyone. One of my neighbor's parents were exactly that. They always made their son, Max, come home really early, they never let him go places with us, and worst of all, they never let him have airsoft guns. I guess maybe their over protection could be rationalized, we weren’t exactly the best influences, but we weren’t terrible children. People like Max’s parents tend to be the people who take safety too far. It’s important to be safe, but you can’t coddle your kid and expect them to grow. Anyways, the next topic is about if zero tolerance for toy guns is too much. I remember at every school I’ve ever gone to, for Halloween and just in general, there were strict rules about toy weapons. That rule was zero tolerance, we couldn’t bring in any toy weapons; guns, swords, bow & arrows, or anything! Even if they were neon pink and made out of foam. Is this taking it too far? Or is it better to have this zero tolerance policy? Basically, after the columbine shooting, we have all decided that there should be a zero tolerance policy for any weapons in a school (Talk of the Nation). But, how far does this go? I remember during my elementary years, my school was getting more and more strict about safety measures, and really for no seeable reason. We couldn’t run on the playground or the blacktop anymore and so many games were getting banned that we used to play when we entered the school. When I was in first grade I could climb to the top of the rope ladder in my P.E. class, then by fifth grade we were only allowed to climb up 5 feet. Remember, coddling doesn’t help you grow. There were two extremes and no one could settle on something in the middle. This is similar to the zero tolerance weapon rule, while it should be taken with complete seriousness, it can be taken much too seriously. There have been kids who have been expelled for pretending a chicken nugget is a gun and “shooting” their friend with it (Par 18). Can it be possible to tolerate gun play at schools? While allowing gun play can be seen as a negative, that we could be encouraging violence, I think it is nearly impossible to escape. All young boys are going to have some sort of “violent” tendencies; tackle football, pretend war, wrestling, etc. My brother used to tell us about how during recess the boys had “banned” wrestling tournaments. All of the boys would go to the grass field and create a human wall, by standing next to each other, facing the supervisors and then two boys would wrestle on the other side. By the time a supervisor noticed this human wall and started to walk over to them, there was enough time to stop wrestling and do something else so they wouldn’t get caught. What I’m trying to say is no matter how many rules are put in place, there will always be ways to get around them, you can’t stop the nature of young boys or any young child. The punishment should fit the crime. No one should get expelled for pretending a chicken nugget is a gun. I think that zero tolerance is taking things way too far, but to each their own, there really is no one right answer everybody can agree on.
One specific memory I have with airsoft guns is more prominent to me than some others because of how intense it felt within the moment. My brothers and friends were not exactly the most well behaved kids, so we decided to have an airsoft war in an abandoned mall. The mall wasn’t exactly safe or legal to go into, but it was definitely a great place for a war. So, we get to the mall and realize we have to sneak in because there was 24 hour security patrolling the outside of the mall. We were already there, there was no way we would go back now, just because of some lousy security! We had to time when the patrol car turned the corner to the other side of the mall to run in. Imagine, a bunch of idiotic kids running across a gravel road and searching frantically for a hole in the mall’s wall. We all barely made it, but alas we got in. Before we start the war we explore a little bit then break up into teams. Then the war begins. About 20 minutes in, I’m running on the second floor and reach the top of the escalators which are overlooking what seemed to be a food court. I see my Anthony and a friend just camping behind two giant potted trees. They see me and start to attack! Completely unfair! Camping! Really? I run the opposite way, as I have no cover. I run straight into a store and see a door thinking it would just lead to an office. It goes not only to an office, but to more and more rooms. As I’m running, I look back for my brother chasing me and run straight into a wall. Not only did I just smack into a wall, but nobody was chasing me anymore, and now I’m lost in an abandoned mall. Since I’m already lost, I take time to explore, because why not? I was curious, this mall is getting torn down anyways, might as well be one of the last to see what’s inside. I’m walking around with my airsoft gun and  headlamp flashlight and I end up on the floor level where there’s a giant hole in the wall looking straight out into the parking lot. Before I realize it, I’m standing in the giant hole in the wall with my headlamp shining straight into parking lot. And lucky me, the patrol car was in the parking lot. I literally jump to the side and slam on to the ground like a bomb is going off. I hear a car door open and close. I turn off my headlamp and am literally army crawling on the ground covered in random dirty crap that covers the floors of abandoned buildings. I spot a broken down table a few feet away from me that I frantically crawl to. I hear footsteps and muffled conversation getting closer and closer to me. I get under the table and start burying myself with random shrapnel, inhaling all these terrible things that will probably give me cancer in my later years. Two security guards step inside shining their flashlights everywhere. I’m staring at their shoes from the floor, I’m trying to breathe as quietly as possible, but it sounds like the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. My heart is pounding out of my chest, it sounded like the bass drum from a marching band. I couldn’t believe they didn’t hear it immediately. They walk closer to me, their ugly black shoes just feet away from my face. Then I hear them speak and to my great relief it was something like this.
    “Jim, honestly, if there’s anyone here, who cares? We’re almost off our shift, if someone’s here we will have to stay late.” And they left. WOW, that could’ve have ended way worse. I stood up feeling like I had just escaped my certain death from the enemy soldiers. In that moment I felt seriously badass. It gave me more of an adrenaline rush than I had ever had before in my 10 years of life. Laying there, hiding from the enemy just feet away from me, covered in debris, with my trusty airsoft gun next to me, with my heart beating out of my chest. That’s the day I’ll always remember, playing with Polly Pockets isn’t enough anymore. That moment turned me into a much crazier and wild kid than I ever should’ve been. And it has definitely stuck with me ever since.
    Speaking of close calls with authority, there is a time when we actually did get in some sort of trouble with the police for airsoft guns. Now, I know the stigma that the police in Chicago, where I grew up, are terrible people who shoot kids with toy guns. That is not 100% true. While some terrible things happen, there is never a news segment on when the police actually do their job correctly and are not completely corrupt. My parents only let us get the clear airsoft guns, so that they didn’t look real. But when one of my friends, John, came over with a Classic Army AK74 airsoft gun that looked completely real except for the orange tip, my brother had an idea. He decided that not only did our clear guns not look real enough, but John’s gun with the orange tip also looked too fake. As kids, we weren’t thinking about our general well-being, running around shooting each other with realistic looking guns. We all went back to our garage and found some black spray paint and painted every airsoft gun we owned completely black. When they all dried we started having another airsoft battle, and we felt incredibly cool, like real soldiers, for the entire 10 minutes that lasted. A cop car drove by and saw a bunch of kids with realistic guns. He did see us shooting each other and laughing, so he definitely knew they weren’t real. If they were real, he would’ve been able to hear the gunshots from the police station, which was just on the block across the street and train tracks from us. So this officer pulled over and got out of his car to approach us. We were all pretty shocked and terrified that we were going to get arrested right there and go to jail for the rest of our lives. Ride together, die together, am I right?  I almost started crying, even though I had hid from security before, we were right in front of my house and my mom was home. I was ready to put my hands behind my back and get thrown into the back of the car before I even knew what I did wrong. The officer was incredibly friendly and just asked us what kind of guns we had and he explained to us that we can not paint our guns to look real because someone might think we are shooting real guns. He then went to our door and then informed my mother about the incident. We had to spray paint orange tips on the guns before the officer even left. Why we had so much spray paint? I don’t know. But I do know that we were incredibly lucky to be living in a nice area where the officer didn’t assume they were real guns and saw us for what we really were. If I had grown up in a different area in Chicago, the outcome could’ve been very different.
    I realize I’m making it sound like only degenerate children play with airsoft guns, as we were often doing something incredibly stupid without realizing what a terrible idea it was. But telling you about an airsoft war that was completely successful with no close calls, that wouldn’t be as interesting to read.
Airsoft guns are a toy that are meant to be used by groups of people. To play together and interact. They help with team building, they teach us to work together, and become more cooperative. They teach strategy, they help you improve your hand eye coordination, and they force you to go outside and run around and get dirty! And that is the basis of my childhood. We were always running around outside, doing incredibly stupid things, getting hurt and walking it off. Airsoft, amongst other toys and games, brought our neighborhood group of friends closer together, and to this day, I remain in contact with some of the first friends I ever had. Any toy that can help strengthen a bond between friends is a toy that I will remember and keep in my heart forever, even if it’s a symbol of something that is quite the opposite. As I had mentioned before, the memories made have always been more important to me than any toy I have ever played with. The connections I have made with people have always been more important and much more fun than any toy.

Annotated Bibliography
"EDITORIAL: Toy guns and real-life tragedies." McClatchy - Tribune Business News. 31 Dec. 2016 eLibrary. Web. 23 Oct. 2017.

This source is a news article from Tribune Business News. This article informs the reader about the tragedy of a young boy being fatally shot because an officer thought his airsoft gun was real. The article then continues to talk about different laws on replica guns.

“Airsoft Guns.” WikiMedia Commons, 2017

This source is basically a page which states the definition of an airsoft guns. It then has data and media post on different types of airsoft guns.

“Toy Guns, Real Crimes.” The New York Times, 5 Aug. 1988.

This news article informs the reader about a New York law regarding replica guns and how they are to be presented and made.

"Does Zero Tolerance Make Sense for Toy Guns?" Talk of the Nation, 26 Feb. 2007. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.

This is a broadcast on NPR where the hosts discuss the zero tolerance laws on toy guns in or near schools. They have callers call in to discuss their opinions on the topic with the hosts of the show.

“The History of Airsoft.” Airsoft Station, 2017,

This source discusses the history of the airsoft gun. Where the airsoft gun was made and how it was used in it’s earlier days. It always states how the airsoft works.

“The History of Airsoft.” Airsoft History and Its Background | Where Did Air Soft Come From?

This source talks about the history of airsoft guns. It talks about when the airsoft guns were made and who uses them. It states the pattern in which people use airsoft guns. It also talks about how the airsoft gun spread to different countries.
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