When I was but a horrible child, I vaguely recall a visit to a military museum somewhere in the south of England. Not the big London one, that came later. A good deal of this one was outdoors and some of the tanks and armoured vehicles were available for horrible children like myself to play in.
Great fun. We couldn’t fire the guns because in those days adults were not all total morons and our parents were all quite aware that not a single gun was loaded. Most of them probably didn’t work any more anyway.
Oh, and we all had cap-guns, spud-guns and I had a metal double-barrelled shotgun with corks on strings in the ends of the barrels. We were allowed to buy the caps ourselves and we could buy matches too. The consequence of that combination was of course inevitable but no permanent harm was done so nobody minded.
We didn’t need parental permission to buy a new cap-gun either. All we needed was the required number of pennies. Since the only place we could get those pennies was our parents, the shopkeeper took the ‘permission’ part as read.
Nowadays, a child so much as touching a gun is cause for shock and horror. It didn’t take many years to soften the collective mind of the West’s drone population to the point where you could drop it through a sieve without wetting the wires.
Fortunately Thailand still believes children can have a bit of fun and excitement without their parents fainting into a pool of their own bladder and bowel contents at the sight.
One noticeable thing in all the photos – evidently the feeble wailers of the Mail haven’t noticed – is that none of the guns are fitted with magazines. Not even the one on the soldier’s shoulder in the first picture. If you have flown recently you might have noticed that the police guns are most definitely loaded, but the drones don’t seem to mind that at all. None of them question why the airport police need semi-automatic weapons when nobody can get a pair of tweezers through security.
Without bullets, these are harmless metal tubes that kids can pretend to fire. Like the toy ones we all played with throughout the 1960s. With no supervision at all.
Only one of the cohort I grew up with developed any interest in real guns and he was a shooting-range shooter who never fired at anything with a pulse. As I understand it, he packed it in in disgust at the handgun ban.
So now, I don’t know anyone who grew up with me, playing with toy guns and later airguns, who owns a live-round gun of any description. Only one who ever did. I now know farmers who have shotguns but on a farm, that’s a tool, not a weapon.
We all built model tanks and played wargames where the tanks were filled with match heads and the artillery consisted of airguns. The cunning commander didn’t place his tanks too close together. Not one of us has ever driven a real tank or an armoured car because we we not military material so didn’t join up. One did try to join the Navy but bad eyesight scotched his chances. Not one of us has ended up in prison and not a single one of us has become a terrorist.
Playing with guns does not turn children into Raoul Moat. Giving your child a first name that sounds like a kicked dog is far more likely to do that.
These Thai children are being instructed by soldiers who will no doubt tell them the dangers of the things they are handling and show them the proper way to handle those things. Some will grow up to be soldiers as a result of the interest kindled in them at events like this. They are all having a good time in a perfectly safe environment.
Where will our future soldiers come from? Aside from the thugs (which the army does not want), we have a generation growing up in terror of anything remotely gun-shaped.
We will have an army with clipboards, resolved to go over to the bad people and give them a jolly good ticking off. There was a time, you know, when that did actually work.
But then, the man with the clipboard was backed up by lots of other men with lots of guns.
It’s not going to work the other way around.