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How playing with toy guns saved my life

It appears that Mexico is contemplating banning the sale of toy guns; it isn't, however, thinking of blocking gangster and murder films, or the portrayal of violent events on television screens. I looked up the history of Mexico in one of my reference books, but the index was so complicated that apart from mention of frequent wars with the US, I learnt nothing as to why Mexicans should suddenly start worrying about toys.

I grew up in the 1940s, my childhood filled with the sound of Home Guards marching down to the seashore to enact conflict with invading Germans. My brother, older than me, had a toy gun, but he swapped it for postage stamps. They had stopped making toys in those days, so I made a rifle out of the handle of a yard brush with a drawing of a bullet stuck to the top. With this I ran around the field at the back of my house, happily firing. It didn't make me long for a real weapon, which is understandable seeing that my parents and teachers taught me that shooting someone is sinful.

When I had children of my own I bought a lot of cheap Woolworths guns, made of metal and objects worthy of display. We went to the park and shot Red Indians, something which these days one is not supposed to mention.

I now have grandchildren and 30 or more guns. The children's parents won't allow their offspring to be seen in public with these toys, which means they find it exciting to go to grandma's and get at the weapons.

I think playing with toy guns as a child taught me a valuable lesson that paid off 30 years ago when my mother-in-law graced me with a less than friendly visit. As a mother, she had abandoned her children and in old age had arrived at the conclusion that I was her, and needed punishing. Calling round one morning she advanced up the stairs towards me, drew a handgun out of her bag and gripped the trigger. Used to combat, I flew towards her and jerked up her arm. The bullet thudded into the plaster above and brought down the ceiling.

I don't think she'd played with guns as a girl, and I didn't press charges. A year later she threw herself under a train.