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Using comics to teach kids about the dangers of guns

Title cell of Jeff Yang's
Title cell of Jeff Yang's "Cars & Guns & Common Sense" comic he wrote with his 9-year-old son after the Newtown school shooting.
Jeff Yang

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Jeff Yang, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, has a 9-year-old son named Hudson who is obsessed with guns. After the tragic events this summer in Aurora, Colo. and now Newtown, Conn., Yang wanted to have a frank conversation with Hudson about guns and what they can really do. 

"We live in a society now where these stories can't be firewalled off from kids. Hudson has a younger brother, Skyler, who is 4, and he'd already heard about the shooting." said Yang. "I knew that they'd already talked about this briefly with the kids at school, I knew this was out there. So I decided last weekend to sit down with Hudson to have an honest conversation."

After the talk, Yang decided to collaboration on a comic with his son to help reinforce their discussion and to further educate his son in a fun and artistic way.  The two sat down as they were talking with a pen and paper in hand.

"Having two boys in a culture like ours, its almost impossible not to have this feeling that guns are a saturated part of the popular culture in which they live," said Yang. "Whenever you talk about death with kids, its abstract… At the same time the larger issue around guns and how much of a force they are in terms of shaping our society is something that I thought needed a process to go through."

Yang asked Hudson to sketch out what he was feeling for each stage of their conversations, transforming their words into pictures. The result is "Cars & Guns & Common Sense," a story about why guns are so popular in America, and asking whether we should regulate guns similarly to how we regulate cars. 

"In many states its legal for an 8-year-old to shoot when supervised by an adult, but there's not a single state in which you scan drive as an 8-year-old," said Yang.

Yang says that breaking down the complex and scary issue of gun violence with his son helped make talking about the issue much more comfortable for both of them. After posting the comic on social media, Yang found that hundreds of other people shared a similar feeling. 

"We found that there were a lot of other people who also resonated not just with the message, but with the medium," said Yang. "We're just hoping that if there are other people who also have had trouble talking about this with their kids that something like this could be an idea on how  they could maybe in a safer way discuss different issues."

Cars and Guns and Common Sense by Jeff and Hudson Yang