My brother and I always got along, except when we shot each other. This sort of thing happened fairly regularly on weekends and summers between the years 1987-1993 with the full permission of our parents.
Trauma was usually kept to mere flesh wounds, inflicted mostly to ignite a vendetta or slow the victim down while still keeping things sporting, depending on how late in the day it was. Grievous injuries knocked us flat on our backs, but still left us capable of delivering speeches and imparting information to those knelt unscathed at our side, so they might avenge us with proper motivation. We left this world troubled only by how itchy the grass felt as we twitched and grew still, careful not to stare at the sun.
"Guns" was a game that was more like a play, where we each assumed multiple roles and gave each other line readings to ensure maximum melodrama. It was usually some sort of revenge tale, my brother and I always assuming the roles of good and bad guy, respectively. My rationale for playing the bad guy was: I get to shoot more people if I'm the bad guy. I remain a man of action to this day.
There weren't rules in the usual sense, but there was most certainly structure. Mindless running and/or gunning didn't do much for either of us, so pursuit was always in service of the story, and the outcome always hazily predetermined-- Matt won, I lost, every time. There was a lot of room for improvisation leading up to the twilight ceasefire, and whatever gaps existed in our plastic arsenal (we never could find a decent grenade) we could make up for with imagination and serviceable sound effects (most boys can approximate the sound of a machine gun or explosion with their mouths without any outside instruction).
My mom did her best to steer us away from our violent aspirations, but over time, her hard-and-fast rule of "No guns" changed to "No guns in the house" to "No guns at the dinner table" to "No using guns at the dinner table instead of utensils" to "No eating guns."
She eventually gave up altogether when Matt and I figured out that by taking a sizable bite off one corner of a piece of toast, you could make a buttery pistol. Those were some tasty guns.
One of the best things about the first few years of Peanuts is how well Charles Schulz portrays the lives of little kids. The world is spacious and taller than the panel can display, with nothing quite scaled to their size. Schulz fixed this a few years into the strip's run largely by dropping a lot of the detailed, careful linework from the first years, but there's an authenticity to the cast's behavior that he mined perfectly before moving on to more fertile, character-based arcs.
Peanuts characters sit on the floor because they can't reach chairs, look around things instead of over them, and always seem to be hiding just a little bit; hesitant to leave themselves exposed because things are so new, they're not sure if they should be scared or not. They are distractible and pre-moral and possess a confusion about the world that rings true, when the world is first revealing itself and kid-logic has to stand in for fact. They're not yet mini-adults, character traits established and silhouettes distinct, waxing philosophical about the shapes of clouds, they're dopey kids with gigantic baby heads. Snoopy is a dog who mostly just acts like a dog, observing quietly and capable of expressing himself only through body language and selected punctuation marks, which serve to show that he's either startled or confused by a given event.
1950s kids being 1950s kids, they end up playing a lot of "Cowboys and Indians," though I could only find one strip where anyone dressed like anything other than a cowboy. Eventually, they drop the pretense of a unifying fiction and just play "guns," in an era where such a thing wasn't so, uh, loaded. No actual violence implied or intended-- it's basically tag meets hide n' seek.
This sort of context would've been helpful a few months ago, when I found this strip:
Because without it? It's a strip about the time Linus shot Snoopy in the brain.
Actually, even in context, there are a bunch of early strips that emphasize Linus' skewed sense of frontier justice:
(Note: as always, you can shoot up all the strips in this post to a much larger size merely by clicking on them)
True to his gentle nature, Linus eventually trades in his guns for a much broader sense of security:
One of the rules from which my folks never retreated was "Don't point guns at the dogs." This turned out not to be too controversial for my brother and me, since they were too friendly to choose sides.
Charlie Brown, always outnumbered, eventually finds himself outgunned, as well, as the child soldiers draft themselves into a more noble pursuit for cleaner, renewable ammunition:
Sadly, the issues Schulz's characters faced back then are still tragically relevant to this day:
...though I'd argue many of the rhetorical tactics employed in our current reality seem far less civilized.