In 2015, Afghanistan banned toy guns to curb its culture of violence. Picture: Flickr.com

The hashtag #EndGunViolenceSA has been trending on SA Twitter since Tuesday night with many users commenting on their own experiences.

Some relayed how they were robbed at gunpoint, while others suggested that toy guns were to blame. It's a debate that's been flaring up in recent years, especially since gun violence in US schools is now a clear and present danger.

South Africa may not be that far off. Pupils arming themselves with guns for protection at schools seem to be the norm in gang-infested areas. But the big question is: Is there a link between playing with toy guns and aggressive behaviour?

Countries like Afghanistan tend to think so. In 2015, the nation banned toy guns to curb its culture of violence. Authorities were forced to act after more than 100 children and teenagers suffered eye injuries from toy guns and rifles during celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan, the Guardian reported.

In it's own words, the "government wanted to reduce the influence of such toys on impressionable young minds, with many observers drawing a connection between juvenile war games and adult violence".

In June 2010, Malcolm Watson and Ying Peng published their findings on whether toy guns increase aggressive behaviors in three to five-year-olds. Their answer was a resounding "yes".

The study did, however, argue for distinguishing between real and pretend aggression and other forms of play in future studies.

Child psychologist Michael Thompson has another theory.

"Everyone has an informal causation theory that playing with guns leads to the use of guns in adulthood," said the author of "It's a Boy! Your Son's Development From Birth to Age 18".

Opinions are wide and varied. But Thompson makes it abundantly clear: "There's no scientific evidence suggesting that playing war games in childhood leads to real-life aggression."

Thompson also brought up a valid point - play. Through imaginary play, children learn how to control impulses, delay gratification, think symbolically and view things from another's perspective. 

"As a little boy, you're not very powerful," Thompson added. "With a gun, you feel powerful and heroic."