Q: Is it okay for characters in YA novels to use guns? My story takes place in the future and several of the teenage characters have and use guns. I'm in the middle of revising, so it wouldn't be impossible to replace the word gun with some imaginary weapon from the future but I feel like that's a cop out. We hunted (bad choice of word?) down a librarian in the YA section to ask what she thought and she said it was fine, but her coworker overheard and they ended up disagreeing! Can you shed any light on this?Once you throw firearms into the mix in a children's book, you're potentially upping the age level and cutting out a certain percentage of your audience. Not to say that it is verboten in YA, but the 10-12 crowd that very often reads up to YA might not get the chance to read it, some parents and other gatekeepers will be distraught about it, and if there is a "mature" YA section in the bookstore or library different from the other YA, the book may well be relegated to it. Plus the book might not make it into curriculum, book fairs and school libraries if there is a lot of gunplay.
So I think you have to decide, and this is something that only you will know: in the story that you are telling, are guns really necessary? If they are, really and truly, then you've gotta leave them in. If you're telling a story about gangsters or child soldiers or a school shooting or hunting (and probably a few other topics) it would absolutely not make sense to not have guns.
That said, I'd also urge you to check out how some other authors have handled the problem. Anthony Horowitz's teen spy Alex Rider for example (though those books are more 10+ rather than teen), is in MI6 like James Bond. However, they make a point of NOT giving him a gun, but rather all kinds of more-awesome gadgets that are a bit more kid friendly, like explosive gum, metal-melting zit cream, and the like - plus he knows martial arts and uses at-hand objects such as sporting equipment, along with cunning, to disable or capture his enemies. In Ender's Game, though the kids are in fact using real weapons, they think they are essentially playing a game... and they aren't "guns" as we know them anyway. (That's another thing - how far in the future are we talking? If it is super far into the future, surely they'd have something more high-tech than a plain old gun... so 19th century!)
Anyway. This is all a long way to say, if you need them leave them in. But if you aren't sure, try taking them out and see what it sounds like. Doesn't hurt to TRY, right? You can always put 'em back.