Students Trade in Toy Guns for Books and Bikes
Kids who play with toy guns don’t always take guns seriously. For this reason, the principal of Strobridge Elementary School in the northern California city of Hayward organized a toy gun exchange as part of Strobrige Elementary Safety Day this past Saturday.
Hill came up with the idea of a toy gun exchange after speaking to a photographer, Horace Gibson, who takes students’ school pictures and who has been concerned about gun violence in nearby Oakland. For kids who play with toy guns, “it just becomes a natural thing” to have something like a real firearm, Gibson told KPIX 5.”If they have a real gun in their hand they’ll pull the trigger just as quick,” he noted.
Just in April, an Oakland police officer shot and seriously wounded a burglary suspect who had what turned out to be a fake gun. In 2011, a man with a fake replica assault rifle was shot to death by the Oakland police.
Gun Rights Supporter Claims Toy Guns are Painted “In Bright Colors”
Yih-Chau Chang, a spokesman for Responsible Citizens of California (“whose goal is to educate the public about the facts behind gun rights,” according to the Mercury News) criticized the toy gun exchange. According to Chang, “having a group of children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians [sic] is a normal part of growing up”; he also emphasized that, while gun are “used in crimes” they are “more often used in defensive ways which prevent violent crime from occurring in the first place.”
In addition, Chang claimed that “toy manufacturers are forced to paint guns in bright colors, usually orange or yellow, that make it virtually impossible for an officer to mistake it for a real gun.”
But a three-year-old South Carolina boy was accidentally shot in the head while playing with a pink gun in February, Gawker notes. Hill also noted that a 2-year-old girl was recently shot by her 5-year brother in Kentucky with what turned out to be his own gun. The .22 caliber weapon, dubbed “My First Rifle” by its manufacturer, Pennsylvania-based Keystone Sporting Arms LLC, is available in blue and pink and had been given to the boy as a birthday present last November.
Toy Gun Exchange Receives Support from Newtown Parent
At Strobridge Elementary School’s toy gun exchange, students brought in some 75 toy guns and received a book and a chance to win one of four bicycles. A police officer was present to demonstrate bike and gun safety and the Alameda County Fire Department sent in a rig.
Overall, the toy gun exchange received support in the form of 100 “mostly positive” emails. One was from a resident of Newtown, Connecticut. Darren Wagner wrote to Hill that he was a parent ”lucky enough to have [his] kids come home from school on 12/14″ and that he and others “in Sandy Hook applaud your efforts to make a real change.”
One mother whose child attends Strobridge Elementary School told Hill that she had felt “pressured” to buy her child a toy gun because other children in the neighborhood have one.
Her words are worrisome as they suggest that, for all the support for the toy gun exchange, plenty of people still think it’s their right to have a gun in the name of self-defense. Even after the tragedy at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut, politicians also have not exactly shown their support to advocate for gun control as seen by the Senate failing to approve a plan for expanded background checks in April.
Meanwhile, the epidemic of shootings by toddlers seems neverending. Last Friday, an army veteran was shot and killed by his own 4-year-old son. Justin Stanfield Thomas, who had been a Green Beret in the Iraqi War, had taken his son to visit a former roommate in Arizona. The friend allegedly did not know about the visit and did not have his gun locked at the time.
Guns kill. What will it take for people to realize that kids using toy guns are learning to think killing is just a game?
Photo from Thinkstock