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.

“Playing with toys guns, saying ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ desensitizes [children], so as they get older, it’s easier for them to use a real gun,” as Hill said in the Mercury News.

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

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Norma V.
Norma Villarreal2 years ago

What an idea....

Nonya B.
mike hankins2 years ago

Way to go California blame toy guns for desensitizing children to gun violence the trash movies produced in Hollywood surely have nothing to do with it.

Kay M.
.2 years ago

Thanks Kristina, you have been real busy with all of these great articles. I also liked reading all the comments from the members Keep up the good work.

Alan Lambert
Alan` Lambert2 years ago

The kids win, Society wins and the NRA loses. That's a win, win, win to me...

Joan E.
Joan E.2 years ago

Kids, you're coming out way ahead in this bargain!

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson2 years ago


Debbie Miller
Debbie false2 years ago

great thanks!

Veronica N.
Veronica N.2 years ago

Thank you to everyone who made this real toys in exchange for toy guns event happen. There's no reason for kids to play war, killing games, or anything of the sort. These aren't fun and they're not things kids should be encouraged to take lightly. A student my own mother taught in school was killed just a few years ago when his little sister with down syndrome found a gun, thought it was a toy and shot him to death. Will kids pick up objects sometimes and pretend they are guns anyway? Yes, but then we can ask them questions regarding why they chose a gun? What purpose (if any) do guns serve? Etc. We aren't telling kids, "Guess what! Guns are for playing with!" Like we do when we give them toy guns. Do we also give them realistic toy poisons? Drugs? Liquor bottles? At the very least it's because we don't want kids picking up the real thing by mistake because one mistake can be deadly, especially in the case of guns.

Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.2 years ago

Both of my sons had water pistols when they were young. My oldest has been a hunter in the past. Now he is an alcoholic and does not have any guns. This was voluntary on his part.

I tried to instill some sort of reverence for all life in them both. If you hunt something, make sure it is for food - not just for the killing... I can understand both sides of this issue. My problem is that we should be concentrating, not on the toy guns turned in, but on the people who give REAL weapons to children. Come on, a 5-yr-old with his own rifle?????

When we get changes in the laws then we can sit nit-picking a program that is well-meaning, tho not necesarily helpful in the broader issues.

Beau B.
Beau Bureau2 years ago

I'm all about teaching kids to respect and even fear firearms. Back when he was young, my father was witness to a hunting accident, and always taught us that guns are not toys or status symbols. They're a tool, and should be shown all the respect of a chainsaw or dynamite.

I'm all for locking guns up if there are children in the house, and in not teaching them to operate firearms until they're old enough to know the consequences of their actions. That being said, rewarding children for turning in toy guns is not only ridiculous, it's also a waste of taxpayer dollars.

What do you think you're teaching kids by rewarding them for turning in something you don't want them to have? Do you honestly believe you're teaching them in any way to respect firearms or curbing future violent tendencies?

No. You're teaching children that if they make a token, feel-good effort by turning in something that's not terribly valuable, the state will reward them with something that is. When they come back to you with a violent video game, do you want me, as the taxpayer, to reward them with a car? When they come back with a .45, do you think I should pay off their home? It's an irresponsible, poorly considered gesture executed by individuals who are obviously divorced from reality.

Also, the following statement is incorrect on several levels:

>> [The mother's] words are worrisome as they suggest that, for all the support for the toy gun exchange, plenty of people sti