Gun Control Debate 2013: Toy Gun Buyback At California School Is Something Everyone Can Support


Strobridge Elementary School in Hayward, California hosted a Safety Day this past Saturday. In a fair-like atmosphere, parents and kids came to learn more about all kinds of safety, from a Fire Department speaking about how to prevent home fires and planning evacuation routes to a Hayward police officer demonstrating bicycle safety to the concept of stranger danger and what to do if approached by someone unfamiliar to you.

Oh, and the event featured a toy gun buyback program.

Based on the concept of real gun buyback programs used all over the world, and resembling one led by Mayor Cory Booker in 2011, the toy gun buyback allowed kids to bring in their toy guns and exchange them for a book and a chance to win one of four bikes in a raffle. It also featured a police officer giving a talk on real gun safety. 

The idea behind the buyback came from the principal of Strobridge Elementary, Charles Hill, who was concerned about a rash of recent police shootings against young people in the area, primarily under the concern that the youngsters were armed. The toy gun buyback, Hill noted, had a few different goals. By starting with this message at such a young age, it attempted to prevent the notion of "guns are cool" from sticking in impressionable minds, much like the anti-cigarette campaigns did a few decades ago. It also aimed to not desensitize kids to gun violence by ensuring that guns weren't viewed as commonplace goods. 

This seems like the kind of idea that everyone, both those for gun control and those for gun rights, can get behind. A gun buyback program is obviously a method of gun control when aimed at recollecting real guns, but in this situation, in an area that has faced gun violence recently, it's a way to address the issue and make sure that our children don't begin to think that guns are toys, or that gun violence is a part of everyday life. By ensuring that an officer is speaking about gun safety, it also reaches out to those who choose to keep their guns. Furthermore, it promotes reading by distributing books, which is something we can all applaud.

But most important of all, it also promotes the safety of our children. As funny as it may initially sound, it's important to recognize that even toy guns can be dangerous, directly or indirectly. With the NRA attempting to target the female demographic with the creatively original idea of manufacturing pink guns, there have been some instances where children have gotten confused between what's real and what's not. To use an anecdotal story, a three-year-old boy in South Carolina fatally shot himself in the head playing with a pink gun that he thought was just a toy. Furthermore, there have also been cases where a toy gun has been mistaken for a real one, leading to police shootings with tragic outcomes.

We should applaud Principal Hill for initiating a program that both protects our kids and encourages them to think about gun safety.