School Holds Toy Firearms Buyback

School Holds Toy Firearms Buyback

HAYWARD — An elementary school will has held a toy gun exchange this Saturday, they offered students a book and a chance to win a bicycle for turning in their toy weapons.

Principal of Strobridge Elementary, Charles Hill insists that children playing with toy guns are more prone to not taking real firearms seriously.

He said, “Playing with toys guns, saying ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ desensitizes them, so as they get older, it’s easier for them to use a real gun.”

This Saturday, an event called Strobridge Elementary Safety Day, a Hayward police officer has demonstrated bicycle and gun safety, while the Alameda County Fire Department sent a rig and crew to talk about fire safety.

Each child bringing in a toy firearm was given a ticket for a raffle to win one of four bicycles and a ticket they can exchange for a book.

Hill said a photographer, Horace Gibson, gave him the idea for the toy gun exchange. Gibson takes students’ school pictures and has expressed concern about the series of shootings of young people by police in Oakland.

He said police are rightfully fearful of being shot when they encounter so many armed suspects, and there have been cases nationwide where police mistook a toy gun for a real one.

School Holds Toy Firearms Buyback - state of guns

One gun rights advocate has questioned the idea that playing with toy weapons desensitizes children to real ones.

Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for Responsible Citizens of California argued that, “Having a group of children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians is a normal part of growing up.” His group’s goal is to educate the public about the facts behind gun rights.

He praised the intentions of school administration but cautioned that the event doesn’t really educate children about guns or gun safety. He said, “Guns are used in crimes, but they are more often used in defensive ways which prevent violent crime from occurring in the first place.”

Chang also said toys are very difficult to mistake for real weapons.

“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,” Chang said.

Principal Hill, though, has noted a recent case where a little boy in Kentucky used a rifle painted in pink and accidentally killed his sister. He said that some toy weapons that he has seen have only a red tip to indicate they are not actual weapons.

Hill said that some of the guns he confiscated, if they’re tucked in the waistband can fool the average person into thinking it is a real gun. “I could easily see one of our sixth-graders wanting to fake out someone at a 7-Eleven by walking in there with a toy gun.” He added that kids would probably think it’s funny, “but it could turn into tragedy.”

Hill expressed hope that the toy gun exchange idea catches on.

“If we want older kids to not think guns are cool, we need to start early,” he said.