Grade School Offers Books and Prizes In Toy Gun Buyback Plan

Takepart.comJune 10, 2013

Say what you will about the San Francisco Bay Area, at least it’s a place where people don’t shy away from the stereotypes inflicted upon them.

Charles Hill, principal of Hayward, California’s Strobridge Elementary School is a bold case in point. Surely principal Hill might have anticipated a degree of blowback in snark coverage when he proposed a “toy gun buyback” program for the wee scholars of Strobridge. But the notion of becoming a viral punch line failed to take the courage out of Hill’s convictions.

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

A causal link between playing with toy guns as a child and shooting another human being with a real firearm as an adult has yet to be established, but sometimes preemptive action is preferred while waiting for science to play catch up.

Playing with toy 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.

The Hayward toy gun buyback offered a book and a raffle ticket to win one of four bicycles to any child willing to forfeit a toy gun. Police officers were on-hand at the event to teach kids about safety.

Hill came up with his scheme following a conversation with a photographer who was distressed by the number of young people being shot by Oakland police.

Currently, Strobridge Elementary has not extended its gun buyback offer to the police of Oakland, but such an overture would probably have little effect on gun homicides and accidental shooting deaths in the community.

Law enforcement officials in America’s urban population centers have been staging buyback programs of real, lethal guns for decades. Opinions over the results of these programs are mixed.

While homes that contain no firearms are less likely to experience fatal gun accidents than are armed residences, no credible statistics have been compiled to confirm the supposition that gun buybacks reduce gun violence.

The science, or lack of it, is not a governing concern with some forward-thinking grade-school administrators across the land.

In August 2012, three-year-old Hunter Spanjer, who is deaf, was informed by his Nebraska school district that he would need to change either his name or the “hand signature” used to sign his name. The hand signature violated the district’s zero-tolerance policy of any “instrument” that “looks like a gun.” On March 1, 2013, Josh Welch, a seven-year-old at Baltimore, Maryland’s Park Elementary School was suspended for two days because he chewed a Pop-Tart into the shape of a handgun. In late May 2013, a five-year-old boy at Calvert County elementary school, also in Maryland, was suspended from school for bringing a toy gun onto a school bus and showing it to a friend. The school’s principal reportedly informed an attorney for the boy’s family that if the gun had been loaded—with caps—police would have been called in.

These kids are being taught some sort of object lesson; it just might not be about gun safety.

Are schools reacting responsibly to the issue of gun violence? Explain your yes, no or in between answer in COMMENTS.