An elementary school in Hayward, Calif. will sponsor a toy gun trade-in, encouraging kids to swap their harmless toy weapons for a chance to win a new bicycle.
The purpose of the trade-in is to stop children from playing with toy guns, which may make them more likely to commit violence with real guns, said Strobridge Elementary principal Chris Hill.
“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,” Hill said in a statement to Mercury News.
The trade-in will take place on Saturday during the school’s “Safety Day,” which will also feature talks on safety tips from police officers and firefighters. Authorities will offer to take pictures and fingerprints of children to be used to help locate them in case they go missing.
Any child who hands over his toy gun will receive a raffle ticket. The school will raffle off four bicycles, and also hand out books in exchange for the tickets.
School photographer Horace Gibson came up with the idea for the trade-in after expressing concerns about gun violence and school shootings, Hill said.
While toy guns are sometimes mistaken for real ones, most come in bright colors, and are deliberately designed to appear distinct from real guns. Some supporters of stricter gun control argue that toy guns make kids more likely to use real guns later in life.
But Yih-Chau Yang, spokesperson for Responsible Citizens of California, a gun rights education group, said the trade-in, while well intentioned, was unlikely to reduce violence.
“Having a group of children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians is a normal part of growing up,” he said in a statement.
This would not be the first time school administrators had a strong reaction to toy guns. Recently, a Maryland kindergartner was interrogated by school officials for two hours, eventually wetting himself, because he brought his cap gun to school.
Another toy gun, no bigger than a quarter, caused a stir at an elementary school in Massachusetts. The little boy who brought the one-inch toy gun onto the bus was forced to write a letter of apology to the bus driver, and school officials sent notices to parents to reassure them that their children were not in danger.
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