Strobridge Elementary Principal Charles Hill has a brilliant idea: he’s holding a toy gun exchange next Saturday in which students of the Hayward, CA school can turn in a toy gun to receive a book and a raffle ticket to win one of four bicycles.
Hill believes that children who play with toy guns may not think real guns are dangerous. “Playing with toy 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,” he claims.
Hill was inspired by a school photographer, Horace Gibson, who was upset about the number of police shootings of young people in Oakland.
At Strobridge Elementary Safety Day, a local policeman will demonstrate bicycle and gun safety, (does he get to use a real gun?), while the Alameda County Fire Department will speak about fire safety. Just to show that local governments can do surveillance too, there will be opportunities for the children to be fingerprinted and photographed, with that information transferred to CD’s if it is ever needed for a missing child case.
Hill, defending his take-away program, asserted that police are justifiably afraid when they face armed suspects, and toy guns have been mistaken for real ones.
But Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for Responsible Citizens of California, said, “Having a group of children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians is a normal part of growing up.”