One of the biggest concerns facing many, many Americans is gun safety. It's also one of the most contentious debates that we have on a national scale. There seem to be two sides: those who favor stricter gun control and gun laws, and those who don't see a problem with our current gun laws or feel that more gun control wouldn't solve the issue. And the issue is that gun violence is a major problem facing the country, and more specifically, our children. According to the Brady Campaign, an average of seven kids or teens are killed by guns every single day. No one can seem to agree on what the solution is, but it's hard to ignore the fact that there is a problem. Some parents choose to teach their kids about guns and gun safety, while others choose to raise their kids gun-free. This also includes toy guns. Parents do what they feel is best for their kids, and that should be the end of that, right? Not so much, if the debate surrounding a recent toy gun trade-in event is any indication.
Hempstead, in the Long Island area of New York, hosted the New York Toy Gun Exchange Program which gives kids a chance to exchange their toy guns (like water guns, Nerf guns, and others) for new toys and presents. Like a gun buyback, but with toys instead of real guns. No child was forced to participate, and no one's right to own a gun were infringed upon. It's a simple and smart way to change the way some kids see guns, and hopefully change the culture around firearms just a bit.
Proud to found the NY Toy Gun exchange in Hempstead to stop gun violence early. pic.twitter.com/zpK5WosqmF— Jean Shafiroff (@JeanShafiroff) December 28, 2015
Now, plenty of people were supportive of the toy gun exchange. They understand that guns are NOT toys, and teaching children that they're not to be played with is a good thing! A 2015 study found that 89% of gun deaths in children were accidental. A kid finds a gun, doesn't realize what it is or decides to play with it, and tragedy strikes. Not to mention that toy guns aren't necessarily innocent in the hands of all kids. Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed by Cleveland police while holding a toy gun in a park.
But of course, there were those who felt the toy gun exchange went too far, or missed the mark. Yes, if you have firearms in your home, teaching your children gun safety should be your number one priority. Unfortunately, as we've seen far too often, that doesn't always work or is not done at all.
Regardless of how you stand on the gun safety debate, it seems weird to criticize a voluntary program designed to help keep our kids safe. Like we said, no kids were forced to give up their toy guns. But plenty of kids made the decision that a new, non-firearm toy was a better option.