HAYWARD (KPIX 5) — A different-kind of gun buyback was held in Hayward on Saturday as some school children were given the chance to trade in their toy guns for a prize.
The buyback, held at Strobridge Elementary School, offered books to kids who turned in their fake weapons. Principal Charles Hill held the buyback as a lesson for children who may see guns as part of everyday life.
“As they get older, it becomes just a natural thing,” Hill told KPIX 5. “If they have a real gun in their hand, they’ll pull the trigger just as quick. I mean, they don’t fear it.”
The gun buyback is modeled after events held by police departments, which offer items such as cash or gift cards in exchange for working guns turned in. About 75 students participated in the program, according to school officials.
Rachel Zamora, who was at the event with her son, said she never wanted her son to play with toy guns.
“But where we lived before, all the kids had toy guns and they would go out playing guns so he felt left out. So that’s kind of how I got sucked into giving him the guns,” Zamora said.
While the guns that were turned in obviously looked like toys, some of them looked real with the exception of an orange tip.
“They’ll paint them black to make them look like real guns,” said Officer Braydon Wilson of the Hayward Police Department. “And sometimes people will take a real gun and paint the tip orange to make it seem as if it’s a fake gun.”
There are dozens of reports of people being killed because of a fake gun, such as a 2011 incident in Oakland where police shot a man wielding a replica rifle. The man died at the scene.
A gun rights advocate disputed the value of holding a toy gun buyback.
“Firearms are part of humanity, much less any other item that would be normally found in a household,” Gene Hoffman of the Calguns Foundation told KPIX 5 in a phone interview. “And so trying to blame firearms or toy guns for the ills of society seems very misdirected.”
Hill said he received the idea from a school photographer who was concerned about young people and gun violence over in Oakland.
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