St. Louis pastor Randy Francis is considering a toy gun buyback program that would take plastic firearms off the streets.
We’ve all heard of gun buyback programs – local governments give cash or vouchers in exchange for firearms, often with a no-questions-asked policy to give gun owners that little extra push. Proponents of these programs argue that they take dangerous guns off the streets, while critics argue that they waste tax dollars and give criminals an easy way to ditch firearms that have been used in crimes.
Pastor Francis’ new program is sure to stir up debate, as well. He hopes to offer cash to children and parents in exchange for toy guns – water guns, plastic pistols, Nerf guns, etc. Much like the real gun buyback programs, the purpose of this program is to curb violence, albeit in a much more indirect way.
Francis told reporters, “We’re just suggesting that [toy guns are] a symbol of the culture that exists.” These toy guns, Francis believes, help to promote a culture of violence by desensitizing children to the danger of firearms. Giving cash in exchange for firearms will enable parents to “Perhaps choose a different kind of toy to encourage kids to engage in dramatic play [rather than using a] violent toy.”
While critics of the program have dismissed it as “silly,” it’s no surprise that some St. Louis citizens are unhappy about guns. Last year, 108 people were killed by firearm in St. Louis, and in this year 18 of St. Louis’ 19 murders involved guns.
Following the fatal shooting of two police officers, St. Louis Chief of Police Sam Dotson told reporters that society needs to take action to keep guns away from criminals. Pastor Francis answered that call, arguing that “It all starts when they are children.” Whether or not this new program will have any major effect on gun violence, however, is still anybody’s guess.