California School Initiates Toy Gun Buyback Program

Buyback programs have in the past produced limited but positive results in getting guns off the streets. It's more difficult to understand what goal Strobridge Elementary School in Hayward, California had in mind when it recently ran a program based on the traditional gun buyback — but this time asking for trade-ins of toy guns.

According to Principal Charles Hill, toy guns are the gateway to the real thing. Hill explains that running around all day pretending to shoot their classmates might desensitize students to real violence.

Students who handed over their toy guns received books in exchange in addition to being entered into a raffle with a chance to win a bike.

CBS-5 spoke with parents who had brought their children to trade in their guns. One mother said she was always against toy guns, but she noted that her son felt left out when he saw the other kids playing with theirs. Some of the guns shown in the CBS-5 report were clearly fake, but others that were exchanged might easily have passed for real weapons.

Braydon Wilson, who represented the police department at the exchange, said that when it came to verisimilitude, toy guns ran the gamut. Some looked nothing like real weapons while the others were designed to mimic real guns as closely as possible. Yih-Chau Change, the spokesman for Responsible Citizens of California, a gun rights education group, believes that while the organizers clearly have their heart in the right place, these kinds of toy fairs were unlikely to deliver lessons about gun safety to the students.

Effective or not, Strobridge should at least be acknowledged for pursuing a different path when looking to take guns, even toy ones, out of school. In many parts of the country students face severe punishments up to expulsion if they bring a weapon to school, even if it happens to be a toy.

"These zero-tolerance policies are psychotic, in the strict sense of the word: psychotic means ‘out of touch with reality,'" Dr. Leonard Sax, a Pennsylvania psychologist and family physician, and author of "Boys Adrift," told

In recent months, there have been several examples of children being disciplined for what was once seen as innocent role play.

A group of students was suspended this month from a Washington state elementary school for using Nerf dart guns as part of a math lesson, despite having permission from their teacher.

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