Dozens of young children were encouraged on Monday to trade in their old toy guns for new board games, dolls, model cars and other non-violent toys.
The event, sponsored by Buffalo FATHERS and Buffalo Peacemakers, was deliberately held in a parking lot across from the scene of the May 14 mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue as a reminder of the dangers of instilling gun culture in children. fire.
“It was awesome,” Leonard Lane of FATHERS said of the effort.
“A lot of families have come in and brought their kids and brought their (toy) guns, and they come away with something else they can use,” Lane said.
The exchange is modeled after gun buy-back programs run by various city agencies as a way to get guns off the streets.
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Tracey McClary, mother of three adult children and grandmother of 10, applauded the effort as a way to steer young children away from violence.
“I think it creates a mindset for kids, you know, bang-bangs and cowboys and Indians,” McClary said of the toy versions of guns of war that were marketed primarily to kids. boys of his generation.
“It’s what my brothers and them used to play, or GI Joe. Even the games they play today, my grandkids – I have them here with me – want to play Fortnite and Call of Doom,” said she added, referring to two popular games. violent video games.
“I didn’t know what those games were. So me, as a curious grandma, I sat down and watched and I was like, this looks like this boy did here in Tops” , said McClary.
“It alarmed me,” she added.
Lane said the goal of the toy gun swap, which continues through Wednesday, is to change the mindset of young children in the community.
“We want to teach them from an early age not to play with guns or, if they know someone with a gun, to tell an adult,” he said.
“We can’t think of a better place to be than to be here at ‘ground zero’, just opposite Tops Market where a horrific mass shooting took place. We want, as a community, to be able to do something, and it’s something they can do, like return a toy gun and get a non-violent toy back,” Lane said.
It’s a great idea, said Starr Bell, another mother and grandmother who has been in front of the shooting site every day for a month and a half delivering food and other items to those who need it.
“I don’t think playing with any gun is a good idea, not even a water gun,” Bell said.
“They have water sticks. We don’t need water guns. Anything that has a trigger point and is shaped like a gun is bad,” she added.
Lane said the toy selection includes board games, such as Uno, checkers and even chess, which aim to expand kids’ choices towards more educational and family-oriented fare.
“So it’s an opportunity for them to pick something the whole family can play with,” Lane said.
“They can also return toy guns and enter a raffle for a bicycle, skateboard or remote control car or something that is not only more valuable but more meaningful to them,” he added.