BUFFALO, N.Y. – A collaborative initiative in the City of Buffalo hopes to replace toy guns with non-violent toys.
Organizers say the goal is to teach children in Buffalo that even toy guns could pave a path to violence as they grow up, and the toy gun exchange was inspired by the grim reality of gun violence in Buffalo.
A group called Buffalo Fathers is in its fourth year of this toy gun exchange, and they want to put more responsible toys in the hands of children.
They say not only can toy gun play eventually contribute to street violence, but also it can put a child or teen in harm's way if the wrong person were to mistake a fake gun for a real one.
On Friday, kids who went to the Delevan Grider Community Center could take home a new toy. The only catch: They have to, in turn, hand over a toy gun.
"With a toy gun, they actually start to feel comfortable with these guns. So therefore, if we can start at an early age, train them up early, we can begin to start taking the guns out of the hands of our youth and start working on conflict resolution,” said Leonard Lane, president of Buffalo Fathers.
Lane feels strongly the toys kids play with can influence what they like and how they develop.
"You give a child a gold club, he's going to be a Tiger Woods,” he said.
The toy gun exchange was organized by Buffalo Fathers, Peacemakers, SNUG (Should Never Use Guns) and the Buffalo Police Department.
"You know, being a retired Buffalo Firefighter for 25 years, I've seen a lot of our youth laid out in our streets of the City of Buffalo,” Lane said.
"It's just heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to watch a mom to scrape up bottles and cans to buy a coffin for her son or daughter,” said Buffalo Police Captain Steve Nichols.
And with this program, they hope the kids and families who participate never end up there.
"A lot of times, even with toy guns, they reach an age where they start taking off the orange tips and start pretending that they're real guns, and try to use them in robberies or other things, and that's going to do is get them hurt,” Nichols said. "It can start as early as 11 or 12 years old.”