A bright green water gun, an old-timely looking plastic revolver, the box near the gym at the O’Fallon Recreation Complex in north St. Louis City quickly started filling up with toy guns.
In return, parents like Liza Pleas received things like soccer balls and coloring books.
She dropped off a couple of toy guns her 10-year-old son received for Christmas.
“I don’t allow my son to play with guns,” Pleas said. “I don’t allow him to play with violent video games, none of that. I brought them here today so they can learn there’s more to life than playing with toy guns, because toy guns can lead you to playing with a real gun.”
That was the basic message behind the toy gun buyback, which was held at three locations in St. Louis City, County and East St. Louis on Saturday morning and early afternoon.
A consortium of 43 organizations and agencies, including law enforcement agencies and faith based groups, is behind the event that was spearheaded by Rev. Rodney Francis of Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.
The effort has drawn its share of criticism, some pro-gun advocates say that it could unnecessarily cause children to be afraid of guns; others contend that it doesn’t get to the heart of what leads to gun violence.
Undeterred, Francis said exchanging toy guns and violent video games for "non-violent" toys is meant to spur a discussion about gun violence.
“If we don’t make different decisions about how we are engaging with each other and how we are training and teaching and preparing our kids, the violence is not going to stop,” Francis said.