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Rewards offered for toy firearms

For the second year, the Seminole Recreation Center will give other toys to children who trade in their toy guns.

By KYLA K. WILSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


SEMINOLE -- School shootings across the country have motivated anti-gun organizations to push for more restrictions on firearms.

The efforts have even trickled down to toy guns. Toy gun trade-ins, in which children turn in their toy guns for other toys, gift certificates or gifts, have sprung up across the country.

The Seminole Recreation Center will hold a toy gun trade-in from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 5. It's the second year for the event, which began after last year's school shooting in Littleton, Colo.

"We're trying to get them to play with other things, trying to get their minds off of guns," said Mark Johnson, recreation leader at the center and the event's organizer.

Johnson agrees with many anti-gun advocates who believe children who play with toys become desensitized to violence.

But Mark Krantz of Tampa, a certified gun instructor for the National Rifle Association and a vocational mechanics teacher at H.B. Plant Senior High School in Tampa, said toy guns do not promote violence.

He said there was far less gun violence in the past, when guns were more common.

As a youth, "I could walk into a hardware and purchase a gun," said Krantz, who is 47. "A lot of kids brought their guns to school (for hunting after school), and there wasn't a problem with school shootings."

He said school shootings are tragic but make up a very small percentage of gun-related child deaths.

"I think people put these programs on because they are misinformed," he said. "You look at the overall picture; it's not tied to kids who play with guns. I can't see how toy gun trades will have a positive impact."

A study by the Children's Defense Fund found that 306 children died from accidental shootings in 1997. The number of accidental gun shooting deaths decreased from 1993 to 1997. The CDF has not done studies that correlate toy guns to gun violence. However, Jill Ward, violence and prevention youth development coordinator, thinks that toy gun trade-ins will help decrease gun violence among children.

"Something like that raises public awareness of what these kinds of guns are teaching our children," Ward said. "We support anything that draws attention to gun violence and encourages children to spend time doing something that does not replicate violence."

Last year, about 30 children participated in the toy-gun trade-in at the Seminole Recreation Center; about 75 toy guns were collected. Johnson said he thinks this year they will collect more.

"This time we are having more events centered around the event and hopefully more kids will be participating," Johnson said.

Children will be able to trade in their guns for a gift bag full of coupons, comic books and baseball cards. For every toy gun turned in, a child will get a raffle ticket for Devil Rays tickets. The center also will have a garage sale, soccer sign-ups and an appearance by Raymond, the mascot for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who will sign autographs starting at 1 p.m.

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