A community center in Baltimore is offering their kids the opportunity to trade in their toy guns for “peaceful” prizes.
Kids at the St. Frances Community Center are handing in their toy guns for art supplies, stuffed animals, basketballs and several other types of toys that are considered to be “non-violent”.
“It’s to get the guns out of the kids’ hands,” event coordinator Ralph E. Moore Jr. told the Baltimore Sun. He added that kids that use plastic guns will later use real guns when they become an adult.
Replica guns, water guns and other sort of fake guns were then painted and used in the background of a mobile mosaic made by a non-profit organization called Mosaic Makers.
The art project will then be displayed in honor of 12 year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by police while playing with a toy gun in a community center.
“We should put every effort we can to live and play by peaceful means, and that’s what that’s saying,” Moore said. He added that if toy guns can be taken out of a child’s life when they are young, they are more likely not to use them in a crime when they get older.
Moore compared toy guns nowadays to what toy cigarettes were to him when he was a child.
“It was orienting kids to smoking. I think toy guns, in many ways, are doing the same thing,” he said.
Baltimore police applauded the event, saying it will help keep their streets more safe for police.
“We can’t be everywhere during every instance, but small efforts like that are what promote great change,” Detective Moses told a local ABC station.
The toy gun swap was part of a joint Halloween and 10-year anniversary celebration of the “Peace Camp”, run by both Moore and co-founder Nawal Rajeh. The camp runs for 3-4 weeks during the summer and 50 participants in the camp, ages 5-12, take part in activities that show the young kids how to resolve conflicts peacefully without violence.
Moore said that he and Rajeh founded the camp after watching two young girls fight with each other. The camp uses Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa in their teachings. They have been taking part in activities such as cooking, dancing and creating artwork.
“We’re trying to make a statement in opposition of the violence, to the gun violence in particular,” Moore said.