BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s not your typical gun buyback program.
Some of Buffalo’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens dropped their plastic pistols, water guns and soakers into big bins, the contents of which were then transferred into a casket.
While the casket was symbolic of many young people who died in Buffalo last year as a result of gun violence, the session packed some powerful messages to the children.
“This is what one of our children was carrying,” said Lenny Lane, holding up a black BB gun with a big grip. “He was nine years old and he had this in his waistband. Lane said the child told him he needed it because everyone else had one.”
Buffalo Police Lt. Steve Nichols pointed out the reality of toy guns, even if they are seemingly harmless.
“If this gun was pointed at somebody, a police officer, or another person on the street with a real gun, I think whoever pointed it would be in trouble,” he said.
Officer Derrick Floyd, who works with city youth, appealed to the children to help them understand why it’s important to understand firearm control at a young age.
“If your parents were confronted with a toy like this, they would think it’s a life or death situation,” Floyd said.
In Cleveland 12 year old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by a rookie police officer in November, seconds after the boy reached for a toy gun in his waistband.
“When a child has a (toy) gun, he’s practicing shooting someone, that is a behavior we’re trying to discourage. So I say to all parents, don’t buy any type of gun,” Erie County legislator Betty Jean Grant said.
The event, attended by U.S. Attorney William Hochul, some Buffalo city judges and police officers.
They all urged children to be aware of the power of guns.
“It’s not the officer who is going to kill you,” said anti-violence advocate Murray Holman, “it’s your best friend. It’s your best friend that’s going to use this.”
The children who turned in their toy guns were rewarded with other gifts, including footballs and basketballs.