A California school is running a "toy gun exchange" today, offering students a free book and a chance to win a bicycle in if they hand in their plastic pistols, reports the San Jose Mercury News. "Playing with toys guns, saying 'I'm going to shoot you,' desensitizes them, so as they get older, it's easier for them to use a real gun," says school principal Charles Hill. "If we want older kids to not think guns are cool, we need to start early."
A local gun rights group is not a fan of the exchange idea. "While the intentions are obviously good on the part of the school administration, this doesn't really educate children about guns or gun safety," says a spokesperson from Responsible Citizens of California. He also questioned whether toy guns really look that much like actual firearms. "Toy manufacturers are forced to paint guns in bright colors ... that make it virtually impossible for an officer to mistake it for a real gun ," he says. But Hill disagrees. "Some of the guns I've confiscated, if they're stuck down in a waistband, the average person would think it's a real gun," he says. "I could easily see one of our sixth-graders wanting to fake out someone at a 7-Eleven by walking in there [with a toy gun]. They would think it's funny, but it could turn into tragedy."