The Toy Gun Buy-Back Program for the Tone Deaf

If no one told you otherwise you may think this is satire.

There will be a toy gun buy-back program in Cleveland next weekend which gives kids a comic book in exchange for their toy gun.

via local ABC affiliate Newsnet5

A group of community activists will host a toy gun buy-back that will be held on Saturday Dec. 13 at the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland, in response to the tragic police shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. […]

“These toy guns today are just too real, too realistic,” said [event organizer] Pointer. “We really feel this program could work and help make a difference.”

“If you have a better idea, do it. This is our concept to say we have got to do something to stop the violence,” Pointer added.

I’m not saying allowing your children to play with toy guns is a good idea, in fact it may be a bad idea if your child is black, but this seems at least a little tone deaf to me.

There seems to be an implication that the toy gun is responsible for Tamir Rice’s death, but the only person responsible for his death is the police officer who shot him.

Officers arrived at the scene and shot Rice literally 2-seconds later. They didn’t even attempt to ascertain if the gun was real and, even if it was real, Ohio is an open-carry state. Even if they were under the impression that it was real, they should have communicated with him instead of immediately shooting him dead. Even if Ohio wasn’t an open-carry state, they shouldn’t have immediately executed him.

As far as I can tell, the mortal threat posed by playing with a toy gun is exclusive to black children because they aren’t allowed to be children. White children are regularly depicted playing with real guns by the firearms industry and the NRA. In fact real guns are often marketed to white children.


When I was young my friends and I ran all across the neighborhood every weekend while waving toy guns in the air and not a single time were the police called on us. Of course we were all white boys.

Granted a lot has changed since the 1980s and 90s, but I’m fairly certain white kids still grow up pretending to be soldiers, policemen and cowboys. But maybe they shouldn’t. Here lately I’ve asked myself if I was on the wrong side when we played Cops and Robbers.

When kids put down the toy gun they pick up a virtual gun on their favorite video game console, but actually being the hero seems to be a trope still reserved for white kids.

For all of my bluster I will say that this buy-back program may have been worth it if introduces children to their first comic book. Comic books teach diversity and acceptance in a way that most video games and other media do not.

(photos via Getty)