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Toys a target for city official; Annapolis alderman wants to rid streets of weapon look-alikes


Combat, cops and robbers and, as the weather heats up, water gun battles are among the favorite games of children.

But with recent gun violence that has come at the hands of young children nationwide, one Annapolis alderman wants to rid city streets of all toy weapons, including water pistols, cap guns or anything that looks like a weapon.

Cynthia A. Carter, a Ward 6 Democrat, said she is searching for funding to conduct a toy gun buyback on the heels of the city's first successful buyback program, which yielded 27 handguns and 16 rifles.

"We're trying to break down that mentality of going around and pulling a trigger," said Carter, who helped organize the city's gun buyback April 8.

A second gun buyback is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Eastport Fire Station on Bay Ridge Avenue.

Lt. Robert E. Beans of the Annapolis police said the department doesn't have money to buy used toy guns, and the federal funding for the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis' current program must be used for real weapons.

Still, Beans said it is one approach to reducing gun violence and would help police officers.

Many toy weapons look like the real thing, and when pointed at a person, Beans said, an officer must make a split-second decision.

"No officer wants to fire on a child," Beans said. "But sometimes there is no way to determine whether the weapon is a toy."

Carter recalled a woman who told her that she and her son had been cited by the police after the boy pointed a cap gun at an officer.

"Kids like to act like they are shooting," Carter said.

A community center in Buffalo, N.Y., has conducted a buyback for four years, yielding hundreds of toy guns annually.

"Each year gets bigger and bigger," said Debbera Ransom, who organizes the buybacks at the Kensington-Bailey Community Center.

The Buffalo program is part of an effort to reduce gun violence by a group called Dealing Effectively After the Homicide (DEATH). With money from private donations and grants, the group offers $5 per toy gun and has the recipient sign a pledge not to buy or play with toy weapons.

Ransom said the children are encouraged to use the money to buy something educational, like a book.

"There's nothing positive about pointing a toy gun at someone and pretending to kill him," she said.

Carter said she would like to offer between $1 and $2 for each toy, depending on the type of gun.

The housing authority's program, which is run by the police, pays $50 apiece -- with an extra $50 from the city government for some high-powered or automatic weapons.

The housing authority received a $1,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and was allowed to allocate $3,500 from its drug-elimination grant funding for the gun program.

"The gun buyback program is great," Carter said. "But we have to be concerned about the children."

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