Rumor: Pastor planning toy gun buyback

Firearms of the plastic variety are in the crosshairs of one St. Louis pastor.

CONFIRMED: Pastor Rodney Francis of the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church is planning a toy gun buyback program

Addressing what he calls a "culture of violence" in his city, Pastor Rodney Francis of the Washington Tabernacle Baptist Church in St. Louis is planning to launch a gun buyback program among his congregation — a toy gun buyback program, to be exact. Francis told MSN News that eliminating toy guns from kids’ "dramatic play" is key to changing the way they view firearms and to lowering his city’s sky-high gun-related homicide rate.

Changing the ‘image’ of guns

Pastor Francis says that after speaking with numerous parents and children, he announced his plan to accept toy guns in exchange for more "wholesome" toys, such as crayons and puzzles. In 2011, St. Louis had the second-highest number of gun-related homicides in the nation, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and while violent crime ebbed slightly in 2012, according to St. Louis police, the number of homicides stayed the same. Francis says guns are "doing great harm in the community" and the "image" of guns as playthings is part of the problem.

Slingshots, knives, video games as well

Pastor Francis isn't limiting parents and children to giving up their squirt guns and Nerf cannons; other, more dangerous items like knives and slingshots are on the buyback list as well. The pastor also says he will meet with teens and other kids about expanding the program to include violent video games and movies. And while the church hasn’t detailed exactly what each kind of toy will get in exchange, he says the idea is already generating a lot of interest. "We're just rolling this out, but I've already gotten calls from Boston, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and all over from people telling us that this is a good idea," he says.

'Not a statement about the Second Amendment'

Francis says he has received a few calls and emails from gun-rights advocates who are concerned that he is "anti gun" and that the toy gun buyback effort is "indoctrinating" kids. The pastor says that his plan is "not singling out guns" but instead singling out "gun violence," which, he says, has nothing to do with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects firearm ownership. "This is not a statement about the Second Amendment, it's about getting the toy guns out of kids' hands and putting puzzles or crayons in there instead," Francis said.

Full coverage of the ongoing gun-control debate



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