Hempstead, NY – A village located in Long Island offered a toy-replacement program where children could bring in toy guns they received as gifts and replace them with other non-weapon toys.
Children were asked to bring in their water pistols, replica firearms and other imitation weapons for sporting goods and educational toys, according to WABC.
“The purpose is to offer safe alternative to toy guns. We don’t want the kids playing with guns. Guns are dangerous,” said Hempstead Village Trustee LaMont Johnson, according to WABC.
The village had 50 children come to the announcement made earlier in December.
“Saying no to guns is important – even toy guns,” said Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan, according to WABC.
Sean Acosta of the New York Toy Gun Exchange Program bought the toys. Acosta is a former New York Police Department officer, according to WABC.
“I want to make sure when you grow up nothing happens to you,” Acosta told a group of Hempstead schoolchildren earlier this month, according to WABC.
Some of the children at the announcement were given toy guns so they could exchange them for other toys, according to WABC.
Hempstead Village Police Department Lieutenant Derek Warner said parents could be risking the lives of their children by giving them toy guns for Christmas. He said police can mistake toy guns for real guns, especially when it is dark outside of if the child with the toy gun is in a poorly lit area, according to WABC.
“Toy guns can be a dangerous item to give your children,” Lt. Warner said, according to WABC.
The Hempstead toy gun exchange program started in 2015, according to the Washington Times. It was started by Manhattan philanthropist Jean Shafiroff to stop children from playing with guns that could look real. Shafiroff said in 2016 she chose Hempstead because she heard about a number of shootings involving children in the area.