BY SAM PAIOR
If I had called for the banning of toy guns, I would understand some of the sentiment. But I’m not doing that.
The day after the Connecticut shooting, my ten year old son presented me with his Christmas wish list. Of the ten requests were ten variations of Halo and other violent video games. Fat chance, I told him.
I decided to tell him, and his twelve year old brother, about the shootings, and how sick they made me feel. I wanted to do something. Anything. I asked the boys to gather their toy guns. Not the yellow nerf guns or the fluorescent water guns, but the replica assault rifles and handguns that had accumulated after a trip to the Royal Show without me.
We’ve always been a relatively gun free home. I like to think of myself as a bit of peacenik, I guess, although I did buy each of them a wooden pop gun rifle a few years ago from a re-enactment village in the USA where they were born. It made a cute sound I thought at the time. Pop. Pop.
Anyway. I talked to the boys about Newtown. When my twelve year old, who has an intellectual disability, didn’t seem to “get it” I said – imagine if someone walked into your school, into Mrs Smith’s class, and killed every kid in your buddy class, as well as Mrs Smith and some of the other teachers. Then he got it.
I asked the boys to collect their plastic replica guns. Half of them had the orange tip required by law in the USA but not Australia. We put them on the floor in the lounge room, and I said “What would it take to get rid of this crap?” I offered them a few dollars. At five dollars each, my ten year old wavered (he’s saving for an iPod). Big guy, however, wasn’t interested – especially with my decree that if I bought them they would go in the rubbish bin.
Negotiations ensued, and the result was that I didn’t have to pay anything, but they agreed that the toy guns could be bagged up and hidden, indefinitely, in the garage (a black hole of bikes, parts, books, boxes, hubcaps, caravan equipment and boogie boards).
Later in the day I thought about how futile the idea was – what would it really change? Especially when so many of their friends have toy guns. So I thought I’d offer to buyback their guns, too. And maybe we could make a small party of it. A BBQ at my place. It would be less sad for the kids if we turned it into an event and we all got to stomp on the things, and then maybe my twelve year old would come around and join in?
So I posted a status on Facebook. My friends started commenting, wanting to join in. It was looking like I might not be able to afford all their toy guns, even at only $5 a piece. A girlfriend called, and suggested we make it a fundraiser, and the idea kind of snowballed from there. We called our local Police, who were very supportive, and I called an editor to see if they’d be interested in supporting the idea. He said – “Let’s run a story on it tomorrow, and see what support comes out of it”. So they sent a photographer and a story was born.