Updated: September 6, 2011, 6:30 AM
This was a different kind of gun buyback program.
The guns being bought back from the streets weren’t 9 mm handguns or Glocks. Instead, they were Nerf guns or toy pistols.
And they weren’t being bought with cash. This time, the currency was pizza slices, notebooks and dress shirts.
The FATHERS group and Bona Pizza teamed up Monday for a buyback aimed at younger teens and preteens at the pizzeria at Bailey and Kensington avenues.
The idea was simple: Don’t let kids get used to firing weapons, even if they’re toys.
“It makes them too comfortable, holding that gun,” said Leonard Lane, president of Fathers Armed Together to Help, Educate, Restore and Save. “Then there’s no fear holding the real gun when they get older. We want to put that fear back into our children, teaching them what guns can do, how they affect their community.”
“A toy gun today, a real gun tomorrow,” said Charles Cina, owner of Bona Pizza. “That’s what we want to stop.”
So kids such as Tarence Callaham, 14, a Buffalo ninth-grader, brought in his green and orange Nerf gun. In return, Tarence got a piece of pepperoni pizza, a snazzy dress shirt and the chance to shoot some hoops in the pizzeria parking lot.
“I learned that you shouldn’t have guns and stuff,” Tarence said. “It gives kids an education not to play with bad things.”
Tynell Ruffins, 9, a fourth-grader at Community Charter School, got a bigger haul in return for his orange and black Nerf gun. He got the pizza, a soft drink, a notebook, a dress shirt and a Marvel Heroes folder.
Kids were encouraged to make the trades, Tynell said, “so they can stop playing with guns.”
Lane explained why the location of Monday’s buyback was appropriate.
“Bailey Avenue is an area where gun violence is up,” he said. “Let’s be real. The only way we can save this community is to work together—the residents, the businesses—to stop violence.”
Lane said the five-hour gun buyback was expected to take about 100 toy guns from young people.
“We’ve got to be willing to exchange everything and anything to get guns off the street,” he added.
So what will the FATHERS group do with the 100 or so toy guns?
“We plan on burying them in the next six months,” Lane said. “We’re going to get a coffin and put the guns in the coffin, and we’re going to close that coffin and pray.
“It’s symbolic — burying the guns that have been burying us.”