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Weapons and crime: St. Louis toy gun initiative raises issues

Despite months of contentious national debate, very few new restrictions on guns have been passed around the country since the Newtown shootings last December.

There are deep-seated cultural and political reasons for this, starting with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And over the last 10 to 15 years, more and more states have adopted concealed carry laws. Missouri's neighboring state of Illinois, long a holdout against such laws, has now joined the trend as well.

In St. Louis, however, the cross-currents of the debate about weapons remain evident. A local pastor from a Baptist church has organized a drive to collect toy guns in order to get them out of the hands of children.

The pastor has set a goal of 1,000 guns for the gun-collection initiative. This Saturday, July 13, children will be able to exchange toy weapons for other toys. The initiative also applies to violent video games.

The idea for the event came last winter during a community forum on gun violence. The initiative also includes the development of a curriculum for better education about the risks of violent toys.

To be sure, an initiative such as this is not likely to bring immediate change to the political or cultural landscape regarding gun laws and gun charges. After all, there are many factors that affect that landscape.

The trend toward conceal and carry laws is only part of that picture. There are also such factors as the frequency with which prosecutors bring weapons charges or seek sentencing enhancements based on the mere possession of a weapon.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "St. Louis pastor hopes toy gun buyback starts conversation about roots of violence," Valerie Schremp Hahn, July 3, 2013

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