(Boston Globe) — Dominic Johnson, a 10-year-old fourth-grader with a fledgling Mohawk, brandished his black, long-nosed toy gun and caressed the muzzle appreciatively.“It’s like a shotgun mixed with a rifle,’’ he said, as his mother, April, told him to stop pointing it at nearby children.
Soon it would be junk.
Dominic joined dozens of children yesterday at the annual Toy Gun Bash in the gymnasium of Pleasant View Elementary School. There, they lined up to toss their toy guns, from dainty purple water guns to camouflage-painted pistols, inside the Bash-O-Matic, a large black, foam creature with churning metal teeth and the shape of a cockroach spliced with a frog.
Prodded by Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, who wore a fuzzy Santa hat, the children stared curiously as the Bash-O-Matic mashed up their guns and digested them into a plastic bin near its tail. “He ate it,’’ squealed one delighted little girl.
’Tis the season for joy, peace, and grinding up plastic, orange-tipped AK-47s.
For seven years, Providence municipal and law enforcement officials have organized the event around Christmastime as a way to raise awareness of the dangers of playing with guns, real or fake. The event is a mix of the macabre and the playful, a children’s version of the gun buyback program in which adults trade firearms for gift certificates.
Yesterday, younger children ran through a rubber obstacle course while officials told the older children the story of a 14-year-old boy who police nearly shot after they confused his air pistol with a real gun.
In exchange for their toy guns, all the children received wrapped presents that were indisputably not violent — dolls, stuffed animals, and board games like checkers.
Some children were not thrilled with the trade.
Malik Hall, a round-eyed second-grader, looked apprehensive as he stood in line with his favorite toy, a thick, blue gun with plastic sword underneath the muzzle. The 8-year-old was furious when his mother, Amanda, told him he would have to give it up. Yesterday morning, he tried to hide it under his pillow, she said. “I’m worried,’’ she said. “He might cry.’’
But when it was his turn, Malik strode dry-eyed and with quiet dignity to the Bash-O-Matic and fed it the gun. When his mother approached, he said nothing.
“You don’t want to talk to me?’’ Hall asked. He looked at her stonily and left to retrieve his gift .
Hall said she had no regrets. The 26-year-old mother of six said she has been trying to wean her only son off toy guns for years. In kindergarten, he brought a pop gun to school and shot at a classmate when the child refused to return his toy truck.