BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — This week, children can exchange their toy guns for a non-violent toy in efforts to teach children about the dangers of guns. They hope that having fewer guns on the playground, will lead to fewer real guns on the street.

“Get this out of the hands of your child,” said Pastor James Giles from Back to Basics and the Peacemakers, who is one of the organizers of the event. “I know it seems innocent now, but it manifests into something else later on, and that something is usually tragic.”

Basic to Basics Ministries, Buffalo F.A.T.H.E.R.S. and The Buffalo Peacemakers will be stationed across the street from the Tops on Jefferson Avenue, every day until Thursday, handing out toys in exchange for toy guns.

“Toy guns are something out kids can get used to, and get comfortable with,” said Leonard Lane, President of Buffalo F.A.T.H.E.R.S. “Perhaps they start to help the real ones in that manner, so we want to change the way they think about guns.”

Parents are encouraged to bring their children, to receive a new toy in exchange for their BB guns, Nerf guns, pellet guns and even water guns.

Hundreds of toys were donated by companies nationwide. Bikes were donated from Sinatra Real Estate, and toys like remote control cars, basketballs, skateboards and more are all apart of the exchange.

“It starts subtly and psychological with these toy guns. The idea that I shoot you, BANG, you’re hit, now you fall down. People are not getting up from these shootings that are taking place.” said Giles. “We need to stop the wanting to hurt one another.”

Roberto Rtarchie brought his son Christopher and Angelista out to exchange 15 toy guns for new toys on Monday afternoon.

“We wanted to give them a better idea that the concept of the things you play with is normally the things you grow up and use” said Rtarchie, ” The children are really our future. If we start it with them, that’s how we know that our future is going to be bright. As long as we make it bright for them.”

The anti-violence organizations have been raising awareness about gun violence for 20 years, but with the spike of violence and mass shootings nationwide this year, they are concerned on what they are seeing at a young age.

“If we can get them early, we believe we can slow down the violence that’s been happening in our community.” said Lane.

Organizers say they plan to melt the toy guns down and recycle the plastic into a sculpture, honoring the lives lost across the street at Tops.

The toy drive will begins Monday, June 27 at noon and go until 6 p.m. The exchange will take place everyday up to Thursday, June 30.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.