Last Sunday I went to my local Walgreens to pick up some odds and ends. As I was waiting in line to check out, I casually glanced at the school supply drive box. For the most part, it was your usual fare -- notebooks, glue sticks, and crayons.
But, one item didn't seem to belong. Dead center in the box was a toy gun, yellow and orange with a black handle.
I thought to myself, Now this is what's wrong with society.
We're living in a country where there are people who think it's acceptable to leave a toy gun in a school supplies drive box. And while it was likely innocent, it illustrates a bigger problem at hand -- too many people are okay with exposing kids to guns. Given the recent school shootings, isn't this something people should rethink?
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: This is not a political, partisan issue. Rather, it's an issue that affects us all. These are young, impressionable children. It's bad enough that there are video games that encourage senseless shooting and crimes.
"I don't even know how it got in here, some kid may have left it in there," said the manager at Walgreens when I told him.
I was pleased to hear the manager was going to remove the item. However, I then thought of the possibility that "some kid" would have left a toy gun in a box of donated school supplies for impoverished kids.
The box read, "Help a child have a successful start to the school year."
And I agree. Let's help the children to have a successful school year.
Years ago, we would have never thought twice about a kid having a toy gun, cap gun or otherwise. Heck, everyone played cowboys and Indians. But times have changed, that's for sure.
The young gunman from Sandy Hook Elementary School, for instance, killed 26 people, 20 of whom were children. Indeed, by Slate's crowdsourced an estimate that more than 22,000 Americans have been shot to death since the Newtown murders alone, as of this writing.
More recently, as the fall school year approaches, a 20-year-old man fired an assault rifle half a dozen times or more inside a Georgia elementary school. Fortunately here the incident was contained and none of the faculty or 800-plus students were injured. But many, many other lives cannot claim that same fate.
Said teacher Kelly Hillesland from One Million Moms and Dads Against Gun Violence, an advocacy organization established in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting:
"In the U.S., guns have been closely associate with our national mythology and kids have been playing cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers for as long as we all can remember. But think about that. When we talk about the culture of violence, a culture of guns, that is what we are talking about. In a time when children are gunned down daily in our country, and an elementary school becomes a specific target, it's time to change the mythology...."
Added Shannon Watts from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America -- another advocacy organization springing from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting:
"Thanks to an insidious American gun lobby, even school-aged children are inundated by gun manufacturers' efforts to market and proliferate deadly weapons. Whether those dangerous marketing messages glorifying guns and gun violence come through television or movies or video games or stores like Walmart that sell a gun called "My First Rifle," gun manufacturers are promoting everything from handguns to assault weapons directly to American children."