New York Socialite Pays For Toy Gun "Buyback"

You probably already know by now that there’s absolutely no evidence that so-called gun buybacks do anything to reduce violent crime, suicides with firearms, or accidents involving guns. They’re what I call “soundbite solutions”; something that a politician can extol for the cameras in order to claim they’re doing “something” as opposed to doing something that works.

As inane as these compensated confiscation events are, the town of Hempstead Village on Long Island has once again taken the absurdity to a new level with its annual  “buyback” for toy guns.

Hempstead children Monday traded their water pistols and plastic revolvers for holiday gifts in an exchange program meant to teach youths that toy guns can be mistaken for real ones.

About 100 toy guns were swapped for other less provocative alternatives during the Long Island Toy Gun Exchange Program Monday morning at the village’s Brierley Park.

LaMont Johnson, a village trustee and school board president, said Monday marked the fifth year the event was held in Hempstead. Johnson said it’s important for children to learn at a young age the dangers of real guns.

“We don’t want a police officer to mistake a toy gun for a real gun. … Guns are for adults who are licensed. They are not for little kids.”

I’ve got no issues with kids learning from a young age that firearms aren’t toys, but treating toy guns like real firearms is a strange way to do it. The event was paid for by Long Island philanthropist and socialite Jean Shafiroff, who probably meant well. If she really wants to teach kids true gun safety she’d be better off sponsoring 4H shooting sports clubs across the island instead of offering up a new toy in exchange for a used toy gun.

Of course, there’s a chance that Shafiroff had the same motivation in hosting the toy gun exchange as a politician has when they hold a gun “buyback”; attention from the press. As a 2017 New York Times profile coyly noted, the wealthy socialite’s actions have caused “some to question whether her primary motive is philanthropy or publicity.”

Mrs. Shafiroff exemplifies a new breed of hands-on philanthropist, one who isn’t necessarily born with the right family name, or introduced through debutante balls, or nurtured through the ranks of junior benefit committees. Instead, she is what her husband calls a working socialite, who regards the philanthropy circuit as a profession and is a master of promoting her own image alongside the charities she supports.

To maintain the flow of the ink, Mrs. Shafiroff works with four publicity agencies: Rubenstein Public Relations and firms owned by Norah Lawlor, R. Couri Hay and Todd Shapiro.

Those publicists must do pretty good work, because Shafiroff landed a quote of her own in the Newsday coverage of her toy gun compensated confiscation event.

Jean Shafiroff, founder of the New York Gun Exchange Program, who was listed in a press statement as the donator of the toys in exchange for toy guns, said because of the pandemic, a toy drive is more important this year than in past holidays.

“This year has been a really hard year for most Americans,” she said. “We’re in a situation where parents don’t have food for their children, and they certainly don’t have toys for their children. … Every single child deserves toys during the holidays.”

I agree that every child deserves a toy during the holidays. It’s just a shame that someone as wealthy as Shafiroff would make kids turn in toys they already own in order to get a new one, rather than simply donating those toys out of the goodness of her heart. Nope, she had to throw in a healthy portion of social conditioning along with her philanthropy.

Actually, in my opinion this isn’t philanthropy at all. At best, it’s plain old activism. At worst, it’s using kids as a prop for publicity, and it may very well be a blend of the two. I have no idea what the true motivation was, but I do know the toy gun exchange won’t do a single thing to make anybody safer, but it did earn Jean Shafiroff some press.