When my son was still little, he reached the age when it was time for him to have some toy guns.

My father used my toy guns to help teach me the rules of gun safety. I was required to follow those same Four Rules we’ve all heard time and time again. It was pretty smart of him to do that, too. After all, kids screw up while they’re learning, but with a cap pistol, the stakes are much lower. If I messed up and did something wrong, there was zero chance of anyone getting hurt. That way, when I was old enough to handle a real firearm on my own, I already knew what to do. It was ingrained into me.

Granted, I ignored his rules when he wasn’t around, but that’s something else kids do.

Regardless of my youthful transgressions, having a toy gun was a good thing for me and my son. Now, my daughter has a cap pistol herself. She, too, has to follow the rules.

However, a former officer with the NYPD seems to disagree with my stance on toy guns. He thinks they’re uncool and wants kids to think they’re uncool too. So much so that he’s created a kiddy version of a gun buyback program.

The Long Island Toy Gun Exchange Program begins at 2 p.m. at Brierley Park, 65 Dartmouth St., Hempstead. Each child can receive one toy for whatever water pistols, Nerf guns and other toy guns they turn in.

The new toys are being donated by Sean Acosta of Oyster Bay, a former New York City police officer who now helps people grieve their taxes. “It has to start at a young age,” Acosta says. “If we can get them to say, ‘It’s not cool to carry these toy guns,’ then maybe when they get older, they won’t ever carry a real gun.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t actually want anyone to think carrying guns is “cool.” I don’t want anyone carrying because they think it increases their social standing or because they think the firearm is some kind of accessory, like a nice watch or expensive cufflinks. I don’t want to stop people from carrying for those reasons, so long as they do it lawfully, but I don’t think that’s why anyone should do it.

But these are toy guns, for crying out loud. Acosta is trying to jump onto the old and debunked canard that toy guns lead to adult violence, and that’s just ridiculous. Millions of American boys–and probably a massive number of American girls–have played with toy guns throughout the ages. Guess how many of them turned to violence? Relatively few.

Even if owning toy guns translates to owning real guns later in life, it doesn’t follow that it somehow increases violence. It doesn’t. It never has. It never will.

Acosta may mean well, but if he wants to put his efforts into curbing violence before it starts–something I’m definitely a fan of–then maybe he can look at things that might actually make a difference, such as mentoring young men before they reach the age when gangs start to get hold of them. There are a ton of other things to work on, but this isn’t benefitting anyone except Acosta’s sense of self-righteousness.

Hat tip: The Truth About Guns