The principal of an elementary school in the San Francisco Bay Area offered students a chance to trade in their toy guns for a book and a chance to win a bike as part of the school's first toy gun "buyback" program.

"Playing with toys guns, saying 'I'm going to shoot you,' desensitizes them," said Charles Hill of Strobridge Elementary School in Hayward, "so as they get older, it's easier for them to use a real gun."

At the Strobridge Elementary Safety Day on Saturday, kids were invited to hand in their toy guns in exchange for a ticket good for one free book and a raffle ticket entering them in drawing for a free bike.

Local police and fire department representatives were also on hand to talk to the children about gun and fire safety.

A spokesman for the gun-rights group Responsible Citizens of California took issue with the event, saying "playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians" was "a normal part of growing up."

"While the intentions are obviously good on the part of the school administration," said Yih-Chau Chang. "Guns are used in crimes, but they are more often used in defensive ways which prevent violent crime from occurring in the first place."

Chang went on to note that most toy guns are painted bright colors "that make it virtually impossible for an officer to mistake it for a real gun."

In response, Hill pointed to a recent incident where a little boy in Kentucky killed himself while playing with a pink gun he thought was a toy.

[screengrab via BayNews9]