PESHAWAR: Civil society activists have urged the government to legislate to ban the trade of toy guns, saying playing with imitation firearms causes violent behaviour among young people.
The Poha Foundation, a civil society organisation, in collaboration with some other civil society organisations have begun a campaign in the province against toy guns to create public awareness to discourage violence among youths.
According to experts, the children who grow up playing with imitation toys develop a violent behaviour in adulthood and want to use real weapons.
They said most children pushed parents to buy them toy guns, available on the local market in different shapes, for showing off on festive occasions.
Parents too expressed concern about the availability of imitation firearms on the market saying some of them were quite real.
Civil society members say imitation firearms turn youths violent
A parent said all toy guns were harmful for children.
He said local action movies, tele-films and CD plays had glorified the brandishing of arms and thus, negatively affecting the immature minds of youths.
“Unless a law against imitation weapons is enforced, the menace of gun culture can’t be eliminated from our society,” a civil society member told Dawn.
A civil society activist said contacts would be made with provincial lawmakers to prohibit toy gun trade in the province, which was already badly hit by violence.
He said young minds would be adversely affected if trade of imitation firearms was not stopped.
Like previous years, this year too, civil society members have begun a campaign on social media to reach out to parents, elders, religious scholars, teachers and youth representatives to discourage purchase of toy guns among children on festival occasions.
Rizwan Khan, a trader in Karkhano Market, said toy guns were both imported and made locally.
He said he felt imitation arms were not harmful and rather they could promote ‘creativity’ among children.
“There should be a ban on so-called action movies, CDs and tele-films promoting gun culture,” he said.
The trader, however, said children should not be exposed to violent environment.
Shafiq Gigyani, chief of the Poha Foundation, told Dawn that his organisation would run the anti-toy gun campaign in all major cities including Swat, Malakand, Swabi, Bunir, Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as tribal areas adjoining them.
“We have already approached parliamentarians, heads of the educational institutions and traders of main business centres in and around Peshawar city against sale of imitation weapons. We are also pressing the assembly members to legislate against it. The response we’ve got so far is very encouraging,” he said.
The chief of the Poha Foundation said his organisation was conducting different activities including walks, public debates, counselling sessions with parents and children, and posters distribution against use of toy guns.
“After summer vacation, Parents Teachers Councils (PTC) will be mobilised to actively participate in our awareness campaign. Children will be educated to ‘say no to toy guns because they will have serious negative impact on their adult life,” he said.
Dr Abdul Qadir, a psychiatrist, who works as the chief adviser on behavioural issues with Poha Foundation, said the latest research showed that toy guns could be one factor responsible for violent behaviour.
“This is a serious issue as researchers are conducting experiments and collecting information to establish whether toy guns could lead children to develop a violent or abnormal behaviour in adult life. Keeping in view our local context, we should not expose our kids to the use or keeping of arms, real or mock, as they may prove detrimental to their behaviour in later stages of life,” he said.
The psychiatrist insisted there existed no clear evidence to show that a child playing with toy guns in childhood had developed a violent behaviour in adulthood.
“It is more or less the environment, which makes up the mind of a child and turn him or her into normal or abnormal human being,” he said.
Dr Abdul Qadir said parents should purchase things that could fire imaginative flight of small children besides entertaining them. “Numerous fancy items are available on the market that could lure children and could prove pleasurable education for them. We must improve our environment by adopting and displaying positive attitude. Children will catch up whatever we throw towards them,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2015