The Rev. Rodney Francis of St. Louis is urging parents to stop buying toy guns for their children in an effort to stanch the number of shooting deaths in the community and change the culture of violence. Michael H. Cottman, at, says that's not such a bad idea, but parents need to help, especially black fathers. 

Rev. Rodney Francis wants your toy guns.

Francis, pastor of the Washington Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, is collecting toy guns in an effort to change the culture of violence among young black men in a city that recorded 113 homicides last year.

The bold project is called the "Toy Gun Buy Back Initiative" and here's how it works: Children can turn in toy weapons and violent video games and exchange them for a range of other toys like building sets and craft kits …

Francis plans to elevate the discussion about rising crime in St. Louis as more black teenagers are picking up guns to settle street-corner quarrels. His toy gun buy-back initiative has the support of the St. Louis Police Department and the county Sherriff's Department.

The pastor's effort is noble and I believe his initiative can help facilitate an intelligent dialogue about gun violence in America. But he needs help. Black parents — and black fathers in particular — should join Francis' cause since he's responding admirably to a national crisis.

Read Michael H. Cottman's entire piece at

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