Beanie Babies win over guns Firearms trade-in: Westminster toy exchange scores bull's-eye in reducing supply of deadly weapons.

September 24, 1998

NEVER underestimate the power of a Beanie Baby. Used to draw huge crowds to ball games and malls, the stuffed toys are something people, not just kids, can't seem to get enough of.

In Westminster last weekend,the offer of a Beanie Baby in trade for any gun turned over to police resulted in 57 firearms surrendered at the Route 140 Village Shopping Center. That's a lot of firepower, even considering the soaring value of these dolls collectibles.

Two merchants who organized the exchange called it a huge success. They were prepared to trade up to 100 Beanie Babies, but as Sydney M. Shure said of her effort: "If this gets just one gun off the streets, I'll consider it a success."

Ms. Shure got the idea after thieves stole Beanie Babies from her toy store, and after recalling that her father's pharmacy had been robbed at gunpoint. Westminster police supported the shopping center trade-in.

Similar gun trade-ins around the country have offered cash or toys for weapons, no questions asked. A Baltimore lawyer exchanged popular Tickle-Me Elmo dolls for firearms one Christmas. The city of Baltimore gave out $100 bills for each of 1,100 firearms handed in last year.

Police and civic-minded citizens who sponsor such events rTC recognize that dedicated criminals won't participate, unless they've rearmed with better firepower. Some participants may turn in nonfunctioning, junk guns.

But exchanges can collect guns that are lying around unused and unwanted, just waiting to be tragically misused. Trade-ins -- can improve cooperation between the public and the police in the effort to curb shootings.

Beanie Babies may not be magic, but they have worked their charm in helping to turn deadly weapons into stuffed toys.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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