Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Gun toy used in shootings county

An educational toy that encourages children to talk about guns is being used at a school in the county where Derrick Bird fatally shot 12 people

An educational toy that aims to encourage children to talk about guns is being used at a primary school in the county where Derrick Bird fatally shot 12 people.

The Guns Thumball is intended to be used for pupils as young as eight in group lessons. The ball lists 32 types of gun, from a Mac 10 machine gun to a water pistol.

It was being developed before the massacre in Cumbria in June but the company behind it, based in the same county, said it was "even more important" for children to discuss weapons in light of the tragedy.

Children at Bassenthwaite primary school in Bassenthwaite, Cumbria, are among those in a pilot group trying out the ball before it goes on sale. Headteacher Sara Royle said: "The new Guns Thumball gives us the opportunity to positively encourage the students to talk about the role that guns have in society in a safe and fun way."

Chief Superintendent Geoff Feavyour, of Leicestershire Police, a strategic firearms commander, has backed the use of the ball.

He recognised the ball may be controversial, saying: "I can understand the sensitivity, but we are fooling ourselves if we think our kids don't arrive at school without exposure to guns, gun issues, and in some cases gun culture."

Mr Feavyour admitted some may see guns as a taboo subject, but said children are often exposed to "unrealistic, positive and even glamorous" views of the weapon.

He added: "I can understand that parents, even teachers, may be concerned that guns should be a taboo subject in an educational environment, and I can't help but think this is very similar to some attitudes to sex education. Talking about things in a controlled educational environment rarely makes things worse, and if we can improve awareness, there is the very real possibility that lives can be altered."

He even suggested that by giving children knowledge on guns "lives can be saved".

The toy is thrown around a classroom, with the person who catches it lifting their thumb and reading from the panel underneath. It is then used to promote discussion in the classroom about how guns are used in different scenarios.

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