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Cameroonians Embrace Toy Gun Ban

FILE - A collections of toy guns is displayed in a March 4, 2015, photo.

The government of Cameroon announced last month that it has banned the importation, sale and use of toy guns. Officials say the ban is aimed at discouraging violence and improving public safety. Many people are applauding the ban, and some think it should be made law in parliament.

Nine-year-old Kennedy Afubai used his electronic Kalashnikov toy gun to shoot at objects at Saint Anastasie, a popular park and tourist attraction in the heart of Yaounde, Cameroon's capital. The toy gun sprays little water-filled balloons when Kennedy pulls the trigger.

"As you can see, I am using my Kalashnikov gun to shoot and kill enemies so that they should not continue attacking us. I will kill all of them," he said.

It's that kind of talk that makes many Cameroonians nervous, especially since the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has carried out several massacres in far northern Cameroon.

Elvira Tomo is the 35-year-old mother of three girls. She said she preferred toys that, for example, look like kitchen utensils.

She said she would never buy toy guns because they taught children violence and that her parents never bought toy guns for her. She said a child who was offered a toy gun would eventually desire a real gun, which is dangerous for the society.

Cameroon announced the ban on toy guns last month shortly before the end-of-year feasts when people exchange gifts and buy toys for children.

Mani Dieudonne, an official charged with implementing the ban at Cameroon's ministry of territorial administration, said officials made the decision because of the increasing threat of gun violence in the central African nation.

She said in one case, replica guns were used to commit armed robbery.

"A family in Douala was harassed and at the end when the police arrested them [the criminals], they noticed that they had but toy guns. Because the family had very little time to notice or to look at what the criminals were holding, they surrendered all they had," said Dieudonne.

Cameroon's national commission on human rights and freedoms has saluted the initiative and is asking for additional efforts to make sure the ban is effective.

There are still no laws on the books banning the use of toy guns in Cameroon. Sociologist Anni Doriane said it was imperative the country enact an anti-imitation firearms law.

She said toys should be made in respect of security norms because dangerous toys exist. She said society had ethics so people should avoid toys that seem to encourage violence and consider ethics in their choice of toys.

So far, no one has issued a legal challenge to the ban. The main question is how it can be enforced, especially without an actual law to back it up.