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Pfleger fires on toy guns in Easter baskets  

The Reverend Michael Pfleger with Easter baskets thinclude toy guns thare prepackaged distributed by Walmart Walgreens. Tuesday March 13 2012.

The Reverend Michael Pfleger, with Easter baskets that include toy guns that are prepackaged and distributed by Walmart and Walgreens. Tuesday March 13, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 15, 2012 8:15AM

There was a time when kids wanting toy guns had limited media images of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers to emulate. Today, not so.

So the Rev. Michael Pfleger said he is challenging the sale of the toys — in Easter baskets — to a generation plagued by more violent and rampant use of guns in their own neighborhoods.

“I am writing to express my concern and outrage that Kmart is selling Easter baskets, which are obviously for children, with toy guns in them,” Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church in Auburn-Gresham, wrote to officials at the big box retailer, in a Mar. 9 letter obtained by the Sun-Times.

“With the increasing gun violence in Chicago and across this country, I am amazed that you would choose to offer toy guns to our children to make them comfortable with playing with them. I am asking you to remove any baskets with toy guns in them from your store’s shelves immediately,” Pfleger wrote.

The toys in question are plastic water guns or Nerf dart shooters in sizes ranging from pistol- to nearly rifle-length, contained in Easter baskets sold by the retailer for prices starting at $9.99.

They’re not just sold at Kmart, but at other retailers e.g. Meijer, Toys R Us, Walgreen’s and Walmart.

“We respect the opinions of our customers,” Chris Brathwaite, spokesman for Sears Holdings, Kmart’s parent company, said Tuesday. “However, we believe these items are clearly packaged as water toys and are almost identical to items sold by many other retailers.”

The Kmart baskets were brought to his attention by community members, Pfleger said, the same week that saw several shootings citywide and a 22-year-old shot and killed in the middle of the day in the White Castle’s parking lot in Auburn-Gresham. He subsequently learned they’re sold all over, “which goes to show that this has become a popular Easter basket item, and my anger on it is double,” said Pfleger.

“As a Christian I’m insulted that Kmart or any store would use this celebration of life to have images of guns in Easter baskets, encouraging parents to buy them for their children. But equally important is that any psychiatrist will tell you a child who gets comfortable playing with toy guns and pointing them at people as a child becomes comfortable picking them up as an adult. In a nation that’s plagued with gun violence, neither Kmart nor any other store should be selling guns in Easter baskets to our kids.”

Brathwaite said the retailer would be contacting Pfleger about the concern, adding, “Kmart is committed to being a valued community partner.” Pfleger said he and his parishioners will make the same demand of other retailers selling toy guns in Easter baskets, and “I hope folks will do it throughout the city.”

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