Marines fear toy guns could bring real problems in Afghanistan
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Toys can now be added to the list of complications in the already complicated war here.
During a recent patrol through the Safar Bazaar in the southern Garmsir district of Helmand province, U.S. Marines came upon a merchant selling a variety of items from a blanket, including what appeared from a distance to be several assault rifles and shotguns.
That they turned out to be toys was of little comfort to the unit.
“Do not let any of the children use those toys because there could be a very bad situation,” 1st Lt. Sam Jacobson, a member of the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines’ Embedded Training Team and a mentor and adviser to the Afghan National Army, warned through a translator.
First Lt. Shannon Ashley, the 3rd Platoon commander for the 2-1’s Company E, told the Afghan salesman, “The last thing we want to do is shoot an innocent person. But if they’re carrying that around, unfortunately it would be a horrible situation for everybody, and somebody is going to be hurt really bad.
The merchant said little in response, and the toy weapons were still on display as the Marine unit walked away.
Ashley said that while he was unaware of any accidental shootings that could be blamed on toy guns, Marine officials have raised their concerns about the realistic-looking toys available in the area at the regular meetings they have with local village elders.
“They are not like the ones we used to have in the U.S. back in the ’80s,” he said. “They don’t have any orange markings on them. They look realistic enough from a long distance away … which is enough for Marines to engage.”
Ashley said he was going to see if the local Marines “might just purchase them ourselves to keep them away from the children.”
“The only problem is, if we do that, you might see a mass influx of toy guns come in here and we’ll need to buy a million of those things,” he said, shaking his head. “Sometimes, it’s a really fine line, and a lot of gray area, about where you want to place our finances. Sometimes you think you’re doing a lot of good, but you are damaging at the same time.”