The boy told administrators at My First Days Day Care, 580 N. Byrne Rd., that he found the gun in the grass of his apartment complex in the 5700 block of Silverside Drive while he was playing outside Monday.
The boy, who told authorities he thought the gun was a cigarette lighter, was taking the 25-caliber semiautomatic pistol from his pocket to show his friends when administrators saw it.
About 20 children were at the day care at the time. Children there typically range in age from 6 weeks to 12 years.
"We thought it was a toy, and on further investigation, we noticed it wasn't a toy and we called his parents," said Montarey Barbour, the day care's administrator. She said once the boy realized the gun wasn't a toy, "he was pretty upset about the situation."
Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the boy reportedly told his mother of his find, but "she failed to examine the gun." Although police could charge the mother, Sergeant Heffernan said it appears unlikely the incident will warrant charges. The boy's name, and consequently, his mother's, were not made available.
Ms. Barbour said day-care employees checked the gun to make sure it was not loaded and called police. Police took the gun, which was booked into the police property room.
"We were pretty nervous, but nothing happened," Ms. Barbour said. "We maintained control and professionalism, and we did what protocol says to do."
Ms. Barbour said the boy went home with his mother after the afternoon incident.
"It could have been tragic," Sergeant Heffernan said. "It could have been loaded. He could have pointed it at himself thinking a flame would shoot out and accidentally have shot himself."
Several residents of the Silverside apartment complex hadn't heard of the gun found near their homes, although news of a 5-year-old with a gun was "scary," one woman said.
"It makes you scared to let your kids play outside," said Jamise Miles, whose 6-year-old nephew is staying with her for the next several months.
She and a neighbor said they do not hear gunshots in their neighborhood, but once, Ms. Miles said, she heard about a local teenager showing a gun to young children there. Johny Smith, 16,who lived in the complex years ago and recently moved out of North Toledo, said guns are so common among the city's youth, "It's like a piece of clothing now."
His friend Iequan Gephart, 15, a Whitmer High School student who lived in the complex years ago until his family moved, said he knows other teens who use guns as a status symbol.
"Toledo isn't safe anymore," he said.
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