Complicating the question from the other side of the issue is a point raised by one police union spokesperson who asked whether or not such practices would make it easier for criminals to disguise actual guns as toys. That sort of maneuver could cast a moment of doubt in a police officer’s mind before drawing their weapons, giving potential cop killers an advantage.
Questions of government restrictions on the manufacture and design of toy guns are once again in the headlines after another tragic shooting of a 12 year old boy in Cleveland, Ohio by police. On the surface, this incident is far too similar to others we’ve seen in the past. The boy had a BB pistol, an alarmed resident called the police, and when they showed up the kid wound up getting shot. The story has a couple of twists, however. One is the report that when police ordered him to put his hands up, the boy instead lifted his shirt and reached to pull the BB gun out of his waistband, leading to the lethal force response.
The second issue, however, comes with the appearance of the BB gun itself. It originally came with a bright orange stripe identifying it as not being an actual handgun, but someone – it is unclear who at this point – removed the protective feature, leaving it looking like a real weapon. (Just to forestall the inevitable comments, yes… a BB gun is a weapon also, but I’m drawing a distinction here between an air or spring charged device and an actual handgun capable of firing conventional bullets. I also refer to it as a “toy” here, but only to draw the same distinction.) This has prompted one Ohio lawmaker to rush forward a bill mandating that all such toys be more clearly painted and identified in a way which leaves no room for confusion.