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IT is important that an ongoing dialogue before the Columbus City Council about proposed regulations for so-called firearm facsimiles not be diverted into the highly emotional arena of gun control and Second Amendment rights.
This is first and foremost a public safety issue that must be addressed before it results in a tragedy.
Action needs to be taken to impose controls on the display of these look-alike devices — BB guns, pellet guns and slingshots — because their similarities to real high-powered weapons is such that they can provoke deadly force reactions.
Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix made that point before the City Council last week when he noted that in one recent incident, officers responded with assault rifles when receiving a report of someone pointing a gun at cars. The officers took up tactical positions with AR-15 rifles at the scene, and the individual thankfully heeded their commands to drop the item.
It turned out to be a fake gun.
Although officers undergo extensive training to guide them in controlling such situations, there is always the potential for someone to make a wrong move or take some sort of action that could be interpreted as an imminent danger. Police have to make life-or-death decisions in some of these situations, and to have to use deadly force against an individual armed with what turns out to be a toy gun is truly frightful.
Several council members have indicated they are in favor of adopting some form of an ordinance relating to the display of these facsimile items and have instructed City Attorney Jeff Logston to begin crafting one.
One minimal step that could be taken is to make illegal any alteration of a toy gun that would give it the appearance of a real weapon. For instance, toy guns are supposed to have orange tips, but Maddix told the council that some people paint over the tip to make it look real.
Brandishing a toy gun in a threatening manner (pointing it at someone) should certainly come under review. The individual whom police confronted with AR-15 rifles deployed was reported to have pointed his toy gun at passing cars.
There are legitimate issues that are being debated as the nation tries to work through the matter of gun control and Second Amendment rights. These toy guns have no place in that particular discussion.
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