Gun safety: Demonstrate, discuss safe habits with children
The story of a 15-year-old old boy shot to death by police after he reportedly pointed a pellet gun at officers has been in the headlines ever since the tragic event occurred. Unfortunately, this is not the first time for such a story.
There have been too many incidents of someone being shot and killed when a toy or replica gun has been mistaken for a real gun. Police officers from all over have killed people who have brandished toy or replica guns while committing crimes or wanting to die by what is commonly known as “suicide by cop.” There have been others who have been killed with real guns by someone who thought the gun was a toy or a replica. One such tragedy occurred in California in 1991 when a grandfather, playing with his grandson, mistook a real gun for a toy and shot and killed the three-year-old.
Some people want to blame law enforcement for overreacting or the manufacturers of toy and replica guns for these tragedies. Law enforcement officers are usually responding to reports of someone with a gun. The person making the report can not always tell if the gun is real or a toy when they make the call to police, but people expect responding officers to be able to make the determination even under an extremely stressful situation. Officers are trained to give commands, whenever possible, to get the person to put the gun down and out of reach. If the person does not comply, officers have to make a split second decision to protect their lives and the lives of others.
Toy and replica gun manufacturers are required to put an orange-colored marking on the guns to help distinguish the toys from real guns. Unfortunately, there are people who will use spray paint to cover the orange marking to make the gun look more real or will paint an orange marking on a real gun to make it resemble a toy. Statistics from the U.S Department of Justice show, during a four-year period, law enforcement agencies confiscated 31, 650 toy and replica guns, altered to look more like real guns, used during the commission of crimes.
Manufacturers are required to place warnings on packaging of toys and replica guns as well. The buyer is warned that altering the color or markings to make the product look more real is dangerous and may be mistaken for a real firearm by law enforcement. The buyer is also warned that possessing the product on the grounds or premises of any school or college may be a crime. In Ohio, it is a crime to be in possession of any item that replicates a firearm, while on school grounds or school premises.
Parents need to talk to children about gun safety and demonstrate good gun safety habits. All guns should be used under adult supervision only and should be put away in locked cabinets when not being used, making sure the toy guns are in a separate cabinet from the real guns. Emphasize that all guns are dangerous and restrict access to guns to help keep our kids safe.
Keeping Our Kids Safe is brought to you by the Delaware Police Department and School Resource Officer Rod Glazer.