In April of this year, a Baltimore cop shot a 14-year-old boy who was carrying a “replica” firearm — a spring-air-powered BB gun that the officer mistook for a semiautomatic pistol. The incident happened one year after protests began in the city following Freddie Gray’s death. Although the boy (Dedric Colvin) survived his injuries, the officer-involved shooting received national attention, and this only added to scrutiny placed upon the Baltimore PD, which was recently found to routinely violate civil rights.
In response to the Colvin shooting, the Baltimore City Council pushed for a citywide ban on any toy gun that resembles the real deal. This includes handguns and rifle replicas, and on Tuesday, the council approved a preliminary ban that will likely pass in December. Council President Bernard Young reasoned that not only are there safety concerns but that replicas increase crime when people use them to commit robberies. The Baltimore Sun notes that the city has experienced over 800 shootings this year and will likely surpass 300 homicides. Young believes it’s time to ban possession of toy guns and get them off the street:
“It’s something that we should do for the safety of our children. We’re getting stores robbed with replicas. We’ve got people running around with these things and they almost look real … I don’t think we should be allowing replica guns in the city of Baltimore, especially with the murder rate we have.”
The Sun also cites Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who referenced the Colvin shooting by stating the boy was carrying “absolute, identical replica semiautomatic pistol.” And City Councilman James B. Kraft chimed in to say that he introduced the ban as necessary: The “easiest way to resolve this is to get the replica guns off the streets.”
The replica ban is expected to pass next month, but whether or not it will have an effect on the number of shootings and robberies remains to be seen. The ordinance, if passed, should at least carry more impact than the City of Cleveland’s recent advice for Tamir Rice’s parents to fund gun safety education for children. This proclamation downplayed what was going inside the Cleveland PD to prompt a cop to shoot a young boy (who was playing with a pellet gun) mere seconds after arriving on the scene.
In California, a new law requires all guns to be brightly colored following a fatal shooting where a cop mistook a replica for an assault rifle.