Again with the toys

Close call involving toy guns


Which ones are real weapons and which ones are toys? You have 0.3 seconds to answer. (Oh, and pretend it’s dark out.)

In the time it took you to read that, you might have been shot. Or, if you fired your own weapon, you might have killed a kid with a toy.

ACE has this on sheriff’s deputies called in on a report of four men in a house under construction. The four were dressed in black, but were boys ages 11-13:

One boy had his toy gun in his hand and waved it around while trying to communicate with the officers. The boys started to cry immediately and complied with officers order for them to get down on the ground, Spain said.

Spain said she was “a blink away” from pulling the trigger on the four if they hadn’t followed orders. She said once she realized they were children she lowered her weapon.

The four boys were carrying several toy guns either in their hands or tucked away in their pants, so officers could only see the butt of the guns. Once the kids were on the ground the officers were able to see the orange tip on the toy gun a boy was waving whereas some of the toys were covered in black electrical tape, Spain said. [all emphasis Murdoc’s]

The realistic toy, airsoft, and paintball guns are just too realistic, if you ask Murdoc. For instance, if this boy waving the gun while trying to communicate had said the wrong thing or waved it the wrong way and been shot for his efforts, I would have had trouble really blaming the deputy. Thankfully that tragedy didn’t occur, but a “blink” is how much time our officers often have to decide whether or not to fire.

What if earlier that week there had been a police officer shot by four men dressed in black in that area? The boys would have had to do nothing different to get themselves shot. What if there had been problems with gang activity in construction sites? What if the deputies had been pulling double overtime due to any number of factors? What if (choose your scenario)? Something totally outside the boys’ control and probably outside their knowledge would have changed the rules of engagement just a “blink”, and a lot of folks (the boy, the deputy, the boy’s family, the sheriff’s department, the community at large, etc., etc.) would have paid a very stiff price.

As you can see if you click on the picture above, all five guns are toys. I found that picture with a quick Google image search that turned up an old eBay auction.

Now, I’m certainly not calling for any kind of ban on these realistic toys. And I’m not even opposed to their use in controlled environments such as paintball fields and such. But the problems will come when they’re used outside of these closed areas, where misunderstandings and decisions made in the blink of an eye will result in tragedy.

I don’t have an answer, other than calling for parents to be more aware of what their kids have and what they’re doing with it. On that note, though, I’m curious about the “some of the toys were covered in black electrical tape” bit. I wonder if that might mean that some of the boys’ toys were made of clear plastic. I’ve said before that clear plastic might be the way to go. Maybe these kids’ parents wouldn’t allow them to buy black ones. But a bit of tape changes all of that in a few minutes anyway.

I’m going to have trouble blaming police officers for using real bullets on people who have these things. It only takes a few conditions to set up a scene where regret is piled on top of regret.


  1. Me and a bunch of friends play airsoft on private property at one of the friend’s houses – we notified the neighbors first about what is happening and then proceeded to the area – which is out of sight of the main road, although we probably should put up signs saying there’s a game in progress as any jogger or biker could wander through there… my two cents. I guess one thing to tell parents is that misuse of a airsoft gun carries a firearms charge – as airsoft guns look like real firearms and since no one can tell the difference people always assume the worst, and real shots will be fired. So parents, if you don’t want your kids getting shot – know what you are doing first and make sure you raised them kids right.

  2. Here is another example of the problems toy or replica guns can cause. This is from my college newspaper a while ago. My guess is that his fellow cadets will never let him hear the end of it. ‘A lone ROTC cadet sparked concern last week when he became separated from his group during a routine training exercise. University and local police received a report at 6:50 a.m. last Thursday of an unidentified man carrying a high-powered rifle near the lower heating plant road. The cadet had been on a 4-mile run with nine other cadets. During the endurance exercise, they wear 30-pound packs, camouflage uniforms and carry mock rifles. No charges were filed, and ROTC officials said they will inform University police before cadets take to campus roads for future exercises.’

  3. I had a similar incident playing lazer tag when it was popular. But this is the way I look at it. Maybe just maybe these things sould a little less like there real counter parts or the PARENTS should not their kids go out with tape on the muzzle that covers the blaze orange.