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.