Home Politics Proposed bill would ban realistic look-alike guns

Proposed bill would ban realistic look-alike guns

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Airsoft enthusiasts might have to give up their model assault rifles if a statewide ban on imitation guns passes.

Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, proposed the bill that would prohibit look-alike toy guns from being made and purchased as a measure of protection for citizens and police officers, he said.

Citing several incidents where a look-alike gun was mistaken for its real-life counterpart, including in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland and of John Crawford III of Dayton, Patmon said he’s expecting an even bigger problem to come.

“The larger picture is that there are hundreds of thousands of concealed carry permits in the state of Ohio,” Patmon said. “And for a private citizen to have to make a life and death decision on whether or not he’s facing a real gun or a toy is something that’s looming in our future.”

Recently, Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati proposed a similar, less extreme bill. House Bill 16 would require all fake guns to be clearly marked with fluorescent strips or be otherwise distinguishable from the real thing. Patmon believes the bill can’t be practically applied.

“‘Clearly marked’ is clearly not enough because folks have taken [off] the marks or the coloring — it’s something easily accomplished by a child — with spray paint or a pair of pliers,” he said. “Further, if you took a real gun and colored it, then you could be thought to have had a toy and actually have a real gun. I don’t think that’s enough.”

Jim Irvine, chairman of Ohio gun rights group Buckeye Firearms Association, said the bill goes too far. Imitation guns are popular on shooting ranges. The BBs used instead of bullets, made from plastic, aluminum and other materials, offer a safer training method. Isolated instances like those in Cleveland and Dayton, he said, should not call for a statewide ban, suggesting police and citizen training in handling and recognizing weapons as a better route.

“There have been a couple tragic incidences. Everyone agrees on that,” Irvine said. “It’s not a widespread problem.”

But Ohio isn’t the only state to have had officers mistake imitation weapons for real ones. Police in Texas, Utah and Washington all experienced similar confusion, even when the look-alike gun wasn’t altered to look like the real deal.

Still, Patmon maintains his primary concern is the concealed carry permit holders who might also mistake a toy for a weapon.

“We have to make people aware, start the conversation and, if possible, pass a law that prevents that decision being made in the wrong instance, in the wrong way,” he said. “[And not] wait until there are five or six children that have been shot by concealed carry permit holders who think they’re being robbed or threatened by something that looks like a gun, but is actually a toy.”

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