Columbus, OH Takes Aim At 'Imitation Guns' With Proposed Ordinance

Growing up, a kid’s first BB gun was a rite of passage. Maybe it’s just a thing here in the South, but we all celebrated our first BB guns. Yes, we were like little Ralphie, so excited at receiving this rite of manhood. Or, in more than a few cases, womanhood.

However, in Columbus, OH, such a rite of passage may well become illegal.

The Columbus City Council held its first reading of several pieces of legislation, aimed at curbing gun violence across the city.

One of the ordinances under consideration would ban the sale of imitation guns, or BB guns to minors.

If passed, the ordinance would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to sell or provide a minor with such a weapon.

“Given the state’s structure, there’s only so much impact we can have when it comes to firearms’ legislation, and this is one that could help make our community safer,” said Michael Stinziano, Council President Pro Tem.

Diana Bunting, a coordinator with the Greater Southeast Community Block Watch, said she has seen children brandishing imitation weapons near her home.

“If you look at it, they look like real guns,” she explained. “It’s scary.”

Yes, they do.

Look, I have no problems with a law making it illegal to brandish a BB gun (assuming there isn’t one already). I have no problem with laws cracking down on these kids messing around with them outside their homes.

But I do have a problem with a law telling a father he can’t give his son or daughter a BB gun.

Let me tell you a little story here. My sister-in-law is only a few years older than my son. As a result, they played together. For a time, there was someone else in that dynamic who wasn’t a particularly good person. Once, they got my sister-in-law in a heap of trouble for something she didn’t do.

My son, just six years old, stood up and defended his aunt from what he saw as an injustice. He called this troubled influence out on her lie and stood up for someone else.

I’ll tell you, I’ve never been more proud in my life. As a result, I told him to close his eyes and hold out his hands. He felt a weight in his hands and I told him to open them up. In his hand was my old Red Ryder BB gun. While I kept it in my closet, it was his BB gun.

That very act, though, would be illegal under this law. It would be a misdemeanor for me to make this gesture since I would have “provided” a BB gun to a minor. Heck, it would have probably made most of our dad’s criminals, truth be told.

If the law called for an end to selling these guns to minors, maybe. But it also inhibits parents from doing the providing, and since BB guns are often used as a progression tool of sorts to determine if and when a child is ready for a real firearm, this is a problem. Yes, I know, many of the kids causing trouble with these ‘imitation guns’ probably aren’t getting a lot of adult supervision, but then that is the problem, not the BB gun.

That means Columbus is simply doing what so many other places do; it’s blaming the implement and not the underlying behavior. That is the real problem and it always has been.