Grand Rapids, MI Looking To Crack Down On 'Imitation Guns'

Grand Rapids, MI Looking To Crack Down On 'Imitation Guns'

When I was a kid, I had a BB gun like most of my friends. Mine was the old-fashioned Red Ryder made famous by A Christmas Story. I had one before the movie came out, but in truth, I kind of disliked one thing about it. It didn’t look like any of the guns I saw on TV or movies. As a child of the ’80s, westerns weren’t a part of my youth. I wanted an air gun that looked like a semi-automatic handgun or an AR-15 like my friends all had.


The primary reason why BB guns are made to look like real guns is because the market demanded it.

However, it now seems that the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan is ready to crack down on these look-alikes.

City officials are attempting to strengthen Grand Rapids’ gun ordinance as it relates to replica firearms at a time when police officers are regularly encountering them.

BB guns and replica firearms have created challenges for local police in evaluating the fake from the real guns.

In the almost 19 months since Jan. 1, 2018, Grand Rapids police have taken 106 “imitation and pneumatic guns” from the community. That includes replica guns, BB guns and air-pressured guns.

Some close calls, where police held people at gunpoint due to a fake gun looking like a real firearm, have inspired the creation of a proposed ordinance to prohibit the brandishing of replica guns. The proposal also would require youth 16 and younger to be supervised by an adult when carrying a replica gun.

However, many of those 106 “imitation” guns weren’t actually used in crimes. Those were eventually returned to the owner’s parents. Those that were used criminally were destroyed.

Maybe it’s just me, but we’re talking about fewer 6 guns per month in a city of over 188,000 people. Even if all of these guns were taken because of involvement in a criminal act, it still sounds like a non-issue to me. Since we know that many weren’t, they were just confiscated by police for whatever reason–my guess is kids being idiots mostly–until an adult could take possession.


Now, I get the concern that a kid will point a fake gun at a police officer and get shot. Such events have nearly happened in Grand Rapids and actually have in other places. There’s no argument that such a thing would be absolutely horrific. Not just for the family of the child, either. I can’t imagine what it would be like for an officer to shoot a kid for pointing a toy gun at them, particularly if they’re not even thinking that you may believe it’s real.

Yet this seems like a solution in search of a problem. The numbers being described here feel like they’ve taken a 19-month set just to get a number high enough to cause some to be concerned.

It seems that the real problem, however, is parents buying BB guns for their kids and then not exerting some level of discipline regarding when and how they’re being used. Even if the numbers aren’t that high, the fact that any are failing in that responsibility is concerning to me. BB guns are introductory firearms in many ways. If you aren’t teaching them how to safely handle the BB guns, what are they going to learn about real ones?

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