When a “Toy” isn’t a “Toy”

Thank you Towerflower

We have seen their faces, heard their names, another senseless loss of life. Gone before their time and all for holding a “toy”. As you will see I use “s” when referring to these “toys”. What I’m talking about are air soft and BB guns/rifles. This is the story of three:

Andy Lopez# 1. October 22, 2013; Andy Lopez, 13, of Santa Rosa CA was walking to a friend’s home and was carrying a look-a-like AR air soft “toy” and an air soft pistol “toy”. The pistol was tucked into his waist band and while this one had an orange tip, it was not visible due to being tucked into his waistband. The officers approached from a safe distance from behind and used their vehicle as a shield. They instructed Andy to put down the weapon but instead Andy turned toward the officers and, according to the officers, started to raise the “toy”. 8 shots rang out with 7 of them striking Andy. Most were non-fatal injuries except for the shot to the chest.

john-crawford# 2. August 5, 2014; John Crawford III, 22, Fairfield, Ohio. John was out with a friend and was in a Wal-Mart store when he picked up a look-alike assault air rifle “toy” from one of the sporting good aisles of the store. The “toy” had been removed from the box by an unknown person and was not loaded. While he carried the “toy” around a Ronald Ritchie approached store management and then called 911 with a story, in fact it is filled with outright lies. He claimed that Crawford was waving the rifle around and pointing it at children and several times told the 911 dispatcher that he was loading ammunition into the rifle. You can listen to the 911 call and the store’s video which have been timed together.

You can see from the video that Crawford isn’t doing anything he was accused of. In fact he was on the phone with his children’s mother at the time. Police in the meantime had been told he was loading ammo into the rifle and I can imagine that they thought they were about to encounter an attempted mass shooting. Police entered the store and with Crawford’s back to them, they ordered him to drop the rifle, not knowing he was the object of their attention he turned and was shot.

Tamir-Rice# 3. November 23, 2014; Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, Ohio. Tamir was outside a city recreation center and had a look-alike “toy” pistol. He was pointing it in a shooting stance at times and other times putting it in his waistband. A person sitting in a gazebo called 911 to report it and twice told the dispatcher that he thought it was a toy and at least once said Tamir looked like a juvenile, but Tamir’s actions were scaring him. The dispatcher did not relay this information to the police officers. As the officers approached they observed Tamir put the gun inside his waistband and after ordering him to raise his hands, he reached for his “toy”. It was over in 1.5 seconds and Tamir died of a gunshot wound to his stomach. The video shows police had absolutely no time to have advised Tamir to order him to raise his hands. The Cleveland officers who shot a 12-year-old boy holding a toy gun then failed to give him first aid for nearly four minutes. The boy was finally administered first aid when a detective and FBI agent arrived at the scene.

But it was too late. The boy, Tamir Rice, died after being transported to the hospital.

I wish to now focus on Andy and Tamir. First a little history, from Title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations which states:

§272.2 Prohibitions.
No person shall manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm (“device”) covered by this part as set forth in §272.1 unless such device contains, or has affixed to it, one of the markings set forth in §272.3, or unless this prohibition has been waived by §272.4.
§272.3 Approved markings.
The following markings are approved by the Secretary of Commerce:
(a) A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the federal standard color number, solid plug permanently affixed to the muzzle end of the barrel as an integral part of the entire device and recessed no more than 6 millimeters from the muzzle end of the barrel.
(b) A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the Federal Standard color number, marking permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel, covering the circumference of the barrel from the muzzle end for a depth of at least 6 millimeters.
(c) Construction of the device entirely of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the device’s complete contents.
(d) Coloration of the entire exterior surface of the device in white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern.
(e) This incorporation by reference was approved by the Director of the Federal Register in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51. Copies of Federal Standard 595B, December 1989, color number 12199 (Fed-Std-595B 12199), may be obtained from the General Services Administration at General Services Administration, Federal Acquisition Service, FAS Office of General Supplies and Services, Engineering and Cataloging Division (QSDEC) Arlington, VA 22202 or at the General Services Administration Web site . A copy may be inspected in the Office of the Chief Counsel for NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Telephone: (301) 975-2803 or at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). For information on the availability of this material at NARA, call 202-741-6030, or go to:http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/code_of_federal_regulations/ibr_locations.html

It is against the law to remove the orange tip or marking from these “toys”. Now with some California laws….

Penal Code Section 12551. Every person who sells to a minor any BB device is guilty of a misdemeanor.
12556. (a) No person may openly display or expose any imitation firearm, as defined in Section 12550, in a public place.
California has some of the toughest gun laws. As an example, they also have a ban on assault weapons and limits on Magazine capacity. Open carry of rifles are only legal in rural areas that also permit it by local ordinance. They are also tough on look-a-like “toys”.

Cleveland, Ohio Ordnance:
§ 627.23 Facsimile Firearms
(a) (1) “Firearm” shall have the same meaning as used in Section 627.01(b) of this chapter.
(2) “Replica or facsimile of a firearm” shall mean any device or object made of plastic, wood, metal or any other material which is a replica, facsimile or toy version of, or is otherwise recognizable as, a pistol, revolver, shotgun, sawed-off shotgun, rifle, machine gun, rocket launcher or any other firearm. As used in this section, “replica or facsimile of a firearm” shall include, but is not limited to, toy guns, movie props, hobby models (either in kit form or fully assembled), starter pistols, air guns, inoperative firearms or any other device which might reasonably be perceived to be a real firearm.
(b) No person shall display, market for sale or sell any replica or facsimile of a firearm in the City. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any replica or facsimile firearm which, because of its distinct color, exaggerated size, or other design feature, cannot reasonably be perceived to be a real firearm.
(c) Except in self-defense, no person shall draw, exhibit or brandish a replica or facsimile of a firearm or simulate a firearm in a rude, angry or threatening manner, with the intent to frighten, vex, harass or annoy or with the intent to commit an act which is a crime under the laws of the City, State or Federal government against any other person.
(d) No person shall draw, exhibit or brandish a replica or facsimile of a firearm or simulate a firearm in the presence of a law enforcement officer, fire fighter, emergency medical technician or paramedic engaged in the performance of his or her duties, when the person committing such brandishing knows or has reason to know that such law enforcement officer, fire fighter, emergency medical technician or paramedic is engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

Ohio has some of the most lax laws dealing with real firearms and you can open carry both rifles and pistol. In all states you must be at least 18 yrs old to purchase an air soft gun/rifle from online or over the counter stores.

Now I will get down to the nitty gritty. I feel for the friends and family of these boys who were lost, who were not the first and sadly most likely won’t be the last until laws are changed with these “toys,” but where is the parental responsibility? Andy and Tamir weren’t old enough to purchase these “toys” but yet their parents had no problem buying a look-a-like “toy” for their children. For what? For play? Where was the parental responsibility to learn the laws dealing with these “toys”?

Andy’s father was somewhat responsible saying he would supervise his son when he played with his “toy” with his friends but didn’t see the need to when he left the house carrying not one but two of these “toys” to walk down a public street with them. The parents of Andy and Tamir also didn’t see the need to destroy the “toy” when they had been altered, having the orange tip removed or broken off.

Why would a child or an adult alter the “toy”? Well, plain and simple; they want it to look like the real thing and they do except for that orange tip. The orange tip was mandated for a reason and that was so Law Enforcement could quickly identify it as a “toy”. To assume that no one under the age of 18 would ever have access to or point a real firearm at Law Enforcement is only kidding themselves as it has happened in the past.

We are quick to blame the parents of a child who goes on a mass shooting spree when they get their hands on a real firearm, but have nothing to say to the parents of children who are killed when their own parents put these “toys” into their hands and do not supervise or control the “toys”. Yes the loss of any child is tragic and I’m not minimizing their pain but they also need to look at their own actions or inaction when these situations happen. I also understand, being a parent myself, that a child will do things behind their parent’s back. This is why they need to control items like these “toys”.

This is Tamir’s air soft look-a-like
Tamir Gun

Photo of Andy Lopez’s rifle next to a real AR-15
Andy Lopez Gun

Both Ohio and California have introduced legislation to change the rules on Replica Air Soft and BB Guns which basically, in both states, would require that the “toy” be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips. California’s bill is sitting with their Senate while Ohio only recently introduced the bill after Tamir’s death.

I highly support this, frankly I think that they should all come in bright neon orange. Opponents feel that it won’t serve anything and people will just paint them another color to make them look real again…..like in breaking off or painting over the orange tip now. Once again I ask why? If you want to learn the sport of shooting it doesn’t matter what color your “toy” is so why would you alter it? It appears that when it is done it is for reasons other than what I mentioned; some could be sinister and unlawful. Yes, the tips on Andy’s and Tamir’s “toys” may have been broken off in play but once again, where was the Parental Responsibility?

Would you let your child drive in a car that you know has no brakes? Of course not! You know they could be killed. Then why would you let your child play with a look-a-like toy with the missing orange tip knowing that it could be mistaken for the real thing and result in your child’s death?

Why would you let your child go outside unsupervised with a look-a-like “toy”? If you want to buy these “toys” for your children then have them undergo a gun safety course. Education is a must, a must for the child and a must for the parent. After all, when you drive a car you have undergone education of the rules of the road so why not when you purchase a look-a-like “toy”?

Learn the Federal, State and Local laws dealing with them. If it’s too much for parents to do, then they shouldn’t buy toy guns for their child. This may sound harsh and beating up on the parents of the fallen children, but I’m not trying to do that, and it was avoidable and it needed to start at home.

I deal with gun safety and I do instruct children of various ages. I use these stories as a way to drive home a point……..that even a “toy” can cause a loss of life including your own. I drive home the point that there are two questions a cop doesn’t have to ask you, 1. How old are you? 2. Is that real? You can see that both Andy’s and Tamir’s “toys” looked like the real thing, so how do you expect a cop to know the difference?

With John Crawford, even though Ohio is an open carry state, you had a caller who told 911 that he was pointing it at children, waving it around, and trying to load ammunition into a rifle. Police reacted to what they were told, they thought a shooting was about to happen. Crawford didn’t have a chance. In my opinion, Ronald Ritchie, the man who started it all should be held legally responsible for his proven lies. If not for his call then John be alive today.

In fact, as police looked at the tapes of that day it showed 2 hours earlier that other people also handled the “toy” and no one took any action. While I’m not familiar with the “toy” that John Crawford held that day, I have bought others and some are zipped tied to cardboard or hard sealed in plastic. Most aren’t easy to remove from the packaging and we know that John did not remove it from it’s box. Regardless it was the actions of Ronald Ritchie and his lies that led to John’s death

With Tamir’s death, I wonder if the dispatcher heard the repeated statements that the caller thought it was a fake gun and he was minor due to the multiple tasks taking place or if they dismissed it. I also wonder why the cops would drive right up to a “potential” shooter like they did., Sheer stupidity. In fact the Police said in a statement that it was less than 10 feet away. What were they thinking? Maybe if they had stopped at a safer distance they might have had a longer response time or Tamir might have complied with their instructions. But we know from their call that they thought Tamir was 20 years old and in possession of a real pistol.

I take this to heart; my own son had a look-a-like pointed at him and a friend by a car load of teens. It was also missing the orange tip and my son, who has been educated and been around various types of firearms, thought it was real. He was able to get their tag number and I pressed charges against the teens…..both the driver and the pointer of the “toy”.

I encountered two types of parents that day. The mother of the driver was apologizing and understand what I told her how I feel about gun safety and that included look-a-like “toy” guns. The father of the pointer was the exact opposite, blaming me for the trouble that his son was in. “Can’t he take a joke? It was only a “toy”. I taught my son never to point a gun at anyone”…….(yeah, right, he didn’t learn that one did he). The teen who pointed the “toy” equally thought it was all a joke right up to the point when the cop, who arrested him, told him if he had been there he would be dead….meaning he would have fired on him. Only then did reality start to sink in and he started to shake.

What are the answers? I don’t have the answers, but we as parents need to take responsibility of the things we buy our children and supervise and control those items that could lead to injury or death. We could change the laws dealing with these “toys” nationwide so that another Andy, Tamir, or John never happens again. Paint them all neon orange. Prosecute those who lie on 911 calls when those lies led to injury or death of another. That’s a start.

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