Monday’s announcement that a Cuyahoga County grand jury would not indict two Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice reignited a debate over toy guns and airsoft pistols.
On Monday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said, “I want to call on the legislature, and the manufacturers of toy guns, not to make guns that look so much like the real thing.”
A NewsChannel5 viewer agreed. Nick Valencic sent us a picture of a pellet gun he snapped at a Strongsville Walmart. The gun, still wrapped in plastic, featured a chrome finish, with a black handle and it had no orange tip to distinguish it from bullet-powered guns.
“It was a pellet gun, but it had no distinguishable features that it wasn’t a real firearm,” Valencic said, adding that he’s a gun owner.
Last November, Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice outside the Cudell Rec Center, after he claimed Rice reached for a gun that was in the boy’s waistband. The gun turned out to be an airsoft pistol, and not an actual firearm.
Prosecutors have said the gun Rice carried is nearly indistinguishable to the naked eye from a bullet-powered gun.
But Todd Karam, CEO of the Cleveland Armory gun store in Valley View, said some real guns he sells, in bright colors like lime green and pink, could easily be mistaken for toys.
“What do we consider a toy and what do we not consider a toy?” Karam said, “Even if you made the toys look like toys specifically, someone will make a real gun look like a toy.”
Karam also sells the airsoft-style pellet guns that can look pretty convincing. He showed newsnet5.com how one manufacturer chose to sell it with an orange tip to distinguish it from a real firearm, but another Smith and Wesson brand pellet gun did not have the orange tip and looked more like a gun that shoots real bullets.
Karam said parents should teach their children to treat all guns as if they could be real.
“This is not a toy in the terms that you wouldn’t want to point it at someone and potentially aim it to where it could put an eye out,” Karam said, noting that even pellet guns can cause injury.
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