Baltimore is making moves to ban replica guns.
The City Council casted a preliminary vote Monday to approve legislation that would make it unlawful to own, carry or possess a replica firearm that could “reasonably be perceived to be a real firearm.”
The preliminary vote in favor of the legislation was unanimous. A final vote will be held in December. If passed, and all signs suggest that it will clear the council, the ban would punish offenders with a $250 fine for a first offense and a $1,000 fine for second and subsequent offenses.
The impetus for the legislation was an officer-involved shooting back in April when a detective shot and wounded Dedric Colvin, 14, of East Baltimore.
Colvin was carrying a Daisy PowerLine Model 340 spring-air pistol when the officer shot him in the leg and shoulder. According to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, the Model 340 was an “absolute, identical replica semiautomatic pistol.”
City leaders believe that by prohibiting real-looking toy guns they’ll improve public safety.
“It’s something that we should do for the safety of our children,” City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young told The Baltimore Sun.
“We’re getting stores robbed with replicas,” he continued. “We’ve got people running around with these things and they almost look real. … I don’t think we should be allowing replica guns in the city of Baltimore, especially with the murder rate we have.”
With respect to shootings, Baltimore has eclipsed 800 and will probably break 300 homicides for the second year in a row.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has indicated support for the legislation.
“Mayor Rawlings-Blake has every intention of signing the legislation when it reaches her desk,” spokesman Anthony McCarthy said. “Her interest is in ensuring that we educate the public of the potentially dangerous consequences of putting replica guns in the hands of our children.”
While the politicians of Baltimore are behind the ban, those within the local gun community have voiced opposition to the ban.
Mark W. Pennak, president of Maryland Shall Issue Inc., wrote a letter to the council arguing that the ordnance is “hopelessly vague” and undermines federal law preventing states from banning the sale of certain replica firearms.
Pennak said it would “create a whole new class of criminals in the City of Baltimore for the mere home possession by entire families of otherwise perfectly legal toys!”
“There are better ways to address the underlying concerns without flouting federal law and without subjecting the citizens of the City to discriminatory arrests and prosecutions for violations of a vague law,” he wrote.
Should the legislation pass, Baltimore will join cities like New York, Chicago and Washington which also prohibit replica guns.
Pennak certainly has a point. For every thug in the streets using a replica gun to rob a convenience store, there are probably hundreds of other residents in lawful possession of a toy gun. To criminalize toy guns will indubitably punish the law-abiding while doing little to nothing to stop those using them to perpetrate robberies and intimidate citizens, as common sense tells us that if a thug is willing to break laws criminalizing theft, burglary, robbery, that same thug is — more likely than not — willing to flout a gun ban.
As with real gun bans, toy gun bans do not work because it’s a supply-side approach. Baltimore can pass all the bans it wants to and it won’t make one bit of difference so long as there is a persistent criminal demand for firearms — real or replica. To truly address the problem, city leaders need to stop targeting tools and toys and start putting bad guys behind bars.
As for children playing with BB guns, it’s a rite of passage in many parts of this country. But there is a time and a place for it. Unfortunately, for the children of Baltimore, the crime-ridden streets of the city are definitely not the place! Parents need to step up and use common sense.