If you want to know just how screwed up is America’s response to guns and gun control, the issue Maryland state Sen. C. Anthony Muse hopes will have enough support to “outweigh the pressure from the NRA,” is not actual guns, but imitation guns. That’s right, last time Muse put forward a bill to ban “imitation guns” he withdrew it under pressure from the National Rifle Association.
Now that the Baltimore police, one year after killing Freddie Gray, have shot a boy who was carrying an imitation Beretta 92 pistol made by Daisy Outdoor Products, Muse says he plans to reintroduce Senate Bill 742, telling International Business Times that “What has happened, we hope, will be enough pressure to outweigh the pressure from the NRA.”
Ironically, IBT relates, “The shooting took place while Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was attending an event on the west side of the city commemorating the one-year anniversary of the riot that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray.”
As New York Times Mid-Atlantic Bureau Chief Sheryl Stolberg put it in a tweet, “new mayor, old story.”
Muse is right when he says “Having these replicas on our streets is a very scary situation to put a police officer in who has a split second to make a decision,” but the question remains: if you are going to take on the most powerful lobby on earth, why pick a fight over imitation guns rather than real ones? Imitation guns can’t be used to shoot people. Sure, they can be mistaken for real guns, as happened in Baltimore, and that is tragic, but you’re not going to walk into a school or a theater with a BB gun and kill a dozen people.
IBT says the plastic gun carried by the boy in Baltimore was “designed to look like a Beretta 92, the civilian version of the popular Italian-made semi-automatic pistol.” So we are in a position to see the plastic imitations of civilian version of weapons legally banned while the sale of the real thing is legal. This is a scenario that makes very little sense.
Police brought the boy’s mother in for questioning because her son was carrying a perfectly legal imitation gun. It would make more sense to be questioning the police. Neither the boy nor his mother broke any law. Perhaps police should be more careful about shooting children who are busy shouting at them that the gun is not real:
Witness says 13y/o yelled to officers "It's not real, it's not real"..did not drop gun..officer shot him seconds later
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) April 27, 2016
Yet Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said at what IBT called “an urgently arranged evening news conference” that there was “no reason to believe that these officers acted inappropriately in any way.”
No, certainly there is no reason to suspect officers of a police force that killed Freddie Gray one year ago acted in an inappropriate way in shooting another young black male, who in this case was “armed” with a fake gun.
The truth is that arguments like this unfairly target young blacks, the primary victims of police shootings. The ACLU issued a statement making just this point:
Statement from ACLU on shooting of 14-yr-old Dedric Colvin: pic.twitter.com/LD10a3NB5l
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) April 28, 2016
Shooting young black males is a bigger problem than those young black males carrying imitation guns which shoot BBs while gangs of white men carry actual assault weapons firing actual bullets without being shot at by police at all. A Baltimore Police Department statement of Facebook explains that,
On April 27, 2016, at approximately 4:10pm, two Baltimore Police Officers were in the area of Aisquith Street and Baltimore Street when they observed a male with a handgun. The officers began to chase the suspect on foot and at the conclusion of the chase a shooting occurred…
But why chase black youths with what appear to be handguns while white men with what are obviously real guns are not considered a concern? Here we have a black kid chased by cops for just holding an apparent firearm. Another black male was killed at a Walmart store while holding an imitation gun (an MK-177 BB/Pellet rifle), yet we have seen a white man pointing a gun – a real gun – at people – including police – without being immediately shot down.
Quite apart from the bizarre specter of controlling imitation but not real guns, there is a another problem here, at the heart of what is yet another shooting of an innocent black youth, but it is not imitation guns, or really, guns at all, but a systemic and unapologetic racism.
Photo: Baltimore Police Department