Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ban on toy guns in mayors' sights

I am often mystified by the need to legislate common sense. Why, why, why would you run around with something that looked like a gun, encouraging people who have actual guns to shoor at you when you can't shoot back at them? Why? This to me is like motorcycle helmets, seatbelt laws, why can't people just use their brains?
I realize that this law is mostly about teenage boys, and since I have never been one, it's not surprising that I don't understand what's going through their heads, but I have never felt the urge to run around with a gun real or fake.

They can fool police, bylaw backer says Move by Scugog could spread in GTA
Feb. 16, 2006. 06:26 AM

Mayors around the GTA will be asked tomorrow to endorse a ban on kids possessing toy guns in public.

The move to prohibit anyone under 18 from having toy guns in public spaces is being led by Scugog Mayor Marilyn Pearce, whose township north of Oshawa was the first in Ontario to enact the ban last month.

The mayors and regional chairs throughout Greater Toronto and Hamilton will meet in Keswick tomorrow.

"I am hoping all of the municipalities in the GTA will come on board on this initiative to get toy guns off the streets," Pearce said. "It is really about protecting children and I don't know how anyone can have an issue with that."

Pearce said it was an "alarming" number of "scary" incidents involving the toys over the last year that prompted the town council to act.

"The concern was that these realistic toy guns are being used by children in such a way that a police officer might be forced to shoot first and ask questions later," she said.

Durham Region Council yesterday discussed instituting a similar ban region-wide, but on legal advice referred the matter to its local municipalities for consideration.

Under the Scugog bylaw, the "possession" of toy guns in public places by anyone younger than 18 years old is punishable by a $150 fine. Imitation or replica guns are legal for anyone older than 18 unless used in committing crime.

Durham Region Const. Todd Petzold said officers would use discretion in enforcing the bylaw and would not be issuing tickets to 8-year-old children.

"In those cases, I would take the child home to the parent and inform them of the dangers of playing with these toys on the streets," he said.

"There is no problem with children using these toys in their homes, but if you take a realistic-looking toy gun on the street, you could be in danger."

He also said that since Scugog passed its bylaw in January, some kids have started turning their toy guns in to police.

"I have received several of them from children who said they just did not want them now that the bylaw had been passed."

Petzold, a community police officer who works in Port Perry area schools, held up a plastic toy pistol that originally had come in orange but had been painted black so that it "looked and felt like my police-issue Glock sidearm."

Petzold said some of these weapons cost as little as $2 in discount department stores.

He said that, under federal law, the sale of replica or imitation handguns is prohibited to persons younger than 18.

"But that hasn't stopped parents from buying these very realistic-looking toys for their children."

Pickering councillor Maurice Brenner commended Scugog, a community of 23,000 surrounding Lake Scugog about 65 kilometres northeast of Toronto, for having the "courage" to pass this bylaw.

"We used to play Davy Crockett with cap guns when I was young, but I guess you just can't do that any more," he said.

The Scugog bylaw declares "no person who is less than 18 years old shall possess a replica firearm or imitation firearm while on public property or on private property to which the public has general access." An imitation firearm is defined as "any device that is designed or intended to resemble a firearm or replica firearm or may be reasonably mistaken as a firearm."

"Before this bylaw in Scugog, if we found a young person on the street with an imitation handgun we couldn't do anything," Petzold said. "Now we can take the gun, talk to the young person and we don't necessarily have to lay a charge."

He said the big chain stores such as Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart usually would not sell any replica or imitation gun to anyone younger than 18.

However, he said the rapid growth of "dollar discount stores" has resulted in $2 replicas that fire plastic bullets being sold to customers of any age.

"Where we have found this happening we have talked to the store owners and they have readily complied with the law or taken them off the shelves," he said.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said that while there isn't a toy gun ban in Toronto, a police program called Gunplay No Way works with community partners in exchanging in toy guns for less violent toys.

with files from Vanessa Lu

1 comment:

Trib said...

Something about this just doesn't make sense. Who would be more likely to get shot for brandishing a fake gun someone older or younger than 18? And if you paint an orange gun black it looks and feels like a glock? Please, officer, just say you support the bylaw. I can make up crap on my own.