Cleveland police shoot boy holding airsoft gun with orange tip removed; Democrat State Rep.'s knee-jerk reaction? California-style gun control bill

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that a 12-year-old boy was shot by police Saturday afternoon after officers say he reached for a gun after he was ordered to put up his hands. Police say the gun that was recovered was not a firearm, but that an orange safety tip had been removed.

The media, and anti-gun politicians have been quick to draw parallels to the shooting of a man in a Beavercreek Walmart just a few months ago. In that case, the man had picked up an unboxed air rifle off the store shelves and walked around for several minutes before police arrived, repeatedly shouldering the rifle.

As they did after the Beavercreek incident, the media and anti-gun politicians are also mistakenly referring to the gun - either a BB gun or an airsoft gun, depending on which report you read - as a "fake" or a "toy." But as we explained in the wake of the Walmart shooting, there is nothing "fake" about something that can fire a projectile into a target at a very high rate of speed, and it's certainly not a "toy."

This is why, while Title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations stipulates (as noted here) that "no person shall manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm" without approved markings; these may include an orange tip, orange barrel plug, brightly colored exterior of the whole toy, or transparent construction," the law clearly indicates that these restrictions shall not apply to "traditional b-b, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of compressed air, compressed gas or mechanical spring action, or any combination thereof." This language clearly exempts the type of guns carried in the Beavercreek Walmart and by this 12 year-old boy from these requirements.

At the time of the Beavercreek shooting, while some speculated that an orange tip might have prevented the incident, we pointed out that such tips are easily removed, just as was reportedly the case in this incident involving the 12 year-old boy. We also noted that criminals are not above breaking the law and painting an orange tip on two very real AK-47s. In discussing this latest incident in Cleveland, Jeffrey Follmer, president of Cleveland's police union raised this exact same concern.

Follmer told the Plain Dealer that a law mandating that guns other than firearms be painted in a certain way could result in criminals painting firearms to make them look less dangerous. As such, officers would follow the same protocol if a suspect pointed a gun at them, regardless of whether that gun was brightly colored or not, he said.

"Our guys would still need to take the gun seriously until somebody puts it down," Follmer is quoted as saying.

Despite these facts, State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) has announced that she plans to introduce legislation, based off of a recently-passed California gun control law, requiring all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips.

"The shooting of John Crawford III devastated many people in our community and left us looking for answers," Reece said in a news release. "This bill is but one small step in addressing this tragedy and helping to prevent future deadly confrontations with someone who clearly presents little to no immediate threat or danger. With Saturday's deadly shooting of a 12-year-old in Cleveland, it is becoming crystal clear that we need this law in Ohio."


"There's always going to be things that need to be addressed," she said. "But what we do know is that we've seen two shootings that story with a toy gun and ended with a tragedy."

Rep. Reece is absolutely incorrect in referring to the guns used in these incidents as "toys." And she has apparently never seen the wide variety of colors firearms are offered in firearms these days. So we thought we'd share a few pictures to help her out.

Does Rep. Reece think BB gun, air rifle and airsoft manufacturers should make their guns look like this?

Or maybe this?

Or perhaps this?

Does Rep. Reece honestly think police can afford to be any less concerned when the gun pointed at them is brightly colored? Fellow anti-gun State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) apparently does. He also thinks police could be trained to somehow to tell the difference in a split-second encounter:

Rep. Bill Patmon, a Democrat from Cleveland, said he believes lawmakers should pass legislation that requires imitation or toy guns to be more distinguishable from real guns.

"Too many of these confrontations end in death," Patmon said. "Too many."

Patmon believes police officers should receive additional training on how to distinguish a real gun from an imitation or toy gun, and that officials should make an effort to educate the community about handling imitation or toy guns.

He acknowledged that there could be pushback against putting regulations on imitation or toy guns, especially by the businesses that manufacture them.

"The more it looks like a real gun, the more people will buy it," Patmon said. "The more it looks like a toy, fewer people will buy it.

If Rep. Patmon believes that consumers judge these guns by their color, he had better take a closer look at Rep. Reece's proposal, which is intended to make the guns he is concerned about look like more like the firearms depicted above.

One wonders what kind of training Mr. Patmon believes would help police officers to distinguish the firearms pictured above from the "brightly colored" guns Rep. Reece envisions.

The truth of the matter is, the color of the gun is no more important than the color of the person. Officers need to make their decisions based on actions, not color. Reece's bill will not help.

What will help, as is often the case, is education. These guns are not toys, and each and every media article that calls them toys are helping contribute to the problem. Additionally, every parent should be teaching their children that they must immediately obey such instructions from police. And if we think it's a serious enough lesson, and if we believe that many parents won't teach it, then maybe our schools should be teaching it too.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

Media Coverage:

Cleveland Plain Dealer - Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman calls Tamir Rice shooting 'legitimate'

Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine said Monday that a Cleveland police officer's decision to shoot an airsoft gun-wielding 12-year-old was a valid one.

Irvine, whose association advocates for the rights of gun owners, cited the fact that the officer did not know at the time of the shooting that the child was armed with a toy gun that shot only plastic pellets.

"In hindsight, at the time, with the information the police officer had, did he make a good decision? Was this a legitimate shoot? And from my opinion, yes it was," said Irvine. "If you have someone who has a gun in a waistband and does not comply with officers' orders and instead reaches for a firearm, the officer can not wait any longer."

The boy, Tamir Rice, died early Sunday at MetroHealth Medical Center from a stomach wound. He was shot Saturday during an altercation with police at Cudell Park on Cleveland's West Side.

After arriving at the park, officers saw Tamir pick up what they believed to be a gun from a table under a gazebo, put it in his waistband and take a few steps, according to Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeff Follmer.

Officers drew their guns and told Tamir to raise his hands. Follmer said Tamir lifted his shirt and reached toward his waistband, then one of the two officers on the scene fired two shots, one hitting Tamir in the stomach.

Police later discovered Tamir was carrying an airsoft gun that fires plastic pellets. An orange safety cap designed to distinguish the replica gun from an actual firearm had been removed, police said.

"It is obviously a sad and tragic situation," Irvine said. "Condolences go out to the family of the little kid and also the officer. It's a terrible spot to put him in. Your officer has got to go home safely at the end of the night to his family. It is not right for the officer to risk his life because the citizen didn't comply with the situation."

In the wake of Tamir's death, State Rep. Alicia Reece, a Cincinnati Democrat, announced she will introduce legislation that would require all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips.

That won't work, Irvine said, because real firearms are already sold in bright colors.

"I think she is very well meaning and affected by the tragedy as anyone is, but that bill is not going to solve the problem," he said. "You can not bet your life or anyone else's based on color. Not the color of the gun or the person's skin. If the person is non-compliant or is doing something that is endangering someone's life, they have to use lethal force to deal with it."

What can prevent similar situations, Irvine said, are parents. He said there's nothing wrong with children using real or fake guns, but the same protocols should be followed for both types.

"It's sad and it's tragic, and for every parent, it's a time to talk to your kids about this," he said. "When a cop gives you an order, you have to follow it. If a police officer tells you to do something, you better do it and deal with what he thinks is important first. And that's a lesson every adult should teach their kids."

Dayton Daily News - Lawmaker wants bright colors for replica guns - Opponents say bill wouldn’t be effective

Jim Irvine of the Buckeye Firearms Association, however, says the bill wouldn’t be effective because people could paint over the bright colors and because criminals currently paint their real guns with an orange tip to look like a toy so they can gain the upper hand against police.

“It is very dangerous to tell your police officers to shoot or don’t shoot someone based on the color of the gun,” he said.

Gongwer News Service - Reece Proposes Bright Colors For Air Rifles In Response To Police Shooting Of Youth; Firearms Group Doubts Bill's Impact

Rep. Alicia Reece said Monday she plans to introduce legislation that would make it easier for police to discern whether a suspect is holding a real firearm or an air rifle.

The announcement follows Saturday's deadly shooting by police of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland. The Democrat said her bill also harkens to the Dayton-area fatal shooting of John Crawford III at a Walmart in August.

Both victims were shot while brandishing imitation guns.

The Buckeye Firearms Association, meanwhile, expressed doubt that the bill would accomplish the sponsor's aim.


Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair Ken Hanson said the group is not necessarily opposed to the bill but does not think it would correct the problem.

"What it comes down to, it's not a tool issue, it's a user issue, and when someone has a police officer in their face saying, 'put your hands up' and they're reaching for what appears to be a very, very real gun, that's the fault," he said in an interview, adding the people involved in high-profile police altercations are "disproportionately at fault."

"The same thing with the Walmart out in Beavercreek, if you watch the video, that guy swung the gun up at customers 15 times in the video."

In reference to the California legislation, Mr. Hanson said criminals are using the requirement for an orange tip on imitation guns to their advantage.

"The people who are intending to do bad things have figured out that if you have an orange tip on a gun, the police hesitate," he said, adding that individuals could spray paint a real gun orange or paint a colorful imitation rifle black.

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