The police-involved shooting at The Parks at Arlington mall Sunday was awful but it could have been worse.
A 21-year old suspect wielding a gun was critically injured. But fears that the suspect might open fire on a mall crowded with holiday shoppers turned out to be unfounded. Why? Because the suspect was carrying a ‘BB’ gun.
Though it’s good that the suspect didn’t possess the ability to injure mall goers he still posed potential danger to himself and those around him by displaying a gun police believed to be real.
Police rightly felt the need to stop a suspect.
The fact that a fake gun prompted police to open fire, however, is a disturbing one.
It’s an issue the Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson has addressed before and he’s confronting it head on.
“Replica imitation firearms/BB guns have no place in society when used in criminal endeavors. There is no training that would allow officers to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake in a matter of seconds,” Johnson tweeted after the incident.
Arlington Police Lt. Christopher Cook said the department is urging new legislation to eliminate fake guns in public spaces.
Federal regulations require toy or replica guns to have an orange tip that distinguishes them from real firearms but those orange tips can be painted or camouflaged.
“BB” and airsoft guns are not even required to have any markings.
Some states have passed restrictions on imitation firearms, but not Texas. Arlington police rightly want lawmakers to do that and we agree.
Police in Texas have reported an increase in crimes committed with imitation guns. They can be purchased for less than $25 without background checks.
Buyers, however, mistakenly believe that if they’re caught committing a crime while toting the fake guy they’ll avoid serious penalty. If the victim of a crime in Texas believes the weapon pointed at them is real the suspect could be charged with a first-degree felony and receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.
So, the suspect may not be off the hook, but when the imitation weapon leads police to open fire others the safety of others may be placed at risk.
Police Chief Johnson has it right.
Let’s find a way to further identify and restrict these fake guns, so law enforcement know what they’re dealing with.