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I don’t believe having toy guns is a real problem

Yes, toy guns are made to look real these days. But then again, real guns are now smaller, colored pink and purple, etc., and look much like toy guns. Fear may cause panic when no real problem exists. Statistics will show if there really is a problem. The real problem is the seizing of toy guns.

The Washington Post reports that only 26 people under 18 have been killed by police this year. Only three had a toy gun.

There are over 72 million people under 18 in the U.S. So to determine the probability of a problem existing, we would divide 3 (juveniles killed by police) by 72 million. The answer to that is 0.00000004. You would probably have to be a statistician to verbalize how low that probability is. But to put it in prospective, the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is 0.00000027 and the probability of being struck by lightning is 0.00000104. A child is more likely to be eaten by a shark or struck by lightning than shot by a police officer while in possession of a toy gun.

In order to eliminate dispatchers sending officers to every “man with a gun” call, they need to ask questions. Oklahoma passed their open carry law in 2012. The first thing they did before the law went into effect was re-train their dispatchers and officers on the new law. One may call and say, “There is a man over here on Main Street with a gun.” The dispatcher should ask questions like, “What is he doing with it?  Is it in his hand or a holster (or belt)?  Is he threatening anybody?  Has he fired a shot?” If he is just walking down the street with a gun, he has not committed a crime.

It appears Brookhaven Police are taking toy guns and keeping them when they confront youths carrying them. The AG issued an opinion to the Florence City Prosecutor in 2014 when asked about taking possession of a gun after approaching someone (and this applies to real or counterfeit guns).

Question:  During a traffic stop or while making other contact, may a police officer take possession of the weapon of someone who is otherwise lawfully openly carrying a weapon so as to ensure the safety of the officer, driver, passengers and bystanders?

Response:  If an officer observes a person carrying a weapon included in Miss. Code Ann. Section 97-37-1(1) in a way that is not “hidden or obscured from common observation,” this, without more, will not give rise to a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.  Nor will it of itself present a reasonable or legitimate concern about safety.  The fact of carrying such a weapon in such a manner will not in and of itself provide a lawful basis for a Terry stop, or provide a lawful basis to remove the weapon from the person carrying it.

In all instances in which the detention ends without arrest, the weapon seized is to be returned by the officer.

Mississippi Code 97-37-1(1) says in part that any person who “uses or attempts to use against another person any imitation firearm, shall upon conviction be punished.” Pay attention to the word “uses” and understand that neither an adult with a real gun or a child with a toy gun has not violated the law simply by possessing their guns.

Going into a store with it and robbing them of goods or funds, placing the clerk in fear of their life is unlawful. Anyone other than felons or juveniles can carry a real firearm open or concealed, with or without a permit. The Mississippi Constitution never granted the Legislature authority to regulate or forbid “openly carried” weapons, only concealed weapons.

Article III, Section 12: The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid carrying concealed weapons. 

No Mississippi law restricts the carrying of a long gun and regardless of how it may be hidden it can never be considered a “concealed weapon” under Mississippi Code 97-37-1(1) unless it is sawed off.

Most of us don’t have earthquake insurance because we know the likelihood of having one. So if we don’t see earthquake insurance as a problem large enough to be addressed, why do we see this as a problem when only 3 out of 72 million juveniles were killed by police with toy guns?

So what real crime occurs in Brookhaven? Who knows? Emphasis should be  on the most prevalent crime with selective enforcement to focus on crime prevention; again statistics tell the story. According to FBI charts, Brookhaven has not submitted Uniformed Crime Reports since 2012.

Rick Ward is a retired police officer, firearms instructor and Naval officer, and a graduate of the FBI National Academy. Ward has written three books on Mississippi Gun Laws and co-authored input on legislation passed by the Mississippi Legislature on gun related issues 2013-2015. He and his wife Karen reside in Collins.