SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Officials in a northwest Iowa city are considering banning people from carrying some types of "toy" firearms, which police say are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from actual guns.
The Sioux City Council tentatively approved an ordinance on Monday that would ban pellet and BB guns. The proposal wouldn't ban Nerf or squirt guns, or guns that shoot suction-cup darts.
The city attorney's office said two more readings and votes are required at future council meetings before the ordinance could be adopted.
Sioux City Police Capt. Mark Kirkpatrick said officers have had multiple encounters with replica weapons and faced the question of whether to use deadly force. People carrying toy firearms tend to be teenagers or young adults seeking personal protection or street credibility, he said.
While no one in the city has died from a police encounter while carrying a toy firearm, there are more than 50 such deaths nationwide each year, according to the police department.
"What we're trying to do is potentially prevent a tragedy. We encounter these BB guns and replica weapons far more frequently it seems," Kirkpatrick said. "What we fear is that one of our officers or maybe a citizen that has a concealed carry permit and is armed with an actual firearm is confronted with one of these situations and we have a tragedy on our hands."
Officials would consider how the toy firearm was being used before issuing a misdemeanor violation, said Assistant City Attorney Caleb Christopherson.
Councilman Pete Groetken acknowledged that the proposal is "probably not going to be a huge deterrent."
"Hopefully it would prevent a tragic incident from happening down the line if everyone understands clearly that the lookalikes make it a very challenging situation for police and they would be very smart and wise not to do that," Groetken said.