Minneapolis votes to restrict fake guns

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 5, 2007 - 10:55 AM

The Minneapolis City Council this morning voted 13-0 to restrict the carrying of nonlethal guns.

The vote follows more limited action by St. Paul earlier this year; both cities appear to be in the forefront of U.S. cities taking such votes.

Police officials say they're encountering more cases in which replica firearms are used in crimes or pose split-second decisions for officers.

It's a source of concern for police, who have a particular worry about fake guns.

Police don't want to find themselves using lethal force against someone who's pointing a fake gun at them.

Minneapolis police hauled a load of replica guns into a council committee last week in support of the proposal, sponsored by Council Member Don Samuels.

Hefting one, Samuels said: "I'm afraid to point it at anyone. This thing is entirely scary."

Police said they confiscated 294 such guns last year, with another 129 collected in the first half of this year. Many were BB guns, which already face some state restrictions. But others were replicas used in assaults, threats, burglaries, car thefts -- even kidnapping. The price of replicas ranges from under $20 to more than $200.

In one incident, two men were arrested on Bloomington Avenue after shooting replica handguns from a vehicle in imitation of a drive-by shooting.

"You can imagine the kind of hysteria and fear that creates," said Deputy Police Chief Scott Gerlicher.

The ordinance change fills a gap in Minneapolis. Regulation of firearms is a state matter, but there was little restriction on replicas or the airguns used by hobbyists such as paintball enthusiasts. It's a felony to carry or keep those or BB guns on school property, as happened at Irondale High School this week in New Brighton. They also can't be brandished in a threatening manner.

But replica and airguns can generally be carried in public. That's what today's proposal addresses. Those devices now can’t be carried by a person or in a car except under certain conditions.

Assistant City Attorney Joel Fussy said the ordinance is broader than St. Paul's focus on airguns. Gerlicher said he'd like to see the restrictions enacted statewide.

Nationally, other municipalities have restricted possession of replica guns in recent years. Those cities include Beaverton, Ore., and Honolulu.

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