Replica weapons: A collective effort to stop mistake of fact shootings

True concern requires a look beyond singular events and towards methods to eradicate a child’s replica-gun-involved death.


By Dave Blake, Force Certified Analyst, Certified Criminal Investigator

In September, police officers in Columbus, Ohio, were called to an armed robbery. They spotted people who fit the description of the robbers and pursued them on foot. When one suspect pulled a handgun from his waistband, he was immediately shot and killed by police. The handgun was discovered to be a replica BB gun with a laser sight and the suspect a 13-year-old boy.

There have been several cases around the country where children have been mistaken for armed suspects and lost their lives. In two similar incidents, one in October 2013 and another in November 2014, a 13- and a 12-year-old boy were also killed by police. Both boys were handling replica guns with the orange safety tips removed. These tragedies have devastated families and communities, as well as the officers who pulled the triggers.

A 1990 Department of Justice study reported that between 1985 and 1989, 8,128 assaults were committed using replica weapons. (Photo/AMU)
A 1990 Department of Justice study reported that between 1985 and 1989, 8,128 assaults were committed using replica weapons. (Photo/AMU)

The public is understandably quick to blame law enforcement for these “mistake of fact” shootings, incidents where an officer reasonably – but inaccurately – believed the suspect was armed and posed an imminent threat. In order to stop such incidents that involve replica weapons, we should consider if there is also a larger social problem at play.

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