This is What Happens When You Have A Population That Has Never Seen or Interacted with a Firearm

A message from Vineland Municipal Utilities to their customers [h/t Stormlead]:

“On March 14, a Vineland [New Jersey] Municipal Utility meter reader was reading meters near the Winslow School and St. Isidore’s day care in Vineland.  The meter reader was using an automated electronic device to read water meters. This device is configured in such a way that it could possibly be mistaken for a firearm. Given recent events and concerns about violence in schools, the presence of the meter reader carrying the device was reported and emergency procedures were immediately implemented . . .

First of all, I would like to congratulate the responders for a job well done. I believe one can never be too safe under these circumstances. I also would like to apologize to those students, school administrators and parents who were upset by the incident.

To avoid a repeat in the future, we will take the following action.

• 1) VMU meter readers, in addition to their uniforms, will wear bright yellow vests with stenciling identifying them as VMU meter readers.

• 2) The device will be clearly marked in such a way that it could not be mistaken for a firearm.

John Boyle

Superintendent of Distribution
Vineland Municipal Electric Utility


About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

78 Responses to This is What Happens When You Have A Population That Has Never Seen or Interacted with a Firearm

  1. avatarLeftShooter says:

    Gee, I’ve got a bright yellow vest with “Chief Range Safety Officer” printed on it and I occasionally might be seen holding a handgun while wearing it. I sure hope no one who sees me wants me to read their meter! (Maybe I’d give it a shot, though. ;-))

    Also, when you look at the reader up close, it kinda resembles a buntliner single action revolver–if you close both eyes.

    • avatarDerek says:

      “…if you close both eyes.”

      I got a chuckle outa that. :)

    • avatarRabbi says:

      And what is the excuse when umbrellas are mistaken for rifles??? Happened 3 times so far that I know of.

      • avatarRalph says:

        I know. Crazy! Never in my life have I walked out in the rain with a rifle, only to have someone ask if they could stand under it until the storm passed.

  2. avatarSanchanim says:

    Are you serious?? Mistaken for a gun OMG!!!
    I guess you can never be to careful but dang that looks like nothing I have ever seen on the range!
    Oh well… Until we make firearms training mandatory in our schools I guess this will continue.

  3. avatarNathan says:

    It looks like it might have a should thing that goes up. *GASP* it’s an assault meter reader! Ban it now!

    • avatarMike in NC says:

      It probably has a high capacity assault clip containing batteries!

      • avatarSeerak says:

        We need to restrict civilians to AA alkalines, with a $200 tax stamp for those “high-powered” rechargeable lithiums.

    • avatarPhil B says:

      I see “Automatic” and wonder just how many meters could be read in the time it takes the Police and SWAT term to get there.

      Surely there should be a mandatory waiting time between meter readings. And it’s just common sense to demand that no more than 10 meters can be read in a single street. How many meters does anyone want to read on the same day? Ten should be more than enough for any REASONABLE meter reader.

      You know it makes sense – if it saves a single life then it will all be worth it …

  4. and the next school shooter will paint the barrel of his rifle blue and don a brightly colors vest.

    This is truly sad. I’ve seen my meter reader hundreds of times using that device and not once (not even the first time) did I think she was carrying a rifle.

    +1 for mandatory firearms training in school.

    • avatarjgreene says:

      Handgun, not rifle; it was “mistaken” for a handgun. Glock, S&/W 38 revolver….357 Magnum, whatever. Pretty funny though. I do live in NJ.

  5. avatarAharon says:

    I used to wear a safety vest much like the meter man in the photo when I rode my scooter (it’s not a moped!). Then I stopped wearing it because it wasn’t cool enough. I wonder if anyone thought I worked for the local utility PGE as a Meter Reader? I feel fortunate that as a youth my friends and I never had the police called on us for carrying our bamboo fishing poles which someone could ‘easily’ have mistaken for rifles, of course.

    At some point in the future, our urban areas will probably experience an increase in domestic and international terrorism using explosives or another form of a bio-terror agent. When that happens enough, the sight of everything from soccer balls to grocery bags will cause some people to react by hitting the panic button.

    • avatarTodd94590 says:

      had to wear the safety vest upon motorcycle when I was in the Navy.

      the last 3 years I served, I was at a training command, and had the pleasure of being the base motorcycle safety training instructor.

      mixed feelings on wearing the vest, as were my feeling of the phrase: loud pipes save lives (but could never advocate such when wearing the hat).

      and that’s why I shoot H & K .45 (for those that complain I veer too far o/t)

  6. avatargreat unknown says:

    That thing looks just like the inventory scanner used in most modern large stores. Can’t wait till someone calls in a “person with handgun” at a Walmarts…and the SWAT team takes down a stockboy.

  7. avatarKen says:

    10 years ago I had the same thing happen. Different utility ( power company ), I was checking hot spots on switches and splices and such in a section of primary. The device I was using does have a wooden stock that resembles a rifle stock. But I would have been using a Martian ray gun if you saw the front as it has a 12 inch diameter shiny metal dish that focuses onto a sensor. As I was walking along the feeder I encountered 4 sheriffs deputies who had been dispatched because people were reporting a suspect holding a large rifle was sneaking along the front and back of yards. They were getting a big har har out of it as I was wearing company issued clothing, was wearing a hard hat, had my company badge displayed outside my shirt . And was being followed by another person in a company truck who would take heat photo’s of any that I found were above normal temperature. And that sure did not look like any gun they had ever seen before. We showed them how our tools worked and took a couple photos of one standing behind a dense hedge that showed his body plain as day. I did mention it when I was back at our worksite but that’s as far as it went.

    • avatarTom says:

      Well, the Star Trek Rifle Phasers might have looked similar. I see you had a lot of Klingons around you.

  8. avatarJOE MATAFOME says:

    I’m sure this poor guy violated their strict policy on anything that remotely looks like a gun. Check out this link of a little boy who was trying to be patriotic and got screwed for his efforts. Our local National Guard General gave the poor kid a special coin to honor his good willed effort that got him in hot water at his school.

    • avatarJohn Fuh-Ritz says:

      “Now the family is turning the incident into a positive learning experience. While they say they disagree with the school’s decision to ban the hat, they will respectfully obey it.

      Good sheep.

  9. avatarRalph says:

    An the Idiot Non-Gun Owner of The Day (INGOTD) Award goes to . . . . whoever dimed out the meter man.

    So here’s to you, INGOTD, for trying to turn the school into a gun-free zone and a water-free zone all in the same day. You moron.

  10. avatarRKflorida says:

    If electric prices continue to rise as they have been, the meter reader might want to think about being armed. They would seem to be a convenient anger outlet.

  11. avatarMark says:

    Next, they’ll be calling the police because they saw someone in a business suit or camouflage clothing who might not be a socialist and not only present a threat but may need re-education.

  12. avatarstompahippie says:

    In order to stay safe I will now report anyone I see with any object that may or may not be used to harm another human.

  13. avatar101abn says:

    Guess I better quit peeing off the back porch too.

  14. avatarjkp says:

    Other than maybe Anthony Bourdain, I can’t think of much good that ever came out of New Jersey.

  15. avatarMazeman says:

    Our gardener wears a yellow vest so people don’t mistake his weed whacker for a rifle.

  16. avatarIdahoPete says:

    “This device is configured in such a way that it could possibly be mistaken for a firearm. Given recent events and concerns about violence in schools, the presence of the meter reader carrying the device was reported and emergency procedures were immediately implemented . . . First of all, I would like to congratulate the responders for a job well done. I believe one can never be too safe under these circumstances. I also would like to apologize to those students, school administrators and parents who were upset by the incident.”

    There ain’t no cure for stupid.

  17. avatarPractical Solutions says:

    Is that a meter reader in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Better mandate speedos all around before someone gets hurt.

  18. avatarwannabe says:

    LOL at stupid people.

    How could it have possibly been a gun? NJ is a gun-free zone, isn’t it?

  19. avatarLS says:

    Isn’t Vineland in the middle of the Pine Barrens, where one would think people would be at the least bit familiar with firearms?

  20. avatarSteve says:

    Don’t know if I should laugh… or cry!

    Common Cents

    • avatarglitchus says:

      I’m crying, this is pathetic. I have a lib friend who was renovating a rental he owns when he found a “handgun”. He and his wife took it to the Sheriff’s office where they told them (while trying not to laugh) that it was a toy. I later saw the “gun”, which had an orange muzzle and was made out of cheap plastic and had to hold back laughing myself, but it at least looked slightly more real than the meter that the utility guy was using.

  21. avatarPatrick Carroll says:

    Those poor Eloi.

  22. avatarAD-RtR/OS! says:

    I suppose the next person who wants to shoot up a school in Vineland will just get one of those vests to give him/herself a little “cover”. Probably paint the muzzle of their gun orange also.

  23. avatarMannie says:

    My God! He’s shooting all the electric meters!

  24. avatarDietrich says:

    Are these same “people” terrified of the handheld scanner used at most grocery stores? The scanners look an awful lot like Star Trek phasers.

  25. avatarJim says:

    Tie a big bunch of brightly-colored balloons to the meter-reader and his device! What could possibly go wrong? And just looking his direction would cheer you up! (I’m open to big clown shoes, too.)

  26. avatarRonCee says:

    O! M! G! Why are some urbanites (i.e., blue-state urban liberals) SOOOOOOOOOO STOOOOOOOPID!?!?!?!

  27. avatarStonedome says:

    I’d be more concerned with drone attacks…

  28. avatarKirk Parker says:

    That picture is a bit too small to really see what the scanner looks like.

  29. avatarbobby b says:

    If we outlaw handheld RF AMR receiver/collectors, then only outlaws will have handheld RF AMR receiver/collectors.

  30. avatarNC Mountain Girl says:

    Many people are irrational when it comes to guns. When I lived in a Chicago Gold Coat condo my neighbors often freaked out over an old rat tail flintlock in a display case of antique weapons. There was no flint in it and the frizzen is missing but they would blubber on about how dangerous it was and how they didn’t like the thought of even an antique gun in their building. I’d tell them that maybe if you used it as a club you could give someone a headache. Even if I could find the missing parts and some black powder, I’d fear it would blow up in my face. They never felt threatened by any of the bladed weapons in the collection, just the gun. The ten or so bladed weapons were all military weapons designed with a single thought in mind -to kill in battle. Unlike the pistol they had lost none of their effectiveness with age.

    • avatarrasqual says:

      It’s a form of superstition. Progressives — the political faction generally credited with being the most anti-gun — seem to pride themselves on being the “fact-based community,” and fashion themselves as scientific thinkers not in thrall to primitive beliefs that have no place in contemporary society.

      So it’s a bit of a surprise when, beholding a talisman the rest of us know possesses no residual powers, they begin chanting comforting mantras, or hastily distance themselves from the vile omen.

      I don’t get to take my kids shooting much, but I’m sure glad I’ve done enough with ‘em to empty their skulls of the mythic notions that most kids start out with.

      I suspect, though, that those mythic notions are themselves not so bad. Lads playing shoot-em-up games drive do-gooders nuts, but that same interest and enthusiasm issues into literacy when respected and channeled by understanding parents/adults. The problem comes in when hand-wringing loons suppress the kids’ interest and leave it at the mythic ideas stage, without cultivating knowledge — because they believe any interest in guns is intrinsically bad.

      Knowledge bad. Superstition good.

    • avatarSarge says:

      “Many people are irrational when it comes to guns.”

      No, only irrational people are. Kinda by definition.

      Sadly, there are a lot of irrational people out there.

  31. avatarRjschwarz says:

    Bet the gamer kids could have told them it wasn’t a gun and also the fire rate and impact damage of a typical weapon of that size if we’re a gun. If anyone asked that is.

  32. avatarRjschwarz says:

    Bet the gamer kids could have told them it wasn’t a gun and also the fire rate, accuracy, and impact damage of a typical weapon of that size if we’re a gun. If anyone asked that is.

  33. avatarBlacque Jacques Shellacque says:

    “I also would like to apologize to those students, school administrators and parents who were upset by the incident.”

    My sentiment is that all those students, school administrators, and parents who were “upset” should have their asses kicked thoroughly up and down the street.

  34. avatarG.R. Mead says:

    A-Hah! The ultimate solution to the open-carry/concealed dilemma —

    Camouflage the weapon as a non-weapon — painted garishly colored pink and green (70′s-ish floral decals and peace signs, optional).

    “Why no, Officer, I am not carrying my firearm openly — my weapon is properly concealed — beneath several layers of cheery paint and many peaceful, happy decals….”

    I suspect that won’t work — but somehow — the opposite IS supposed to work,
    … … somehow….

  35. avatarJoe Blow says:

    Better do something about those index fingers, people. They could be mistaken for guns if you put them in your pockets.

  36. avatarSam L. says:

    Have to wonder–did they ever see a Western movie? Gangster movie? Action movie?

  37. avatarelkh1 says:

    Ban the meter-reading guns, glue guns, nail guns. We can’t tolerate such barbaric weapons.

  38. avatarFred17 says:

    What is really scary is these clowns may actually VOTE!

  39. avatarDiggs says:

    I am thoroughly heartened by such ignorance. If the time comes when I need to defend my family from over-reaching nanny state busybodies, I hope the Leftists believe me when I say that I’m not holding a pistol, but a meter reader.

  40. avataregoist says:

    The world needs a gun that looks like an iPhone.

  41. avatarDaveinMinnesota says:

    We’re all toast.

  42. avatarTheresa McAteer says:

    My husband and I regularly practice tai chi, which at our level also includes the use of the gim, or Chinese straight sword. Our practice implements are not sharp.

    Nonetheless, we have had two “eagle eyes” at the gym, expressing their concern that these two 50-somethings are “wielding weapons” in the exercise room . . . one complainant is a 6’3″, muscular twentysomething “trainer”. Fortunately, both were politely told to grow up.

    “Weapons!!” And if I’d brought my Glock (for which I am also trained) they’d have been even safer, but that’s another story. Americans under 40 are wimps these days.

    • avatarPatrick Goulding says:

      I kinda resent that last comment I’m 23 and I dont know anyone my age that could mistake a meter reader for a gun and I live 45mins outside Chicago as the government lies to us and says most people in Illinois dont like firearms but really when I introduce people to shooting they warm up to it pretty well because before they didnt know much about guns and thought more or less they were kind of a voodoo but now they want to get there own guns and shoot all the time

      • avatarsomething clever says:

        That’s not even a run-on sentence, there’s no period at the end. Here, have a few of these……. You can copy and paste them if your period key is broken or missing. You’re welcome.

  43. avatarAndrew says:

    Geez, yankees are ignorant!

    • avatarCasey says:

      You might want to rephrase that, pardner… ;)

      I’m on the border, myself (Ohio), but there’s a lot of “damnyankees” who are nicely educated about firearms. Don’t blame us for the boneheads of the world. New Jersey is a crazy anti-gun state, after all.

  44. avatarAndrew says:

    The true idiot, will design a weapon to look like the meter reader and buy a bright yellow ves. Sometimes, publicity bites you in the backside, kinda like ignorance!

    • avatarritliss says:

      Your comment seems a bit contradictory. How would a “true idiot” go about designing and building a functional firearm that resembles a VMU?

  45. avatarDaniel says:

    So what did they think the guy was doing – walking around shooting meters?

  46. avatarp-dawg says:

    Meter reading devices will be digitally altered into walkie-talkies on all future news reports.

  47. avatarBornLib says:

    Good thing it wasn’t something dangerous, like an umbrella.

  48. avatarRich Rostrom says:

    Excuse me, but who in the present day population has never seen a firearm?

    If not in person, then in film or television, where guns are shown a lot.

    The problem in this case was not that the device looked much like a firearm. It was that it looked vaguely like a firearm, and not like anything else an average person had ever seen.

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