Criminals tend to be optimists, at least when it comes to carrying out their crimes. They often envision only one scenario, and assume that everything will always go as planned. It’s one of the reasons that many criminals depend on imitation, toy, or replica firearms. They never expect to actually have to use one. Plus their cheap and easy to get. A number of states treat the use of a replica or imitation gun the same as the use of a real gun in a crime. No state requires a victim to determine if a gun pointed at them is real or imitation. If the defender reasonably believes that they are under deadly threat, it doesn’t matter if the perpetrator was using a real gun or a fake one.
Some Texas police officers believe that the use of imitation guns for criminal purposes is on the rise. From cbslocal.com:
DALLAS (AP) — Police in Texas say more crimes are being committed with imitation weapons such as BB guns, likely because they’re cheap, easy to obtain and criminals may believe — mistakenly — that if they’re caught, they’ll avoid the severe punishment that can come with illegally possessing a real one.
California law differentiates between real and imitation guns in their laws on brandishing. From shouselaw.com:
- Brandishing a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person… in a rude, angry, or threatening manner… in a public place:
- a minimum three (3) month, to a maximum one (1) year, jail sentence, and/or
- a maximum $1,000 fine.92
- Brandishing any other firearm… or brandishing a firearm in other than a public place… in the same manner: not less than three (3) months in county jail.93
- Brandishing an imitation firearm: not less than 30 days in county jail.94
Should the use of imitation firearms in crimes be subject to the same penalties as real firearms? I submit that penalties for the use of imitation firearms in crime should be less. The criminal is putting the victim(s) at lower risk, while putting themselves at higher risk. This is behavior that should be encouraged.
It’s good public policy to reward this behavior with lower penalties, just as non-confrontational crimes carry lower penaties than crimes that occur in direct confrontation, such as robbery. I would prefer to confront a robber armed with an imitation gun instead of a real one. And I’d rather confront a robber with an imitation gun than a knife or club.
Of course, many criminals are ignorant of the law, so incentives don’t always have a significant effect. In this case, the law would reinforce an existing belief, so the chance of success is greater.
Replace criminals’ guns with fakes? We should encourage this trend.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.