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When a police officer holsters a gun at the beginning of their shift, they’re accepting responsibility for the ultimate social sanction. They do so at our behest, to maintain the law and order. To defend the innocent. And, lest we forget, to protect themselves. This website has chronicled many instances where police officers lacked the skills necessary to safely and effectively use their firearm for its intended role. Less frequent, but equally disturbing, we’ve told tales of police killed in the line of duty after failing to use their weapons in their own defense. Both examples indicate a lack of a “gun culture” within a given law enforcement agency. As a result, many police officers are afraid of using their guns. Here’s proof . . . reports that Moorehead Minnesota police have asked the City Council to ban “fake guns” within the city limits. The prohibition would apply to replicas and toys (including Airsoft and paintball guns).

Moorhead’s Police Chief says he’s optimistic the ordinance will pass by early next year. He says an officers’ worst fear is firing and killing an individual on the job.

But it would be even worse if the victim was carrying a fake gun and an officer thought it was real.

At the risk of seeming pedantic, and trusting that the media reported Chief Ebinger’s remarks in context, this is not the kind of thing you want to hear from society’s guardians.

A police officer’s worst fear should be failing to protect the innocent. Failing to rescue a citizen from imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. A police officer should not be afraid to use his or her gun to do the job that society pays them to do. If that means shooting an individual, the officer should not hesitate to wield the power given them by their paymasters.

An officer should also be extremely wary (better than “afraid” methinks) of not getting killed.

Let’s face it: most humans are not going to place someone else’s life above their own. While you don’t want selfish cops, society can’t deny them the same right to armed self-defense that it gives its citizens (in some places). If a cop says “My greatest fear is dying on the job and leaving my wife and family without me,” the statement does not preclude professional policing.

As self-help guru Susan Jeffers counsels, cops should feel the fear and do it anyway. And if the “it” is shooting the wrong person, well, that sucks. For all concerned. That “fear” should help focus their mind on their job, and spur them to high quality force-on-force training. That said, we need a better definition of “the wrong person” than the one Chief Ebinger provides.

If a police officer shoots a citizen “armed” with a toy or replica gun—where a reasonable person would believe that the individual was wielding a real gun in such a manner as to put innocent life in danger of death or serious bodily harm—then it is a “righteous shoot.” We can split hairs, but the fact remains: legally, the cop was justified in pulling the trigger.

Chief Ebinger’s justification for a ban on these non-weapons is self-serving, politically correct touchy-feely nonsense. And he knows it:

David Ebinger Moorhead Police Chief: “We’re not [lobbying for the ban on fake guns] to make it easy on the officers; we’re doing it because these things are really being used in a manner that is threatening to the public.”

Ebinger says this year Moorhead has dealt with 4 cases dealing with fake guns.

As far as I can tell, none of these cases led to a shooting. And if people (kids?) are using fake guns to threaten people, that is a crime, and the offenders should be arrested. It should be noted that Moorehead, Minnesota is a town of 32,000 souls. If they’re having a fake gun brandishing epidemic, it shouldn’t be that hard for the police to ID the perps and take appropriate action. Or at least call their parents.

But banning fake and toy guns? That’s classic knee jerk gun control: blaming the gun for the crime. So what? Well, you could make a case (as Brad has, repeatedly) that toys guns are important part of growing up. That they enable experimentation with right and wrong within the context of life and death. That they help create responsible citizens and, thus, in some cases, gun owners. Maybe even police officers.

You could also say that removing toy guns from a community degrades its gun culture. As I stated at the beginning of this piece, that’s a bad idea. Truth be told, America is a society based on firearms. Even if you don’t own or like guns, or believe that citizens should be armed, you depend on guns for your safety and security. Anything that attempts to “soften” this fact is dangerously delusional.

A responsible gun owner is not just someone who uses their firearm responsibly. It’s someone who values their gun, and sees it in its proper context. This is doubly true for the brave men and women who patrol our communities. Times three for the men and women who lead them.

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  1. The Chief said that “an officers’ worst fear is firing and killing an individual on the job. But it would be even worse if the victim was carrying a fake gun and an officer thought it was real.”

    Okay, then, lets ban of everything that an officer has mistaken for a gun, causing such officer to splatter someone who was no threat. Water nozzles, see ya. Combs, sayonara. Cell phones, good riddance (and I mean it). Small laptops, buh-bye. The list goes on.

    And while we’re at it, let’s also ban flashlights on police pistols, tasers, and toilet plungers (remember Abner Louima? If not, google his name), all of which have led to the death or serious injury of people who didn’t deserve it.

    Or, Chiefie, here’s a thought — you just might want to select and train your officers a little better than those other chiefs did. Then, Chief, our kids would be able to play with theur cap guns without getting shot by you.

  2. It would be stupid to ban fake guns. For the most of us that own them, we use them for what thay are built to be used for. If someone uses a fake gun to do crime, then the fake gun should be treated as a real gun. Punish that person and not us that use them legally.

  3. Think about the sport ‘Paintball’
    Its a sport that is played around the world.
    It’s safer than bowling, golf, and Tenis.
    In Minnesota there are the most succesful Paintball fields out there.
    IE: Air Assault, MN Pro Paintball , Splat Tag ,Crossfire, and vintage paintball park.
    It’s expensive to play Paintball
    You have to be responsible to play.
    Instead of banning make a single person get a “Permit” to use Fake guns such as Airsoft and Paintball.
    I Myself (Paintball player) would say if this happened Major business’s would fall.
    Kids getting there hopes up , becoming better players… will fall.
    All my years ive been competing i have seen a lot of responsible people.
    Putting Barrel Covers on. Turning Off Markers and Hoppers.
    Its the safest sport out there , about 90% of all players are responsible enough to never commit a crime useing a paintball gun.
    These people live , love , play… Paintball.

  4. If you get robbed, do you want to get robbed with a real gun or a fake gun. Nuff said. This is the same police chief who believes by banning pipes, people will stop doing drugs. This kind of logic is something I would expect from a 9 year old, not a police chief.

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