Banning Replica Handguns: A Vendor’s Perspective

Photo: Andrew Toskin

This writer was asked to give a response to a recent article in the Boston Globe. The article pertains to the ordinance banning replica handguns in public areas proposed by the mayor of Boston, Martin J. Walsh. At the time, our writer took to the streets to get input from the public. What I found has kept me up at night, pondering the responses I received.

First, I must say that the mayor of Boston needs to be commended for this action. Similar bans have been proposed in Indiana and Florida. This ordinance will allow the Boston Police Department to confiscate replica firearms and will require the owner or parent/guardian to have the replica handgun returned at a local district station. Quite simply, if your child is playing a cops and robbers game, the police can take the replica gun from the child. The guardian must then go to the police station to have it returned. Of course, it is likely that you will be subject to berating and will be told how to raise your offspring.

Have there been instances where the police have been intimidated by these replica handguns? In 2012, in the town of Billerica, Massachusetts, police responded to a firearm complaint. They came upon three boys who were carrying what appeared to be handguns. The children were ordered to drop the weapons. It turned out that the children were playing with airsoft guns. Now, what denotes a replica (fake or toy) gun? A bright orange safety cap on the tip of the barrel. Sometimes, people remove the caps, and that’s where the paranoia begins.

In the town of Dorchester, a section of Boston, a resident spoke to Kim Tunnicliffe of WBZ News Radio 1030 about the regulation. The resident disagrees with the new ordinance. He owns a couple of BB guns that look real and he feels that he can responsibly own the guns. In my opinion, the ban should not apply to him. If he can responsibly carry the BB guns, why should they be banned in public areas? Will Boston soon ban them in his own home?

Reader, I have been around Boston, and the feedback I get at the end of the day is paranoia. This is the same feeling this writer receives when Harvard received a bomb threat. That day, I was in Cambridge heading to the Spare Change News office. I was walking down Massachusetts Avenue toward Harvard Square when I looked up and a helicopter was hovering overhead. I walked a couple of blocks more and stopped. The helicopter stopped. It seemed strange. A person walking toward me pointed out: “I think a helicopter is following you.” I served a tour in the military and worked for Amtrak for 20 years. I was born in Boston and have no ill feelings toward anyone. But I blatantly see the paranoia we live with every day. The passerby smiled and I reached the Spare Change News office and told no one about my experience. But I made a mental note of what paranoia feels like.

Bans such as this and even helicopters being brought in to intimidate the public incite paranoia. Let me rephrase this in a way that my niece once told me: “Uncle, you are paranoid for letting all of this stuff in the paper and the news upset you. You have much to accomplish. You’re showing me that I have to continue what you and your generation started.” If the mayor of Boston continues to take actions like like, I’m sure people will continue to tell me in the street: “You’re paranoid!”

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