West Memphis Considers Ordinance on Toy Guns

WEST MEMPHIS (KAIT)-"It's every police officers worst nightmare to realize that you've taken a life, and it was a toy gun," said Assistant Police Chief Mike Allen.

That was the scenario just last summer for the West Memphis Police Department after an officer shot and killed 12-year-old Deauntae Farrow.

Now, just eight months later, police arrested a 15-year-old boy after motorists saw him waving a gun in the air near a city park at 14th and Polk streets.

It was later discovered that the gun was a toy.

"When an officer is trying to make a decision on an armed suspect, he doesn't have time to go in and look at it and examine that firearm," said Allen.

Therefore, the West Memphis City Council is hoping to eventually pass an ordinance that would limit where toy guns can be played with.

"The ordinance should prohibit any person from displaying a replica pistol or firearm in a public place," said Allen.

And telling the difference in a real firearm and one that is not is a very hard task.  In comparison of a real gun to that which the boy arrested was holding, the two were almost identical.

And for that reason police officers are trained not to take chances.

"You're talking about whether you are going to go home to your family or not. These replica firearms don't give you that option. They look so much like a real firearm," said Allen.

So, it's the hopes of those like Assistant Chief Mike Allen that a possible ordinance will decrease those encounters between police and armed citizens - whether it be a real weapon or not.

"If this ordinance would keep one toy gun out of one child's hand, then we've done our job with the ordinance," said Allen.

Places like Beaverton, Oregon have already put an ordinance like this in place.

While the maximum penalty is only a misdemeanor, they viewed it as a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, often toy guns are identified by an orange tip, but often times kids will paint the gun making it look even more realistic.

And making matters worse are b-b guns which also resemble real firearms.

It's the hopes of the Council that the ordinance will not prevent people from possessing toy guns, but simply limit them from having them in public places like parks and schools.

Monday night there will be a meeting on Youth Violence at the West Memphis City Hall.  All parents and children are encouraged to attend.

Story ideas or comments?  Email Will at wcarter@kait8.com.