After a fatal police shooting of a 12-year-old boy holding a pellet gun in Cleveland brought a storm of criticism nationally, a group for Ohio law enforcement officers posted a picture on its Facebook page last week showing how even deadly weapons can be made to look like children’s toys.
With the photo, the Sheriff Deputies of Ohio posted a caption saying: “This is a fully functional shotgun, disguised to look like a toy. I suspect that we’ll be seeing more and more of this. Be careful out there.”
The page administrator, identified only as Jeff 1, posted a comment saying altering guns in such a way ”should be a felony.”
The post, however, brought other concerns, including from some who worried that the photo could give criminals ideas on how to conceal weapons.
The administrators of the Sheriff Deputies of Ohio Facebook page dismissed the question.
“Criminals don’t need us to give them ideas like this,” one unnamed administrator said. “It was shared for officer safety reasons as this is primarily a page for cops. Thank you for your comment though. We encourage respectful disagreement.”
The Facebook page, described as a “place to show support for the Sheriff Deputies of Ohio,” includes a disclaimer saying it is not affiliated with any official public agency.
The post comes two weeks after the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot by Cleveland cops while carrying a pellet gun officers mistook as the real thing.
Many officers say it is getting increasingly difficult in today’s age of realistic-looking toy guns to differentiate fakes from real firearms, especially when put in potentially life-threatening situations that require split-second decisions.
Toys that are made to look like guns are one problem. As the Facebook posting makes clear, and police critics should understand, real guns can be disguised as toys too.
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