A December incident at a Stonington school involving a police officer, 15-year-old boy and a fake gun has lawmakers on the Children’s Committee looking to ban the toys on school grounds.
Stonington Police Chief Darren Stewart spoke at a Thursday press conference in support of a bill that would prohibit “simu” or simulated guns on school property.
Stewart said that just before Christmas, a Stonington police officer was called to a school on a report from a teacher that there were kids on the grounds with guns.
“Of course in the post-Columbine High School and other tragic school shootings around the country, the police are going to respond very swiftly and really get down to business whenever there’s a threat of firearms on school grounds,” he said.
The officer arrived to find two 15-year-olds, one boy was on the ground and the other one appeared to be pointing a pistol at his head, Stewart said. The officer screamed at the boy to drop the gun, he said.
“They had a little bit of a standoff for just a second or two, pleading with the kid to drop the gun and finally he did,” he said.
As it turns out, the kids were playing around and the gun was fake. It was a close replica of the duty weapon Stonington police carry, Stewart said. But the officer had no way of knowing that because a red marking, required by law to indicate a gun isn’t real, had been rubbed off.
“The officer was placed in an awful, awful position at that time about the use of deadly physical force,” he said.
The bill proposed by Rep. Diana Urban, D- North Stonington, and Sen. Terry Gerratana, D- New Britain, would ban the “simu” guns at schools and make it illegal to alter them in away that makes them indistinguishable from real weapons.
Urban said people sometimes use black markers to hide the red indicator or just file it off. If the bill is adopted, that would be an infraction, she said.
South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed held up for reporters a fake gun with the indicator removed and a real gun. At a distance it was unclear which one was the simulated weapon. Even up close they are difficult to distinguish. Many of the simulated weapons were even weighted like a real firearm.
“You put yourself in the position of a police officer that shows up at the scene and this is what the police officer sees. What’s the police officer supposed to do?” he said. “A 17-year-old high schooler wouldn’t shoot and kill anybody would he? Well I think recent events certainly show us different.”
Reed urged parents to be aware of what their kids are doing with toy guns. While they and their kids may know the weapons aren’t real police and others may not, he said.
Faced with what appears to be a real gun police have to respond as if it were a real weapon even if it’s wielded by a minor, Stewart said. Though the Stonington officer used caution and the boy had time to drop the toy, a Texas boy in a similar situation was not so fortunate, he said.
Last month at a middle school in Brownsville, Texas, police responded to a 15-year-old boy with a gun, he said.
“Unfortunately the police officers used deadly physical force on the eighth grader and it turned out to be a facsimile firearm,” he said.
The legislation would also prohibit bringing paintball guns, pellet guns and BB guns onto school grounds. Though it wasn’t at school, Hartford police seized a P-9 Stinger 9mm Facsimile BB gun in a drug related arrest on Tuesday.
“Facsimile weapons, when used with intent to harm, are not toys; they can hurt, they can cause injury. We have seen such weapons used in criminal activity in the past,” Hartford Police Chief James Rovella said in a press release. “The public can be assured when we do observe them used with intent to harm we will take action.”