By Editorial Board,
“WE’RE TALKING about this 26 years later, and I’m not sure anything has really changed except that tragic occurrences continue to happen.” So commented Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum about fatal police shootings involving people with toy, air and replica guns. That Mr. Wexler’s comments were made to reporters undertaking what amounts to the first real study of this issue in decades speaks volumes about the lack of progress in coming up with solutions to this problem. And that underscores the need to break the stranglehold the national gun lobby has managed to place on scientific research into gun violence.
As part of its ongoing examination of fatal shootings by police started in 2015, The Post examined what police across the country say are increasing faceoffs against people with toy or replica guns that are so realistic they look identical to real weapons. At least 86 people over the past two years were killed in these encounters, according to the “Fatal Force” report, the first accounting since a study in 1990, when Congress last addressed the issue. Other revelations from the Post report: Mental illness was a common theme, white men were the majority of victims, and the calls included domestic disturbances, robberies and neighborhood patrols.
Some cases were heartbreaking, such as the mentally distraught 52-year-old killed in front of his family and the 16-year-old boy shot after a breakup with a girl. Police, confronted with realistic imitations indistinguishable from the real thing and people who don’t comply with their orders, should not be blamed. It is clear they, too, often become victims. “Some of them broke down in tears. . . . It’s a devastating career-long and lifelong impact,” Alachua County, Fla., Sheriff Sadie Darnell said of the officers who shot the 16-year-old and later realized the assault weapon the teen was aiming was fake.
The National Rifle Association and some manufacturers of the toy and replica guns refused to talk to Post reporters. Not surprising: They never have been fans of open inquiry, as evidenced by their success in choking off federally funded gun research and exploration of new technology that would make guns safer. Really, how hard is it to design a toy that can’t be mistaken for a gun? And what purposes do realistic replicas serve? The Post report raises some important questions. It is time to at least start looking for the answers.
Read more here: Fareed Zakaria: Change your gun laws, America The Post’s View: Child gun deaths are not ‘accidents’ Colbert I. King: Why is America so hostile to gun control? The Post’s View: The gun lobby maddeningly prevents development of safer, childproof weapons Michael S. Rosenwald: Wisdom from a gun-owning moderate