Police warn about dangers of replica firearms - KPTV - FOX 12

Police warn about dangers of replica firearms

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Recent police shootings involving replica handguns, including the death of a teenager in Portland, have illustrated the dangers of people carrying fake, but realistic guns in public.

In February, a Portland police officers shot and killed 17-year-old Quanice Hayes, a suspect in a carjacking and armed robbery, believing Hayes had a gun. A replica pistol was later found near Hayes' body.

The City of Beaverton took a proactive approach to the problem several years ago, passing an ordinance that made it illegal to display a replica firearm in public.

City Councilor Cate Arnold voted for the ordinance, which passed unanimously in 2007.

"I'm a mother with a teenage boy at the time, and my other son was 12. And it was popular," said Arnold. "The kids were running around playing with them on the streets."

At the time the ordinance passed, Arnold said, Beaverton Police reported 26 cases of calls involving replicas, and six school lock-downs in an 18 month span.

Arnold believes the ordinance has played a role in making the community more aware of the dangers of misunderstandings involving replica firearms.

"I think it has been effective overall, and I think it's something we still have to be careful for," said Arnold.

Even with the ordinance in place, Beaverton police officers still encounter replicas in daily patrols.

On one occasion, Officer Brian Dalton was forced to make a snap decision when he saw a driver reach behind his seat during a traffic stop.

"I shined my flashlight back there. I could see just the butt of the gun. I drew my firearm and I shouted at him to get his hands on the steering wheel," said Dalton.

Dalton radioed for backup, and eventually discovered the gun was a replica that belonged to the driver's son, but he said any delay in the driver obeying his orders could have resulted in a tragic ending.

Despite the close call, Dalton believes the ordinance prohibiting replica firearms has reduced the risk of such encounters.

"If people are aware that it's illegal to do that, for the most part, people won't do it. And that would hopefully limit the number of opportunities for a tragedy," said Dalton.

The City of Portland prohibits carrying loaded firearms, but the city ordinance does not refer specifically to replica firearms.

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