GR’s push to ban toy guns in public closer to vote

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids City Commission will get its first look Tuesday at a proposed ordinance that would ban toy or pneumatic guns in public places.

They will discuss and vote on the proposed ban Nov. 12.

“Over the past two years, pneumatic guns (like BB guns and airsoft rifles) have contributed to public safety concerns in the City of Grand Rapids,” wrote assistant city attorney Kristen Rewa in a memo to the committee of the whole.

>>PDF: Assistant city attorney’s memo

“Pneumatic guns look like real firearms – so much so, that use of pneumatic guns has resulted in residents calling 911 believe they have observed real firearms. Officers respond to these calls for service as real firearm calls. This has resulted in negative interactions between youth and law enforcement.” 

According to the memo from the city’s law department, Grand Rapids Police Department took possession of 142 pneumatic gun or imitation firearms, which is up from 106 reported in July when commissioners first discussed a possible ordinance. 

On July 4 at Ionia Avenue and Williams Street SW, two Grand Rapids police officers held a 13-year-old at gunpoint.

A 911 caller reported a teen with a gun at nearby Heartside Park.

The 13-year-old had a BB gun in his waistband

There have been several incidents in which Grand Rapids Police have drawn guns on teens due to replica weapons, including a September 2018 case where a GRPD officer fired a shot at a teen carrying a fake gun. The young man was not hit. 

Under the proposed weapons ordinance, which would replace the city’s current firearms code, there would be:

>>PDF: Proposed weapons ordinance

  • No discharging, displaying, exposing or brandishing a pneumatic gun, bow or crossbow in a public place, unless it’s an authorized target range, property where firearms may be discharged, or private property with the permission of the owner.
  • No one under the age of 16 can possess a pneumatic gun, bow or crossbow in a public place unless under the supervision of a parent or guardian.
  • No giving, selling or furnishing an imitation firearm to someone under the age of 18.
  • No removing or altering any marking on an imitation firearm that makes it look real.
  • No discharging a firearm in the city of Grand Rapids (already law).
  • No brandishing a firearm in a public place in the city of Grand Rapids (already law).

Under federal law, however, you can carry an imitation firearm if it has a blaze orange tip or other approved marking, and the blaze orange tip or marking is not concealed.

Grand Rapids’ proposed ordinance does include an exception for blaze orange-tipped imitation firearms that fall under federal regulations. 

News 8 asked the city’s law department if that means – under the proposed ordinance – people actually can brandish orange-tipped guns in public.

“Technically, correct,” was the response we received via email. 

The ordinance also includes exceptions for people acting “lawfully in self-defense or defense of another under the self-defense act,” police officers “in the lawful performance of their duties”, indoor enclosed firearm ranges, and people engaged in an authorized military or civic activity. 

Violating the ordinance would be a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a $500 fine or 90 days in jail. 

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