The Post editorial:

No closer to solv­ing fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings in­volv­ing peo­ple with toy and replica guns.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

e’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 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 Was­ing­ton 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 ca­reer­long and life­long im­pact,” Alachua County, Florida, 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 Wash­ing­ton 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.

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