Tamir Rice & Parenting

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Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 11.03.28 AMWhat happened to Tamir Rice was appalling.  It was horrible.  It was a parent’s worst nightmare.  I agreed that the cops involved in the shooting should be charged with murder.  Then, I saw a photo of the gun.  It was a realistic toy BB-gun modeled after a pistol sold by Colt.  When they are side by side, when the orange tip is removed, they are almost identical.  The 12-year-old child, according to witnesses was being a 12-year-old child, with the gun in his waistband, like you see on television or the movies.  He was playing like we all played when we were kids.

My sister had a BB-gun.  I think she was about the same age when my parents gave it to her for her birthday.  We lived out in the middle of no-where.  It was a small ‘rifle’ style.  No one in their right mind could even mistake it for a real fire-arm.  My cousins had BB-guns.  They looked like BB-guns and NOT real weapons.  We were also taught that you NEVER pointed it at anyone (at least when your parents weren’t watching).  We were taught that a BB-gun was a weapon, and could do tremendous harm, even by accident.  My sister shot a window pane in a French door in our other’s living room.  I shot her in the rear. She shot me in the rear.  She also shot the wall in the foyer.  I think my cousin Michael shot his sister in the rear.  My other said that her sister once shot her in the rear.  She did it at such a distance and with such accuracy that the story became legend.

We did far more damage to one another using my grandfather Froehlich’s hot shot cattle prod.  There is nothing more satisfying that shooting your annoying little sister in the rear, with a cattle prod.  Harmless, the attack was entirely superficial, leaving no lasting damage, but endless satisfaction as to how high she jumped and how mad she was.

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The orange cap had been removed.  It looks like a real gun. In the next photo, the gun at the top is a real Colt.  The one below is a model identical to the one the child was carrying.

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Children play with weapons.  They have played with weapons since the beginning of time.  They will play with weapons until the end of the human race.  It is part of childhood.  A little kid should not be shot by a cop for playing and doing what comes naturally.

BUT….

Parents have a responsibility to supervise their children.  No self-respecting parent is going to allow their child to have even a BB-gun that looks like a real weapon.  I seem to remember a few years ago when there was a similar incident.  Instead of the family screaming racism, they acted more responsibly.  Instead of going after the cops, maybe they should go after the toy gun manufacturer, or even admit that someone in their family helped set up the scenario which led to tragedy.

“…The Department of Justice says the federal government doesn’t keep ongoing statistics on the trend, but in a 1990 paper funded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. police reported that they had used or threatened to use force “in a confrontation where an imitation gun had been mistaken for a real firearm” at a rate of about 200 incidents per year. The paper’s authors suggested that this number was “significantly underreported.” A series of toy gun-related deaths in the late 80s helped pass a federal amendment, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Dole, that requires all toy, “look-alike,” or imitation firearms to have a bright orange plug or other salient marking. But manufacturers don’t always adhere to required standards and markings can be altered, according to law enforcement….”

It happens. Cops don’t always realize a child is using a toy weapon.  What is new is putting a racial spin on an incident that could have been avoided if the toy the child was using looked like a toy.  In fact, the specific type of toy weapon Tamir Rice was using comes with  numerous disclaimers.  The owner of the company even went on record about how parents are not always informed as to the dangers and risks of a child using one – UNSUPERVISED.

“...Most Airsoft guns, I learned, are sold via the Internet. Sales are fragmented, market trends hard to quantify. But Peter Ho, co-owner of Airsoft Extreme, a Santa Clara Airsoft gun retailer, confirmed that youth interest is up. Ho has also noticed a disturbing trend: 15-20 percent of the parents who now come into Airsoft Extreme to buy Airsoft guns for their children are “clueless about guns.” Ho gives parents Airsoft Extreme’s Airsoft Safety Guidelines (see sidebar) and asks them to sign the store’s liability waiver. Many times, though, parents don’t get it. How can these be dangerous? they ask. Aren’t they toys? “They can’t seem to step outside themselves, from the outside looking in, and say, ‘Hey, this looks like a real gun,’” says Ho. How real do Airsoft guns look? Go to Hobbytron.com, an internet site that claims the title, “The Web’s Most Popular Hobby/Educational/Toy Store.” You’ll find pictures of near-perfect replicas of better known pistols, rifles and assault weapons. Product descriptions use phrases like “full scale,” “life-like,” “true to weight” and “highly realistic.” Imported as toy guns, federal law requires that Airsoft guns have “blaze orange” tips. But police say those tips are small and hard to see, particularly in low light. And owners often pry them off, or disguise them with tape or marker, exacerbating the “look-alike” risk. Bottom line? If it looks like a gun and is handled like a gun, police officers say they have to treat it like a gun, even if it is in the hands of a child. The results can be disastrous. “We don’t shoot to wound,” explained Robert Lopez, a career police officer who has been with the San Jose Police Department for the past 15 years, most recently working at the department’s gun range. “We shoot to stop the threat and stopping the threat is most likely stopping any movement of that individual.”…”

There is a tremendous amount of blame to go around, and not all of it should be cast on the cops. As far as the treatment of his 14-year-old sister, that is a different matter.  That’s where I’d be raising heck.

Unfortunately, there is also an undercurrent of something that needs to be stated in defense of the Cleveland cops.  We are constantly hearing about 12-year-old boys shooting and killing, either by accident or on purpose.

I’m sorry, only a fool would let their 12-year-old child near a gun, fake or real. Stop blaming the cops for lousy parenting, and make parents take responsibility for their actions which lead up to disaster.

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