Monday, October 27, 2003

The Annapolis City Council still wants to ban toy guns in the city, but following an onslaught of national attention, the lawmaker responsible for the proposed law has made one change.

“We are no longer referring to them as toys,” Alderwoman Cynthia A. Carter, a Democrat, told The Washington Times. “We are calling them replica guns.”

If the law is enacted, residents found possessing, selling or transporting toy guns within Annapolis will be fined a maximum of $1,000.

“To pass this ordnance will make what I do illegal,” said Bill Wilson, a war re-enactor and resident of Annapolis. Mr. Wilson was one of seven persons who testified against the ban at a hearing last night at City Hall.

Mrs. Carter first proposed the legislation in April after a 7-year-old boy holding a silver toy revolver announced he would hold up a Hollywood Video store with it. No one was hurt, but Mrs. Carter said it was potentially a dangerous situation.

“Replica guns are used by criminals, usually juveniles, who cannot get the real thing,” said Michael J. Keller, chapter coordinator for Anne Arundel Peace Action, an organization that lobbies county lawmakers.

Mr. Keller was the only one to offer testimony in favor of the ban last night. “Replica guns have resulted in tragedies when law enforcement officers, faced with making split-second life-and-death decisions, have shot people brandishing look-alike weapons.

Others who testified against the toy-gun ban included two retired police officers and one retired D.C. firefighter.

“There are more common-sense ways to deal with crime,” said Annapolis resident Laura Townsend. “I don’t know why we are making it illegal to have a toy gun, when it is legal to have a real one.”

The law would prohibit “any toy or imitation firearm which substantially duplicates or can reasonably be perceived to be an actual firearm.”

According to Mrs. Carter, that includes all “replica” guns except clear, brightly colored toys.

Annapolis resident Frank Bradley was the only person who showed up to testify at a City Council meeting on the subject two weeks earlier.

“The idea that banning toy guns will save lives is ludicrous,” he said. “I don’t want toy guns to lead to socialist governments dictating what I can and cannot do in the privacy of my own home,” Mr. Bradley said.

Alderman Joshua Cohen, a Democrat, said the ban is well-intentioned, but he doubts that it is the proper solution to the problem.

Mrs. Carter has insisted that since June that she has won over four other council members to her side — enough votes to turn the proposal into law. However, she would not say who on the council supports the ban.

“Is the next step to ban toy knives?” Mr. Cohen said. “Instead of banning toy guns … perhaps a more reasonable approach is to hold accountable those who misuse them and endanger public safety.”

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