Lakewood

City of Lakewood mulls crackdown on displaying toy guns

City of Lakewood mulls crackdown on displaying toy guns »Play Video
A young boy brandishes a realistic-looking toy gun.
LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Toy guns can be realistic enough to scare people - and draw potentially deadly fire from a police officer. Now the city of Lakewood wants to get tougher on those who display toy guns.

Parents say it's still pretty common to see kids playing make-believe - even if it's just going "bang-bang" with their fingers.

"I played with toy guns when I was little," says one mom, Keshia Vaetoe. "I never killed anybody. I never shot anybody."

But the city of Lakewood is pondering whether to get tougher on toy guns, by making it a gross misdemeanor to display one in a threatening way. Some city council members want violators to face bigger fines and more jail time.

"I think that it's good to have the awareness," says one woman who didn't want to be identified.

What council members are concerned about are realistic-looking cheap plastic BB guns, like those you can buy at WalMart - the kind of toy gun that if you pointed it at someone, they'd probably be pretty scared.

The city is moving on the issue after Lakewood lost a case against a woman accused of frightening her roommates with a small plastic toy gun. A judge threw out the case, agreeing with the defense that the toy gun was no more capable of causing harm than any other inanimate object.

But at least one Lakewood mom is concerned enough to forbid her 8-year-old son from playing with his Nerf gun once they leave the house.

"Toy guns should be treated very seriously and treated with respect," she says. "If he is to be riding in the car, it is not to be taken in the car. So that it's not misconstrued."

The council is still tinkering with it's proposed ordinance - worried the language went too far when it included not only toy guns but "any other item" that could cause harm or frighten people.

"Everything can be threatening," says Vaetoe. "I can pick up a piece of beauty bark and scratch you with it. Is that threatening? I don't know. I think it's kind of silly."

The Lakewood council hasn't passed the ordinance yet. They say they'll reconsider after the public safety committee takes a second look at some of the language.

Meanwhile, parents are waiting to see what kind of toy gun ordinance the council finally comes up with.