The Time It Takes a Cop to Identify a Toy Gun v. a Real Gun Could Be Long Enough To Get Him Killed

In addition to the police shooting of Michael Brown and the choking death of Eric Garner, blacks have been protesting the shooting deaths of other blacks who were brandishing toy guns. Countless people have been decrying these shootings saying that police should be able to easily distinguish the difference between a toy gun and real gun.

In September, John Crawford III, a black teen was observed by shoppers in a Walmart store in Beavercreek, Ohio, waving a gun and even pointing it at other shoppers. Several shoppers called 9-1-1 and police responded. What many shoppers thought was an assault rifle turned out to be a toy gun that Crawford had picked up off a shelf in the store. When police arrived, they ordered Crawford to put the gun down but he failed to comply and when he started to point the gun towards the police, they shot and killed him. A coroner’s report stated that Crawford had marijuana in his system at the time of the shooting.

None of the shoppers that saw Crawford thought that the gun was a toy. Angela Williams thought the gun was real and tried to run from the store but collapsed and died of a heart attack before she could escape. The two officers that responded to the call also thought the gun was real.

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The shooting was ruled to be justified because Crawford ignored warnings and then the officers fired when they feared for their own safety. Because Crawford was a black teen, his family and other blacks claim the shooting was unwarranted and have been demanding justice.

In November, 12 year old Tamir Rice was brandishing a toy air gun at a park. Someone called 9-1-1 to report that a black youth at the park had a gun and was waving it around. When police arrived, they saw Rice with the gun and one of the officers fired a single shot, striking the youth in the abdomen. Rice later died from his wound.

The toy gun Rice had is manufactured with an orange plug in the barrel to make it easily identifiable, but that orange plug had been removed. But that doesn’t matter and since Rice was black and the officer was white, family and black activists blame the officer and want him charged with the death.

Two days before Christmas, police responded to a call reporting a theft from a convenience store in Berkeley, Missouri. When police pulled up to the scene they encountered 18 year old Antonio Martin. A number of witnesses all reported that Martin pulled a gun and pointed it at police and he tried to fire the gun. That’s when police opened fire and killed the youth.

This time, the gun turned out to be a real 9mm handgun that was loaded. When Martin tried to shoot at the police, the gun didn’t fire because the safety was on, but police did not know that at the time. Even with a number of eyewitness accounts, black activists have already been protesting this shooting as well.

But let me put you in the shoes of a police officer, which very few in the media seem to be willing to do. First let me tell you that toy gun manufacturers have been doing their best to make toy guns, bb guns, air and pellet guns look as realistic as possible because that’s what sells. To be honest, I can’t and don’t blame them. When I was a kid, we wanted realistic looking toy guns to play with also.

Take a look at the image below and see how long it takes you to identify the difference between the toy and real gun.

toy gun v real

Now realize that it takes less than a second for someone to pull the trigger and kill you with the real gun. Were you able to tell the difference in time? This is what police officers are facing in situations like those described above. That moment of hesitation in trying to figure out if the gun is real or a toy can and will make the difference between life and death for police officers. What would you do if you were the cop? I hope you learn to put yourself in their shoes before you rush to lynch them for doing what they are trained to do.

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