Columbus considers ban on BB guns, other toy rifles

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An Indiana city is considering a groundbreaking new law that targets teenagers and their toys.

The proposal would prohibit kids from carrying around BB guns in public, because they say they've become a safety hazard.

Keeping kids safe is mom Melanie Bachmeyer's top priority. She agrees with a proposed new ordinance in Columbus to ban BB guns from public display by children and teens.

It would not only prohibit kids under 18 from firing BB guns within city limits, but also prohibit children from showing BB guns, pellet guns and Airsoft rifles in public, at all.

Columbus says similar laws are on the books in cities across the country, but this would be a first in Indiana.

"I support it," Bachmeyer said. "You have to really let families and kids know that it's a serious issue."

Here's why.

Police say BB guns and air rifles look too real - nearly identical to actual weapons.

"The unfortunate thing is these are toys, but they certainly don't look like one," said Columbus mayor Kristen Brown.

It's become a safety issue in Columbus. In more than 20 recent incidents, concerned citizens have called police about seeing guns being waved in parks, near schools and even at busy intersections, pointed at traffic. Each case involved a teenager or child with a BB gun, not a real gun.

"In a couple of those cases, our officers have actually drawn their weapons on teenagers and that's obviously not a situation our officers want to be in," Mayor Brown explained.

That's the fear and the reason behind the proposed crackdown - that an officer, trained to not to hesitate in potential danger, may shoot a child when confronted with a BB gun.

"We don't want to think about that. We don't want to put them in that position," said Columbus city councilman Frank Jerome. "It would be all for nothing. All for nothing because someone is misusing something that looks like a real weapon."

Another part of the proposed ordinance covers how the guns look themselves. It would prohibit kids and teens from blacking out the orange tip, which makes it look even more like a real gun.

Although the ordinance targets teens, parents would pay the price. Violators would face a $150 dollar fine for the first offense and higher fines would follow.

Some parents say a new law to prevent tragedy and protect children is worth it.

"It's important because this is a big deal. This is about safety of kids and the public," Bachmeyer said.

If the proposal passes, kids would still be able to have BB guns at home and use them at ranges. City leaders say the goal isn't to ban them all together, but prevent teens from carrying them around in public places.

The Columbus city council will consider this at its next meeting on June 18th.