Dallas Suburb's Firearms Law Takes Aim at Toy Guns

If youngsters in Carrollton, Tex., have visions of shiny spurs, fringed chaps and convincing six-shooters this Christmas, they may be out of luck. That is, at least as far as guns go.

The city, a suburb of Dallas, recently beefed up its firearms ordinance to ban minors from brandishing toy guns that look too real. Realistic toy guns are often used in hold-ups, and for years have concerned the nation's police officers. But in recent months, Carrollton Police Chief David James said, teenagers -- some of them gang members -- have increasingly been found with replicas too difficult for his officers to distinguish as fake from afar, placing them and the officers at greater risk.

The same day the council passed the ordinance in November, a student at a local high school brought a gun to school in his backpack. The gun turned out to be an air pistol, like the .45 Colt and 9mm Beretta look-alikes easily found on the Internet for as little as $20.

"It looks like it's real; it's manufactured to look like it's real. The slide works and it drops a magazine," James said. "The problem is you have [an officer] encounter one of these in the heat of the moment, and that just isn't good."

The Texas State Rifle Association denounced the ordinance as too vague, but James said legal firearms owners aren't affected. Fake guns are permissible and replicas will still be allowed at public ceremonies and parades, he said.

"People can enjoy them in their own privacy, in their own backyards," James said. "But they can't go running around with them in public."

-- Amanda Zamora

Police Sgt. Jack Adams shows the similarity between a real gun, left, and a facsimile.