Thursday, May 26, 2005

Chandler, Arizona may ease play-gun ordinance

People who carry toy guns that look real in Chandler won't be breaking the law any more if the City Council makes expected changes to the ordinance tonight.Members will likely approve re-wording of the city's weapons ordinance that now makes it a misdemeanor to carry a loaded air gun, BB gun or paint ball gun in a public place. Offenders can be punished by up to six months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.The law has come under fire recently from parents who say the toys aren't dangerous and the law is too harsh. But school and police officials have said they are concerned about the real-gun appearance of toys and the potential for injury from plastic projectiles.
The proposed change would make it legal to carry such devices, but not fire them or display them in a threatening manner on public property. Use of the devices has been and would continue to be legal on private property. David Layman, 50, said he has been complaining for months about the city's ban on carrying toy guns and didn't know the council was voting on a change this week. The new wording is a step in the right direction, but inadequate, Layman said. "The City Council is passing a law that seeks to criminalize petty acts by citizens. I think their purpose would be better served by a civil fine," he said.Layman's 16-year-old son is scheduled to appear in municipal court next week to defend himself on criminal charges related to his use of an AirSoft gun. The father said the gun was fired from his son's car by another youth. "I'm not happy with my son's actions," Layman said, "But the actions of the police and our government are way out of line considering the offense." The gun, which shoots a plastic pellet, is safe enough for him to allow his son to play with it around the family cars, he said. "It doesn't scratch the car or crack windows," he said.In a memo to the council, City Attorney Dennis O'Neill said the display or discharge of "weapons other than firearms can create a significant enough danger to warrant criminal prosecution." However, a misdemeanor gives judges the discretion to defer prosecution and levy reduced fines or jail time, he said. Police helped draft the changes. Officers are most concerned with the use of toy guns that look real, said Chandler Police spokesman Mark Franzen. "It's not a good thing to take those toy guns and point them at someone who can misjudge them as real weapons," he said. "Somebody could get hurt." Tonight's meeting is at 7 at 22 S. Delaware St.

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