When a toy gun isn’t much of a toy at all

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland probably would be alive today had he not brandished a realistic-looking gun when challenged by a police officer.

Rice’s death is the most recent in a string of senseless deaths of children killed because law enforcement officers thought the “toys” they had were real, deadly firearms.

An investigation into Rice’s death has been launched. It may reveal the two police officers involved could have dealt with the boy without shooting him. Again, however, there is no doubt no shots would have been fired had Rice not been at a playground with a realistic-looking pistol.

It turns out the boy was carrying a replica pistol meant to fire soft pellets. Someone had removed an orange band around the barrel, meant to distinguish the gun from a real firearm.

Police say that when they told Rice to raise his hands, he instead grabbed the pistol. At that point he was shot. Why he did not raise his hands, who will ever know?

How many more children have to die in similar situations before parents stop allowing their children to take real-looking “toy” guns out in public?

If you are buying Christmas gifts for a youngster this year, steer away from such “toys.” At the very least, don’t let a child take one out in public. There is no reason – none at all – to expose a youngster to that danger. Sometimes all it takes to avoid a tragedy is use of some simple common sense.