GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A fake gun ordinance is on the table after Grand Rapids Police have been repeatedly faced with split-second decisions to determine whether a weapon is real or not. 

Earlier this month, Grand Rapids Police safely recovered a replica gun off a 13-year-old. Commissioners say the officers exercised "amazing restraint" in that instance. Less than a year ago, an officer fired his weapon at a 14-year-old, who he said had pointed a gun at him, only to later learn the gun was fake.

The boy was not injured in the 2018 incident, but Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington says it could've been a different outcome. 

"We could've been talking about a much more unfortunate incident," Washington said at the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.

Under the new ordinance, the city would be able to regulate the possession of imitation guns and pneumatic guns (i.e. paintball and BB guns). Since Jan. 2018, Grand Rapids Police have taken 106 fake guns off the street. There's currently no city ordinance in place to regulate the use of fake guns, which Washington said has prevented the city from holding people accountable in the past. 

"Our goal is to change that," said city attorney Anita Hitchcock.

The new ordinance aligns with the state and federal regulations, under which imitation guns must have an orange tip and a bright/clear/transparent colored body. Anyone who alters the appearance of the imitation gun to make it appear more realistic would be in violation of the law. The brandishing of imitation guns would also be prohibited. The ordinance would also prohibit the discharge of pneumatic guns on public property, and youth under the age of 16 would not be able to posses a pneumatic gun without parental supervision. 

Commissioner Senita Lenear warned that the ordinance could also have unintended consequences and target a specific population. The ordinance will go to the commissioners for a decision on August 27.

To watch the Committee of the Whole Meeting, click here

► Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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