I’m not usually one of those don’t-give-them-ideas types, but when I first saw the MTA poster about painting real guns to look like toy guns, I did get a chill. Something as simple as a coat of paint can make a policeman’s difficult job nigh-on impossible — if someone walks into a crowd brandishing an orange gun, do you wait to find out whether it’s a toy, or do you have to assume it’s real?
On Monday, in Sheepshead Bay, an officer was faced with just such a situation, and guessed wrong: As the Post headline put it, “Cops kill man who pulled a fake gun”. And last week, in Williamsburg, concerned citizens nabbed a 12-year-old serial mugger who threatened his elderly victims with what turned out to be a cap gun.
I grew up with an arsenal of plastic guns that would look more or less real from a distance; I’m seeing my young son turn anything — a stick, a block — into a make-believe firearm. I’ve always thought parents who shun toy guns were a bit silly — when you’re an 8-year-old boy, you want to play soldier, or cowboy, or Star Wars, and you can’t do it without a gun. It’s just a piece of plastic — why make a big deal out of it?
In Brooklyn, though, things aren’t so simple these days.
(Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign against painted guns goes back a ways — and hasn’t been universally popular. Witness this bizarre offering from Lauer Custom Weaponry circa 2008: The “Bloomberg Collection” of firearm finishes in such shades as Manhattan Red, Brooklyn Blue, and Staten Island Orange. Ah, gun nuts — such a sense of humor!)