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BOSSIER SHERIFF ENCOURAGED BY NEW ORDINANCE ON FAKE FIREARMS

Posted: Sep 29, 2016 8:36 AM
Updated: Sep 29, 2016 8:38 AM

“This is Serious Business; this is not Child’s Play” – Sheriff Whittington

Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington is encouraged by the new ordinance recently passed unanimously by the Bossier Parish Police Jury that addressed the serious matter of students bringing imitation firearms and weapons onto school property or school functions.

“The safety and security of our schools is paramount, plain and simple,” said Sheriff Whittington. “In the past few years, we’ve seen cases where students brought fake guns to school that look just like the real weapons. This new ordinance will now make that unlawful, a move that will further protect students and faculty members.”

Students or non-students will now face charges for unlawful carrying of imitation firearms, projectiles, dangerous weapons or ammunition on school property, while on school transportation or at school sponsored functions and specific designated area “...including but not limited to athletic competitions, dances, parties or any extracurricular activities.”

Imitation firearms are described as “any BB device, toy gun, replica of a firearm, CO2 propellant firearm device or other device that is substantially similar in coloration and overall appearance to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to perceive that the device is a firearm.”

“What we are seeing are students bringing imitation guns to schools, guns that already look like a real weapon or where students had removed the orange tips to make them look real,” said Sheriff Whittington. “That can create a very fearful and serious threat at school, causing commotion, undue stress and a disruption in the learning environment.”

A recent case at a Bossier Parish school involved a student who brought two “guns” to school, which prompted a lockdown and plenty of law enforcement officers on campus.

“Fortunately, in that case, our school resource officer was on top the situation quickly and diffused what could have had a different outcome,” said Sheriff Whittington. “If a young person points a gun at one of our deputies, even if it’s a fake gun that looks real, the scene becomes a perceived actual threat, and we will do what it takes to protect ourselves, other students and teachers. This is serious business; this is not child’s play.

“What we are asking parents to do is encourage their children from bringing any imitation weapon to school or school event so we avoid situations like that in the first place.”

Lt. Adam Johnson of the Bossier Sheriff’s Office serves as the director of security for Bossier Parish Schools, and the issue of firearms, whether fake or real, is something he and all SROs take very seriously.

“We know young people see a lot of things on television or video games with weapons, but in the real world, there is no “pause,” “rewind” or “redo.” Some students take these imitation weapons to school that look very identical to firearms just like the one I’m carrying,” Johnson said. He said sometimes students will even run from deputies when they are confronted about having a firearm on them, which makes the situation even more tense.

“Whether at school or an after-school event, deputies will approach students to investigate, and sometimes they run away carrying the weapon in their hands,” he said. “You can imagine the split second decision an officer must make when they see a weapon pointed in their direction.”

Johnson said another incident involved a person who videoed himself pointing an imitation firearm into a mirror and posted the action on social media.

“He’s actually inside a school building doing this. It looks like a real weapon,” he said. Social media then can escalate the undue fear or concern, and deputies will investigate to alleviate such fear and take appropriate criminal action.

Sheriff Whittington and Lt. Johnson worked closely with the Bossier Parish Police Jury and parish attorney Patrick Jackson in the creation of this ordinance, something Jackson calls a plugging on “a hole in the law,” since imitation firearms were not specifically addressed. Now they are.Imitation firearms are described as “any BB device, toy gun, replica of a firearm, CO2 propellant firearm device or other device that is substantially similar in coloration and overall appearance to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to perceive that the device is a firearm.”

Nothing in the current law prohibits carrying imitation firearms or weapons onto school grounds.

Bossier Parish Deputy Sheriff Adam Johnson, who serves as director of security for parish schools, told jurors that his officers have had issues over the past few years involving imitation firearms.

“A lot of young people have been making poor decisions. They see a lot of things on television...they take these weapons that look very identical to firearms just like the one I’m carrying,” Adams said.

Some incidents involving imitation firearms have been reported locally, Adams said. When law enforcement officers learned someone was carrying what looked like a firearm on campus, they responded with caution.

“When law enforcement approached the individuals, these individuals took the imitation firearms away from their body and began running,” he said. “You can imagine the split second decision an officer must make when they see a weapon pointed in their direction.”

Adams said another incident involved a person who videoed himself pointing an imitation firearm into a mirror and posted the action on social media.

“He’s actually inside a school building doing this. It looks like a real weapon,” he said.

Students who bring an imitation weapon onto school grounds kick off a series of events that disrupt the school schedule, Adams told the jury members.

“We’re going into lock-down procedures, parents will be notified...there will be a lot of explaining to do,” he said. “We need something with teeth in this parish to get to these kids. We’ve authored an ordinance to meet our needs.”

Parish Attorney Patrick Jackson said the ordinance would do what was intended.

“We worked with the sheriff’s counsel and we’re comfortable with it,” Jackson said. “Our concern was we didn’t want anyone to think the jury or the parish was anti second amendment and this has nothing to do with that. It has only to do with kids taking fake guns to school. This gives (the schools) something.”