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HomeIllinois NewsRhoads: In the BB gun tragedy, parents also matter a lot

Rhoads: In the BB gun tragedy, parents also matter a lot



By Mark Rhoads – Tamir Rice

A grand jury declined on Monday to charge white Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann, who fatally shot a 12-year black child Tamir Rice when he was holding a toy pellet gun in 2014. The decision concluded more than a year of investigation into a case that added to national outrage over white officers killing African-Americans.

Within minutes of the news bulletin from the Grand Jury, legal news commentators on MSNBC were speculating that the family of Tamir Rice could bring a wrongful death civil suit against the Cleveland Police Department because the 911 dispatcher did not pass on some speculation by the 911 caller that the gun might be fake. But the caller also said the gun might be real. In all respects, the gun looked real because the child had apparently removed the orange plastic muzzle clip that would indicate it was a toy gun.

The legal analysts said the civil suit could name all sorts of defendants, including Officer Loehman and his partner, the entire police department including the 911 dispatcher, and the toy gun manufacturer.  Absent from such a list of possible culprits, of course, was the mother of the unsupervised child who was playing alone outside waving a gun around.

The death of the Tamir Rice is a horrible tragedy for a mother, of course. But when does a parent take responsibility for Toy gun negligence in supervising a child playing alone in public with a toy gun?  Is there any way that the police officer could have known that the gun was not real even if the 911 dispatcher had relayed the speculation that the gun MIGHT be fake?  The child apparently wanted the gun to look real if he removed the orange plastic clip. An audio tape also shows the officer estimated the age of the boy to be 20 years old and not 12 years old.  

Someone, probably a parent, purchased the toy gun for the boy. Yes, the mother is heartbroken of course, just as any mother of any race would naturally be over the death of her son. But at least some of the blame lies with the Rice family for lack of supervision of their son.

Officer Loehmann was not disciplined by the Cleveland Police Department beyond administrative leave because the department found that he had a "reasonable fear for his life" at the time of the 2014 shooting.

The manufacturer of the BB gun obviously wants the gun to look as real as possible because they realize kids want it to look real. If the entire gun was orange and not black, the selling point would be gone.  

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) recognizes an individual's right to own a firearm,  but that does not guarantee the unlimited right of a toy manufacturer to make toys look like a real gun.


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  1. A law to make all bb guns solid bright orange would not be an unreasonalbe burden on the toy manufacturers and it might help prevent a similar tragedy in the future. Yes a child could still paint a gun black but then it would be crystal clear the intent of the child was to threaten other children.

  2. Stupid, lazy, or uncaring parents raise stupid, uninformed kids who do stupid things.
    Who gave him the toy gun, and what reasoning (if any) was behind it? In a city like Chicago, where gun crimes are rampant, isn’t this a recipe for disaster?

  3. If he was 20 why was he killed in an open carry state for carrying.
    for a cop to say a 4 ft 12 yr old boy looked 20 is utterly ridiculous. Also did the cop explain. why the car pulled over he immediately began to fire? 12 seconds on the scene…bamg bang.
    DId they explain why the didn’t call an ambulance for the 12 year old AFTER they knew his age. Or why they arrested his distraught under age sister too?
    did they explain why they shot to kill a 20year old in an open carry state?
    So nice a nice clean package your present sir… but you know this was a farce of justice.

  4. PS if this had been a 12 year old white boy mistaken for 20 year old in an open carry state and killed you’d be up in arms and protesting the police state vs. the 2nd amendment.
    Where does Amendment 2 say “except blacks”?
    what an incredible hypocrite you are.

  5. I find it fascinating that some on here would state that a parent is responsible for a child playing with a toy gun (which they are) and yet when it comes to education and learning, the blame is all put on the teachers by many conservatives. Don’t parents have a responsibility here too? Are teachers miracle workers?

  6. The amazing pointless demagoguery of no really combined with a dishonest slovenly intellect and inability to read or think clearly leads him to accuse me of “hypocrisy” for things I never said. I only mentioned the race of the child and the officer because it was necessary to understand what the story was about. Parents of a white child who did not supervise their child with a toy gun would also bear partial blame for a tragedy if their child was shot by an officer of any race. Yes of course the Second Amendment protects African-American citizens who wish to carry real guns for self protection but what does that have to do with toy companies marketing dangerous look-a-alike guns that wind up in the hands of children?

  7. I appreciate Mr. Rhoads perspective and appreciate his willingness to take the critics to a higher level.
    Be encouraged, Mr. Rhoads. Follow the Alinsky model and you’ll see that you’ve risen above simply being ignored by trolls like “No really”…

  8. you are a supporter of the police state…. anything that happens to you and your rights under that police state. YOU DESERVE!!!
    Again, you really think this cops excuses are plausible? really?
    a 4ft skinny little “20 year old” .. killed for carrying in an open carry state.
    you know damn well if this was anybody else a than black “man” those officers would of stopped the 20 year old and asked to see his permit to carry…. NOT SHOOT TO KILL.
    why do you protect the police state?

  9. Let’s get this straight. The gun carried by Tamir Rice was not a “toy” gun, not a “BB” bun nor a “Pellet” bun. It was an AirSoft gun, designed with intimate attention to detail as a relatively safe practice weapon for adults. In the absence of a distinctive orange muzzle (which could be hidden or removed, yet resemble an immediate threat to an officer), I defy anyone to distinguish a metal AirSoft 1911 (as carried by Rice) from the real thing. The slide works (and recoils when fired), the grips, grip safety, thumb safety are nearly identical to those of an official Colt pistol.
    The projectiles are plastic spheres, 6 mm in diameter, propelled by CO2 or propane gas. While not life-threatening, they will penetrate a corrugated box through and through, and an aluminum pop can with ease.
    It is not the actual threat that matters, rather the implied threat defined by the manner the gun is displayed. It is irresponsible for parents to allow a minor to possess an AirSoft pistol without direct supervision. More than one adult robber has been relieved of one, often posthumously. Nor is it unknown in beautiful Chiraq, for example, for a 12 year-old to possess and use real firearms. It’s part of the initiation process, by some accounts, for gang membership.

  10. Open carry is one thing, but reaching for a weapon for any reason other than self-defense is a crime. You don’t have to draw, point nor fire for this to be a serious crime. Even placing your hand on the grip constitutes a deadly threat, to which police can respond with deadly force.
    It is not unusual for citizens carrying a visible weapon to be challenged by police, especially where it is legal but uncommon, as in Wisconsin. It almost never results in an arrest, much less a shooting. A gun visible in a holster is not, of itself, a threat.