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Grand Rapids city leaders to vote on proposal that regulates toy guns

If adopted, the city plans on launching an education campaign to inform community about the changes -- making sure parents and youth know the regulations.

The Grand Rapids City Commission may be making some changes to the weapons ordinance in the city. 

According to a news release from the City of Grand Rapids, the commission heard presentations about the proposed ordinance Tuesday morning. A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12 before the city council votes on Nov. 19. 

The proposal would repeal and replace existing measures, and according to Assistant City Attorney Kristen Rewa, the city's current firearms ordinance has only been updated a few times since it went into effect in 1967.

“This modernizes our ordinance to meet our city’s needs and advances our commitment to community and police working together for a safe community,” Rewa said.

RELATED: Grand Rapids Police release picture of BB gun after placing teen in handcuffs

The proposed weapons ordinance would regulate pneumatic guns like BB and paintball guns. It would prohibit the brandishing of them, regulate their discharge and prohibit anyone younger that 16 to possess them without adult supervision. 

The ordinance would also regulate imitation or replica firearms, requiring a blaze orange tip or a transparent or brightly colored body, as well as prohibiting the alteration of an imitation firearm and possession of an altered imitation firearm.

Parents, under the ordinance, would be responsible for their children following new regulations and disposing of weapons in violation of the ordinance. Parents could face a $500 fine, 90 days in jail, or both for ordinance violations. 

RELATED: Banning brandishing of fake guns in public under consideration by Grand Rapids commission

“Pneumatic guns have contributed to public safety concerns in our city,” City Attorney Anita Hitchcock  said in introducing the proposed ordinance. “Pneumatic guns look like real guns – so much so that residents have called 911 believing they have seen real guns and our police officers have responded to what they think are real firearm calls.” 

“The City Commission can take steps to improve public safety and assist with our community policing efforts by updating the current firearms ordinance to regulate pneumatic guns as allowed by state law,” Hitchcock said.

But leaders want to make it clear that they are not looking to confiscate every toy gun.

"We're very sensitive to kids as well so we're not going to stop kids that are playing with guns, this is more focused on people that are using them unsafe, they're brandishing, they're pointing them at people pretending it's a real gun," says Hitchcock.

RELATED: No charges issued for GRPD officer who shot at teen carrying a fake gun

If adopted by the City Commission, City staff will launch an education campaign to inform the community about the changes. This will include making sure parents and their children know about the regulations around BB guns.

“This is about the safety of our community and our officers,” Police Chief Eric Payne said. “Pneumatic guns and imitation firearms create challenges for our officers who in a split second have to determine whether they are real.”

The Grand Rapids Police Department has recovered 1,067 firearms – hand and long guns – and 201 BB, pellet and airsoft guns over the past three years, according to Payne.

“Real or not, they’re on our streets,” Payne said.

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