Just two guys with toy rifles walking along the Katy Trail Tuesday evening
In Dallas, where people are free to walk into fast-food restaurants and down neighborhood streets toting rifles, it’s against the law to carry a fake gun. It has been since the spring of 2007.
Yet the two men seen carrying “toy rifles” along the Katy Trail earlier this week were not cited or fined. Dallas police said that after a brief manhunt involving around a dozen officers, the result of several calls to 911, the two men were spotted, talked to and released once it was determined they were not actual guns.
Turns out that’s not unusual.
During the first 16 months of its existence, zero citations were issued. The number has picked up only slightly in recent years: According to the Dallas City Attorney’s Office, 15 citations have been written for violations of the replica-firearm ordinance in the last five years.
Out of those, says First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers, two people paid the fine, and three received deferred disposition — probation, in other words. Bowers says one person fulfilled the terms of the agreement; two did not.
The other 10 ticketed never responded to the citation.
“Of the 10 who did not respond,” Bower says via email, “7 have warrants, 1 does not (reason unknown), and 2 were juveniles (can’t issue warrant).”
If they had been real long guns, of course, there would have been no question: legal. But since May 2007 the Dallas City Code has said you cannot display or brandish a “replica firearm” in “any public place” — especially if someone might “reasonably believe that the replica rifle is actually an operable firearm” or “fear imminent bodily injury” from said firearm. To do so will result in a fine of no less than $500. That comes from Ordinance 26761, written by then-Dallas City Attorney Tom Perkins and approved by the Dallas City Council in May 2007 following 13 months of closed-door discussions concerning what would become one of the most restrictive toy-gun bans in the nation.
That ordinance is below for those who have forgotten about its existence.
The council passed the fake-gun ordinance years before Open Carriers started taking their guns to Target and Chipotle, and it was intended to keep police officers from killing children carrying toys that looked real. But at the time, then-Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, who was on the Public Safety Committee, said it was “unenforceable and … simply symbolic.” For the most part, she was right.
Former council member Dwaine Caraway, who was elected just before the ordinance was approved and who began a gun buyback program in 2009, says that “I’d like to go back to the cowboy days: When you come to town, you hang your guns up. It worked.” Caraway says he owns four guns, and that “people should be protected in their homes, and hunters should be allowed to hunt.” But, he says, that’s where he draws the line.
Says the council member now running for Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price’s seat, “People don’t want to have to find out if your gun’s real or fake.”