EAST ORANGE, NJ — Toy guns have been in the news recently, both nationally and locally. On Monday, Jan. 11, a grand jury in Cleveland, Ohio, declined to indict the white police officers who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on Nov. 22, 2014, after officers responded to reports of guns and possible gunplay outside a recreation center.
Although Rice only had a realistic-looking toy gun, he was shot and killed by Timothy Loehmann, 26, a rookie police officer who had responded to the scene with his partner, veteran Officer Frank Garmback, 46.
The grand jury decision was the second time prosecutors failed to get any criminal charges against the pair to stick. Last year, after a seven-month internal investigation, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty declined to indict either of the officers based on evidence from the Cleveland Police Department. The matter was then referred to a grand jury for consideration.
Ohio is an open-carry state, meaning licensed gun owners are allowed to carry their weapons openly in public.
City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green said he doesn’t want a similar incident to occur in East Orange, which is why he sponsored Ordinance No. 41-2015 last year, asking city stores and merchants not to sell realistic-looking toy guns to school age children.
The Council majority approved the ordinance on second reading Monday, Aug. 10, and on Jan.1, at the council’s annual reorganization meeting, Green thanked Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver for supporting the local legislation he had sponsored and taking the fight to the state level.
“We passed an ordinance in 2015 … asking any store in the city that sells toy guns that look like real guns not to sell them to our kids, because our young men are getting into trouble or getting shot for having them,” Green said Friday, Jan. 1. “I thank my City Council. I want to thank Sheila Oliver because, on the state level, as our assemblywoman, she and her colleagues are working on legislation to get these toy guns that look like real guns out of these stores.”
Green said East Orange is once again leading the way in taking on an issue that affects much of the state, so much so that other communities are now also considering some form of the toy gun legislation approved last year by its City Council.
“It’s not only us,” Green said on Friday, Jan. 1. “Thank you very much, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, for your support.”
According to Green, the ordinance was the result of conversations with Mayor Lester Taylor, Board of Education President Bergson Leneus, the East Orange Police Department and others during annual Climax and Culture meeting in 2015.
Green said, “There were several incidents last year here in the city of East Orange and in our schools where kids were bringing toy guns to school,” just as Rice had taken his toy gun to a public recreation center.
“They were primarily getting the guns from local corner stores and, when we investigated and looked at some of the kinds of guns that they sell, some of them really looked like real guns,” Green said Thursday, Aug. 27.
“What we wanted to do was put some language in to go to some of these stores and monitor them and let them know that we want the stores to be here and do business in the community, but they need to do something about these realistic-looking guns.
“Some of the guns are causing crime on the streets and incidents in our schools, where our young people are bringing them to school.
“They might think they’re harmless toys, but if a security guard or cop sees it in their pocket or bookbag, we could have the same incident that has happened in other municipalities, where someone gets killed.”