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Teen With Air Rifle Incident Sparks Reader Comments

Some think police overreacted, others declare it was the right move. Here's what everyone had to say about the Christmas incident on Route 31.

The police response to a teen walking on Route 31 Christmas Day with an Airsoft rifle elicited strong reactions from Patch readers.

Some residents thought charges against the teen would be excessive; others thought the response was appropriate following the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. In the days following the shooting, schools reassured parents that their children's safety was an ongoing priority for them.

At about 11:35 a.m. on Dec. 25, Geneva police began to receive calls about a male of an undetermined age that was near First and Stevens streets with a firearm. Police caught up to the 15-year-old boy and took him into custody. His gun was determined to be an Airsoft rifle. The Airsoft guns shoot plastic BBs and other projectiles, but are designed to look like real firearms.

In 2008, National Public Radio broadcast a story about Airsoft guns and how police have fatally shot boys who were out in public after their realistic toy guns were mistaken for actual guns.

Geneva Police Commander Julie Nash told the Chicago Tribune that the St. Louis-area teen, who was in town visiting family, would likely be charged with disorderly conduct.

Here are some of the comments readers left on the original story:

Koshka: What did he do that was illegal?

mcf: Who In Their Right Mind Would Walk In Publc With ANY Type Of Weapon These Days... Let Alone Crouch Behind A Vehicle?? And Think Its Ok??..... Someone Looking For Attention.....Thats Who!!!! ENFORCE THE STRICTEST OF PENALTIES!!!!

Big Dave: Koshka...I don't know...maybe crouching behind a vehicle with what appeared as a rifle could be construed as illegal or wrong. You do realize that seems a tad odd...right?

Martha Hanna: I don't think you can shoot a BB gun in a public park. Thank god someone saw the kid and called the cops. Illegal or not, something like this should be addressed and I am glad the neighbors reported it to the police.

TV: My guess - kid is visiting relatives in Geneva. Kid gets Airsoft gun for Christmas and goes outside to play with it. In a more sane age, the police would've told him not to shoot it in the park and sent him home

Pam: He was wearing camo and hiding. That alone is cause for suspicion. How do you know he didn't pose any danger? And they arrested him for disorderly conduct. So he broke the law.

Tom Brown: Pam: Got to agree with TV here. I don't see anything like disorderly conduct here, especially from a kid who's visiting from another part of the country where guns and hunting are more common....Again, unless there is A LOT MORE to this story.

Pam: While carrying what people thought was a rifle and hiding behind cars.
You wouldn't report that? He must have been shooting it because they arrested him. He was acting suspicous and he broke the law. The police did their job and arrested him. Don't know why that upsets you. People get arrested everyday for far less offenses.

Chad Baker: Whatever happen to giving the kid a warning and taking him home to his parents. Do we really need to spend our limited tax dollars and resources to prosecute this? Also, why screw up the kids life because the kid got a BB gun for Christmas. What happen to the common sense of individual decisions rather than zero tolerance for everything!

Steve Todd: Seriously ridiculous, let the kid play...these are TOYS!

Koshka: Pam thinks dressing a certain and acting suspicious is illegal. Ok. I have seen some guys in suits and ties working in banks who have been doing some really suspicious things who definitely should be arrested on that basis.

TV: Agreed. Just too bad he has to get a lawyer and we have to pay to try to prosecute a kid with a plastic toy. Neighbors: Good for you for calling - it looked suspicious Police: Good for showing up and assessing the situation As for the arrest, seems a little ridiculous to me.

For the full 47-comment thread, see the original story: Teen With Gun Near Park To Be Charged

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Star December 30, 2012 at 02:16 PM
From what I recall of air rifles as a kid in the '70's-it was illegal to shoot them within city limits, not illegal to own one or carry it out in the open. Camo is the male "uniform" for most states south of I-80, so no problem there. The fact that he had an air rifle specifically designed to look like a gun is a little more concerning. If that was a request and not just a coincidence, at the very least he shows poor taste and a desire to scare the bejebus out of someone. That is still not criminal, and it is pretty normal for a boy his age, but it leads you to wonder about how healthy his mind-set is right now. If you add to that the fact that he was carrying this rifle out of doors, in camo, with it looking like a real gun, and crouching behind cars and generally acting suspicious - it could still just be "boy" play, or it could be more. The police are the ones to sort that out. You cannot make the assumption that the gun is fake or unloaded. So far he has done nothing illegal, at least under the laws of 1970's air rifle ownership. So, charges? Well, any time the police are called out they will want to charge you with something. It's one of the many ways they pay for their jobs other than your taxes. Was he disturbing the peace? The fact that they got more than one call would indicate that yes, he was. People were so disturbed that they called the police, therefore he disturbed the peace. He and his parents should own that consequence to his actions.

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