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Mayor seeks to ban unmarked replica handguns

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Monday proposed banning unmarked replica handguns in public places, a measure that comes as city officials seek to prevent toys from being confused with actual firearms.

Police say such confusion can be dangerous in tense situations, and they have been seeking to keep fake guns off the streets. So far this year, police have recovered about 100 replica handguns in connection to crimes. In 2014, Boston police recovered about 250.

"We've seen too many violent incidents this year, and we will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of Boston residents and visitors," Walsh said in a prepared statement. "This ordinance will send a strong message — that guns of all kinds, including imitation firearms, make our community dangerous."


If approved by the City Council, the proposed ordinance from Walsh would allow Boston police to confiscate "replica handguns that are not clearly labeled in public spaces," according to a statement from Walsh's office.

The owner would be required to pick up the replica handgun from the district station, and youths under 18 would need a parent or guardian to pick up a fake firearm.

In July, Boston police chased four boys through a South Boston playground after seeing them with a handgun police thought was real. The incident ended without injury, but Police Commissioner William B. Evans said the next day that the episode could have been a "tragedy."

"We all too often encounter young people who are carrying these fake guns, and even though they are fake, the public and police don't know they are," Evans said in a statement Monday.

Also last month, Brockton police fatally shot 45-year-old Douglas Buckley when he allegedly pointed a BB gun at officers as they yelled for him to drop it. Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz said Buckley's rifle and handgun "closely resemble authentic guns."


State Representative Dan Cullinane, a Dorchester Democrat, said in a statement distributed by Walsh that replica handguns are a public safety issue in Boston. He said he looks forward to working with officials to make "meaningful changes in both the city and the Commonwealth."

"It is unnecessary and irresponsible for manufacturers to make recreational or toy imitation firearms which by sight cannot be differentiated from a real gun," he said. "No one, especially a police officer who has the burden of making a split-second decision, should ever have to guess if a gun is real."

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.