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Dave Olson, Published November 16 2010

Moorhead City Council weighs fake gun ordinance

Moorhead City Council members wrestled with a loaded question Monday night: Should the city make it a misdemeanor for someone to carry a fake firearm on their body within city limits?

Police Chief David Ebinger and Clay County Attorney Brian Melton told the council that police officers need such a rule to deal with incidents that can take up officer time and, potentially, someone’s life.

Ebinger cited an incident from this past summer when a group of filmmakers were shooting a movie in a Moorhead park using guns that looked very real.

After families in the park called police, it was determined that no real guns were involved.

One of the filmmakers later posted a note online describing it as an awesome experience.

“It was not an awesome experience for us,” Ebinger said, adding that call tied up three officers and a supervisor for well over an hour, during which time just one officer was available to cover the rest of the city.

Several council members questioned the wording of a draft ordinance that would make it illegal to carry a facsimile weapon on someone’s body anywhere in the city.

They asked Ebinger and Melton if they could accept wording that made it illegal to carry a facsimile weapon in public places, meaning the activity would be OK in private homes.

Ebinger said incidents can arise in homes when it comes to domestic abuse and parties, where, he said, “things can get real stupid real fast.”

But, he said, “half a loaf” was better than nothing and he and Melton agreed such a rule would be helpful to some degree.

Ebinger said under the draft ordinance, facsimile weapons could be allowed in public, say, for the purpose of shooting a movie, as long as authorities receive early warning so they can alert residents in the area.

City Manager Michael Redlinger said based on council comments Monday staff would rework the draft ordinance. He said it’s possible the council could review the ordinance next Monday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555