Don’t toy with guns, real or fake

Published 12:41 am Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Last week Project NOLA cameras in the Holiday Apartments captured footage of some young men pointing what appeared to be guns at people in the complex.

Natchez Police officers and Adams County Sheriff’s Office deputies said they had heard complaints from people in the complex for weeks about the behavior, so sheriff Travis Patten and some of his deputies started combing through video surveillance footage.

There it was, in video footage captured on a Monday afternoon, Patten said, evidence of young men pointing guns at people in the complex.

Email newsletter signup

Patten said he shared the video footage with Natchez Police Chief Walter Armstrong.

The video footage starts off with a young man coming out of an apartment and pointing a gun at someone across the courtyard.

Then another guy walks out and points a gun at someone in a second-story window across the courtyard before darting off screen as another man comes to the window, leans out of the window and points a gun in the direction of the other men.

In a couple of instances a couple of the young men appear to have fired the guns, but since the video footage has no sound, it is difficult to discern if shots were actually fired, Armstrong said.

Regardless, no one was hurt in the incident.

A few days after Patten and his colleagues found the video footage, a person at Project NOLA headquarters in New Orleans happened to catch a similar incident happening live on Thursday afternoon at the complex and called Natchez police to alert them so they could check it out.

Officers arrived on the scene and learned from talking to people in the complex that the guns were actually toy guns and the two young men had just been playing with the guns.

It is something that many young men have done. What little boy did not play cops and robbers or army or cowboys with toy guns when they were younger?

Granted, however, most people are no longer playing with toy guns by the time they are 17 years old. Nonetheless, the toy gunplay seems to have been innocent enough, despite that it apparently alarmed some neighbors enough to call the police.

Law enforcement officials said the fake guns look like real guns — a fact that makes the whole incident even more concerning.

When Natchez Police officers responded to the scene, their training kicked in and fortunately no one was injured.

If anyone with a real gun, police officer or otherwise, had seen one of the young men aiming a realistic-looking fake gun in the direction of another person, they could have thought it was real and would have been justified in using their weapon to shoot the person aiming the fake gun.

We won’t even debate whether such realistic-looking fake guns should even be available on the market, but why would anyone want to possess one of those fake guns?

The first rule of handgun use for personal protection is never pull your weapon unless you are going to use it. Guns should never be used for intimidation. Thankfully, the young men in Holiday Apartments learned that lesson when the law enforcement officers confiscated their realistic-looking fake guns.

The story turned out to have a happy ending but it could have been much worse.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or