After responding to three calls about separate incidents of shots being fired on Sunday, Steubenville police may well have been a bit on edge when they dealt with a fourth complaint. Fortunately for the juvenile involved, officers handled the situation well.
Police received calls at 10 a.m., 12:24 p.m. and 2:48 p.m. about gunfire in various neighborhoods of Steubenville. No arrests were made.
Then, at about 4:40 p.m., another call came in. This one was from someone who had seen a juvenile carrying a handgun.
A police officer spotted the boy, stopped him - and found he was carrying a BB gun that resembled a more deadly firearm. The gun was confiscated and the juvenile was taken to a relative's home.
Steubenville police deal with plenty of situations involving real firearms. They are well aware that they must be ready for confrontations in which they have just split-seconds to determine whether an adversary is preparing to shoot at them.
So forcing police to deal with juveniles carrying toy or pellet guns that appear to be the real thing is unfair to the officers.
It also can be fatal to those carrying such guns. There have been reports of law enforcement officers in other areas who, genuinely in fear for their own lives, shot people carrying toy or pellet guns.
We've warned in the past against allowing juveniles to carry "toys" that look too much like the real thing. Enjoying them in private, perhaps for target practice in a secluded field, is one thing. Walking down the street with one in a town where shooting incidents are not uncommon is a more dangerous matter.
Again: Juveniles sometimes don't think about the potential consequences of their actions. That means adults must do so. And when it comes to toy or pellet guns that look like real firearms, it means not allowing juveniles to carry them in public.