What should a police officer do when a teenager reaches for a gun in his pocket?
The answer is particularly controversial in light of recent events between police and community members, but in this case, the gun isn’t actually a gun – it’s an iPhone.
An iPhone case which looks nearly identical to a semi-automatic pistol when tucked into a pocket is being sold by online vendors. Wackydot.com, which sells the case, describes it as a “sexy pistol protective shell for iPhone 6 with unlimited times to pull the trigger.”
Critics say that the cases could be taken as the real deal by law enforcement and that potentially deadly encounters could take place.
According to a report by CNN Money, police officers aren’t happy.
Al Della Fave, a retired New Jersey state trooper and firearms instructor echoed these concerns.
“Most kids carry their cell phone in their back pocket, and if someone reaches for it, in my mind they’re reaching for a gun.”
In addition to the danger of a violent confrontation, those carrying gun-shaped iPhone cases run the risk of being mistakenly accused of violating open-carry laws. Six states prohibit openly carrying a weapon in public, according to a map posted by the Wall Street Journal, while another 13 states allow require a special permit or license to carry.
Several police precincts took to social media to warn residents about the cases, describing them as “dangerous” and a “terrible idea.”
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey added to the backlash in a Facebook post.
“A police officers job is hard enough, without having to make a split second decision in the dark of night when someone decides to pull this [case] out while stopped for a motor vehicle violation.”
Mr. Fave, who acts a spokesman for the Ocean County office, told Philly.com “it’s just an accident waiting to happen.”
Al.com, an online media outlet based in Alabama, asked several law enforcement officials in Birmingham, Ala. what they thought of the gun-shaped cases.
Detective Sergeant Michael Mangina described it this way:
“This is the most stupid and ridiculous thing I’ve seen in a while. In the pocket, it looks like a real gun and it’s going to draw attention and possibly get you shot. Just think of the commotion it’s going to cause if you walk into Wal-Mart with that hanging out of your pocket. I have read on the Internet and received officer alerts on real guns that are hidden in cell phones and cell phone cases. This is stupid and very dangerous.”
For anyone looking for a unique iPhone case, there are plenty of other options. Etsy.com, an online retailer, has hundreds of handmade iPhone cases to choose from and Pinterest.com features cases shaped like crayon boxes and paint palettes – much less cool, some might argue, but undoubtedly far safer.