Renewed Debate Over Fake Guns

A law that prosecutors and officers first revealed to WOWT Six News Fact Finders last year is back in the limelight. Investigators are pointing to another example of how that law is failing to protect the public.

Mganga Mganga was arrested last week accused of carjacking a woman. He was believed to have had a gun but it turned out to be a toy.

But because an actual gun was not involved, the teenager was charged with robbery but not with any gun crimes.

That frustrates prosecutors and police. The author of a bill to change things says he'd like to attach it to another bill but that it doesn't seem likely now.

In the incident last week, Theo Peters remembers his wife, “hollerin' 'he got a gun, he got a gun.'"

The 17-year-old didn’t get far. He didn’t know how to drive a stick shift and he abandoned the vehicle he was allegedly trying to steal.

Mganga Mganga remains in custody, charged with robbery but not charged for the gun because it was a toy. Nebraska law says you can only charge if it's a real gun and if that gun is found. A separate gun conviction can add five years to the end of a sentence without any chance of getting out early.

But there are a lot of fake guns and toys that can look like the real thing.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said, “Everything appears real and if you're at the other end of this you're not going to challenge it."

Kleine showed us an airsoft gun recently used by a teenager. It’s now in police evidence. By definition in Nebraska, it's not a gun even though investigators see it used to terrorize time and again. It's why he wanted the law changed to include toy guns or airsoft guns used in another crime.

Kleine said, "Somebody's purpose with this is the same is that of a gun. It’s to hold this in your face, give me the car or money to get what they want. They want you to believe there is a gun in play."

The Supreme Court will soon look at the case against Ronney Perry. A jury found him guilty of robbery, breaking into an apartment of a couple watching a movie. The defense wants a new trial because of the gun conviction. Witnesses described a chrome 45 but it was never found. The proposed bill would have covered that.

State Senator Burke Harr, who incidentally lives four blocks from where the carjacking happened last week, said he's disappointed that the legislature ran out of time to get his bill to the floor.

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