So, yes, it can be hard to tell a fake gun from a real one. And, yes, it’s good to have laws that make it easier for police officers to immediately distinguish replica guns from real ones. But that doesn’t mean that the police are blameless in situations like these. Beck has good reason to criticize the fake-gun industry, not least because doing so helps deflect criticism of his own officers. LAPD officials claim that the officers issued multiple orders to drop the gun before opening fire. Nicholson, his friend, and another witness dispute this, saying that the officer fired immediately after yelling “Freeze.”

Whatever actually happened, the police establishment is defending the officer’s decision to shoot. “We train these officers to make split-second, life-or-death decisions,” the president of the Los Angeles Police Commission told the Times. “When they have a gun pointed at them, there is no time to think, ‘Is that real or a toy? Is the guy 15 or is he 25?’ ”