On Tuesday morning, CBS Boston reports, two women were shopping in a Nordstrom department store at a mall in Burlington, Massachusetts, when they saw a guy carrying a novelty umbrella that resembles a samurai sword. They called 911 and reported that a man with a rifle was walking around the mall, whereupon "federal, state, and local police descended on the mall," which was evacuated and closed while police interrogated short white men wearing gray sweatshirts, black pants, and a black backpacks. Eventually the umbrella carrier, recognizing himself from this description, came forward and confessed that he is a total geek, at which point the mall was reopened. According to CBS Boston, Burlington Police Chief Michael Kent "praised the witnesses who saw something and said something," saying, "I would hope that if the exact same thing happened tomorrow that they would do the same thing, as would we." That was too much for Boston talk radio host Michael Graham, who comments:
Please, folks—just stop. Stop making yourselves look even more stupid by defending this stupidity. Just admit that the cops should have investigated the report first, then decided if they needed to unleash the SWAT teams and the helicopters.
Instead, by saying "Damn straight—and we'd do it again!", you've just empowered every attention-seeking nut and prank phone caller to shut down businesses at will. If all it takes is for someone to say they THINK they saw something that LOOKED like a rifle to shut down streets and close businesses, then we're all hostages to the dopiest person with a phone.
Worse, Burlington police Lt. Glen Mills suggested that the problem is not panicky people who can't tell the difference between a real gun and a pseudo-samurai umbrella but the irresponsible manufacturers and owners of such merchandise. "We live in a free country," Mills said, "and you can't regulate everything, but common sense should tell you something that can easily be mistaken for a weapon shouldn't be sold—and people shouldn't buy it."
Judge for yourself how easily the umbrella could be mistaken for a rifle: