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OpinionColumnistsChristopher Leelum

Cellphone gun case is a public hazard

A cellphone case shaped like a gun.

A cellphone case shaped like a gun. Photo Credit: Twitter/NYPD

If you're one of those people who wishes others would disappear during your phone call, there's a new product just for you: a pistol-shaped iPhone case. But if you're in the majority of people who would rather not make everyone around you fear for their lives whenever you check for a Tinder update, you know this is on a new level of dumb ideas.

A worried NYPD recently tweeted out pictures of a woman's shorts stuffed with what looks like a very real weapon. But it's the gun-shaped iPhone case.

Sen. Charles Schumer has gone further to call for a ban on the product, and Amazon and eBay have wisely promised to remove listings for the cases.

But they already have a budding worldwide market, with demand in Chile, France and Russia. One Chinese manufacturer selling on Ali Express, an online marketer connected to Alibaba, has said that delivery of the $6 cases to retailers has slowed because of high demand.

As recently as last November, we were reminded of the dangers that replica guns can pose. Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when he was shot and killed by police in Cleveland who mistook his toy gun for a real one.

It may sound comical, but it is easy to see a situation in which someone with this cellphone case takes a call in a store and ends up being dropped by a bystander while the police are called. And how would you blame the bystander?

It's a danger. New York allows the sale of toy guns only if they have a clearly colored orange tip on the barrel. The manufacturers -- including those in China who live in a culture where illegal handguns are not a problem -- could easily attach an orange plug to the gun case and step around a legal penalty.

But unless laws on toy guns are updated to include cellphone cases, it's up to consumers to play defense -- just don't buy them.

Christopher Leelum, a student at Stony Brook University, is an intern with Newsday and amNewYork.