Spokane's Police Chief Is Really Worried About Armed Robber Job Safety

Spokane's Police Chief Is Really Worried About Armed Robber Job Safety
Three of these pistols are real. Three are airsoft guns. Can you tell them apart?
Three of these pistols are real. Three are airsoft guns. Can you tell them apart?
Three of these pistols are real. Three are airsoft guns. Could you tell which one is real and which one is fake in the hands of a criminal attempting to rob you? Photo by Dan Pelle, Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington Police Chief Frank Straub is concerned that criminals who used realistic airsoft guns in the commission of crimes might get shot by homeowners, concealed carriers, business owners, or police when they didn’t really pose a threat.


The gun in Stephen Corkery’s hand when he allegedly robbed several Spokane businesses and walked into a fatal standoff on West Grace Avenue in March was fake, investigators say.

The alleged crimes, and the consequences, were very real.

Local law enforcement have responded to at least a dozen calls since the start of the year involving people armed with a gun that officers and bystanders believed was authentic, but turned out to be a realistic-looking replica. Two of those encounters, including Corkery’s, have ended with fatalities.

“What do you do?” Spokane police Chief Frank Straub said. “You can’t call a timeout and say, ‘Excuse me, is that real?'”

Many more incidents, including an hourslong standoff with a suicidal man downtown last month, ended peacefully, and police identified the guns involved as replicas. But Straub and others worry the rising number of would-be criminals threatening civilians with fake firearms could lead to an even greater number of tragedies.

“My fear is, sooner or later someone’s going to walk into a store to do a robbery, only to be confronted by a store owner, or a property owner, who has a real gun,” Straub said.

Perhaps I’m being a bit callous, but I fail to see a problem.

If criminals are using weapons (real or fake) to threaten deadly force against their fellow citizens, then those citizens being threatened have the right to use deadly force against the criminals. It doesn’t matter in the slightest if the threatened citizen is a shopkeeper, homeowner, cop, or concealed carrier. If you point a realistic-looking firearm at another human being during the commission of a crime, expect unpleasantness to follow.

I’m frankly puzzled at Chief Straub’s seeming concern over the health of criminals using what appears to be a credible threat of death against their fellow citizens. I’d be far more concerned about the psychological well-being of those who rightfully defended their own lives in a lethal threat situation, and the possibility of injuries to those downrange. The welfare of the instigators of armed robberies very low on my list of concerns.

I was at a defensive handgun course this past Saturday that had a force-on-force component in the afternoon that featured the use of realistic blow-back gas airsoft pistols that fired pellets in the 300 feet-per-second range. The trainers took pains to paint the frames of these very realistic guns blue  (closely matching “blue guns“) so that they could not get confused with real Glock 17s that were the same size and weight and which function in the same manner. Trainees were instructed that even though we were on a firing range, they should drop these pistols to the ground immediately if a law enforcement officer showed up for any reason.

Many modern airsoft guns are hyper-realistic training tools, and are nothing at all like the cap guns and toys of our childhoods. They can match real firearms in almost every single aspect of weapon handing.

I can understand Chief Straub worrying about people being robbed with these replica firearms, which are much easier to get than real firearms. They don’t require a background check, and cost much less than real firearms.

I can understand Chief Straub worrying about people playing with realistic airsoft replicas alarming the citizenry and law enforcement who have an understandably hard time telling real guns from replicas, which contributed to the death of a drugged-up California teen at the hands of a Sonoma County, California deputy last year when he turned and raised an AKM replica at the deputy after being ordered to drop it.

I can even understand how Chief Straub could worry about those individuals who use these replicas to commit “suicide by cop,” and the stress this places on law enforcement officers.

But I don’t understand the undue concern for the lives of armed robbers injured or killed as they commit their crimes. Armed robbers must be treated as a lethal force threat by both law enforcement and the rest of the general population, without exception.