When I was a kid, I remember my police officer father sitting me down to talk. He wanted me to make sure that I knew not to ever point a toy gun at a police officer.

Now, I’d been raised with the Four Rules applied to my toy guns from the getgo, so there was no risk of that, but then Dad told me about how some kids were doing that, and the police didn’t know these guns weren’t real and the kids were getting shot. I remember feeling stunned that kids my age were getting shot, especially because the police couldn’t tell the difference between the toys and real firearms. Then again, I couldn’t really fathom kids with toy guns not having fathers teach them the Four Rules with those toys, so there was that.

However, the U.S. Concealed Carry Association has some thoughts related to that long ago day, despite rules being in place to prevent those incidents.

Over the last few years, underage youths have been increasingly caught carrying fake or replica firearms. Many of these can be made to look amazingly real by merely spraying the (government-mandated) orange barrel with some black paint. Not even a firearms expert could tell the difference at typical self-defense distances.

But there is also an even uglier flipside. Some hard-core gang members and drug dealers have begun taking REAL guns and spray painting the muzzles with bright orange (“Day-Glo”) paint. I’ve seen photos of whole banquet-sized tables strewn with such guns. Diabolical.

In an actual case relayed to me by one of my law enforcement friends, the officer who encountered one of these doctored guns admitted that seeing the orange-tipped gun caused him to hesitate for just a second. That was enough. The gang-banger fired first, hitting the cop in the leg and hand. The officer’s partner returned fire, killing the attacker.

True, cops will be far more likely to confront either of these scenarios than the average civilian, but it certainly could happen. However, while cops are given a great deal of leeway in the use of force, you and I will be scrutinized much more closely. And the unfortunate reality is that we could face either a real gun made to look fake, or a fake gun made to look real. Neither prospect is appetizing.

Undoubtedly, some will point to Snopes or some other fact check site that will claim that no, this painting of guns doesn’t really happen, that it was all part of a satirical article that people took seriously.

Of course, you have but to look at some of the guns here to know that while that might have been the case at the time, some folks thought it was a hell of an idea. It does happen, though it does appear to be pretty rare, despite the aforementioned banquet table.

This puts anyone in a bit of a conundrum. Do you simply assume anything pointing at you is a firearm, regardless of coloring? Or, do you take a second and risk being shot?

Couple this with BB and pellet guns that sure do look awfully real from the start, and it can create a very real problem, even for those of us who aren’t law enforcement.

The most annoying thing in all of this is the fact that I don’t have a potential solution to offer. USCCA says to keep a good lawyer on standby, and that might sound self-serving considering they’re in the business of selling insurance for situations like that, but I have to say that I agree. However, I do think this is something that warrants discussion by the firearm community until best practices can be hammered out.

Then again, will it matter if none of us ever see this?