It happens far too regularly. A kid with a toy gun–something like an airsoft gun or a pellet gun–gets mistake for a kid with a real gun. The police shoot, thinking their life is in danger. Immediately, there is outcry and blame thrown at the police. “How could trained professionals not know the difference between a gun and a toy?” people ask.
Recently, an incident in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin has the media asking that same question, but this time, they’re actually looking for answers.
Police said the student at Waukesha South High School who was shot by a police officer during a confrontation on Monday had two pellet guns at school.
Police also said the officers couldn’t tell the difference between those and a real gun. A firearms instructor who spoke with WISN 12 News on Wednesday agreed.
“It’s very close. You have the curved trigger guard,” said Adam Campbell, a National Rifle Association certified handgun instructor.
At Brew City Shooters Supply, WISN 12 News showed Campbell a photo of the pellet gun that police said was held by the student Monday to see if Campbell could tell the difference between what the student had and a real handgun.
“If you saw this and somebody holding it?” WISN 12 News reporter Terry Sater asked.
“Gun. I’d think it was a gun,” Campbell said.
This shouldn’t really be groundbreaking news, either. After all, we already know that criminals who can’t get their hands on a real gun aren’t above using air guns to commit crimes. The reason is that in the moment, it’s incredibly difficult to determine if it’s a real gun or not. Anything pointing at you tends to look like a .50 caliber barrel, even if it’s only 6mm.
When you’re having to make a split-second decision, you don’t have time to pull out the calipers and can the inner diameter of the barrel or look to see if the orange tip has been painted over. No, you have to react and that means treating it like a real gun.
Sometimes, that means people with toy guns get shot.
I want to feel bad for these people, I really do. The problem is, this is a prime example of “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” Pretty much everyone should have learned by now that these air guns look awfully realistic and that plenty of people have died because of that mistake. Messing around with these realistic weapons and pointing them at police officers or even other people is all but asking to get lit up.
Of course, some think this requires new legislation, but I disagree. What we need is to start raising our kids to know better than to pull stupid stuff like this. We also need to smack down anyone trying to blame the police for incidents like this when it’s clearly the dipstick who brought a toy to a gun fight’s fault.
Honestly, this is a lesson that we need to impart on people early and often. Maybe even add it to a gun curriculum in public schools.
Just a thought.