Fake Guns Create Real Problems

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Realistic but non-functional guns are perfectly legal for anyone to own. Either replica firearms or air-powered guns like airsoft weapons aren’t controlled in any way. Why should they be? They’re clearly not firearms–and if you’re someone who thinks firearms are too tightly regulated, how can you support controls on non-guns?

But we have to also acknowledge that these “guns” create issues.

Air rifles, BB guns and pellet guns are not considered firearms under Iowa law but sometimes have been used to commit crimes and mistaken as such by law enforcement officers.

Nonpowder guns use air pressure, carbon dioxide pressure or spring action — and not gunpowder — to launch projectiles.

“In addition to the dangers that can occur when nonpowder guns are fired, both nonpowder and toy guns can be dangerous because they may be mistaken for firearms — which can create confusion for law enforcement, and in some cases, lead to tragic results,” according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

I don’t usually agree with Giffords, but they’re not wrong on this one.

People have been shot and killed by police after law enforcement believed these replica weapons were real firearms, and that’s can be an absolute tragedy.

But, on the same token, I don’t have any sympathy for the people who do so for the most part.

See, one of the things we need folks to understand is that if it looks like a gun and you point it like a gun, you don’t get to be upset if it’s treated like a gun. It’s the epitome of “f*** around and find out,” if you think about it.

While the story goes on to point out all these “unarmed” people who have been shot by police, I’m not moved. After all, they wanted people to believe the guns were real in most cases, so they can’t be too upset that police did just that.

However, there may need to be some need to address the issue, for officers’ mental health–it must be difficult to shoot someone only to find out it was a realistic toy–if for no other reason. Yet that may in how we look at these “weapons.”

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said that when individuals use these types of guns to commit crimes, there can be “no penalty or very small penalties.”

“If I go into a convenience store with a real gun and hold it up, I’m going to have fairly severe penalties,” Bolkcom said. “If I go into a convenience store and hold up an air rifle, the penalties aren’t as strict. If you’re working at a convenience store, you can’t tell the difference between the two because they look real.”

It seems that robberies with these types of guns aren’t treated as armed robberies because it’s fake. It would seem to me that changing the law so that the appearance and threat of deadly force being used would solve much of the issue.

After all, why carry a fake gun when you’re not going to get off any easier?

If people start facing that reality, then maybe they’ll leave them at home and it’ll become a non-issue for everyone.