Police departments around the U.S. have noticed an “uptick” in the number of people who are using toys, BB guns, and/or replica guns in place of real ones to commit crimes.
The increase in the use of such guns is not a strictly American phenomenon; Canada saw a “38 percent increase” in the use of such guns in 2015 alone.
According to NBC Los Angeles, in cities like Arlington, Texas, the criminal use of fake guns surged “20 percent” between March and August. “Suspects are increasingly using lookalike guns [in Arlington], including an incident earlier this year in which a man carjacked a woman using an air gun that resembled a real pistol, and another case involving a teen who threatened an officer with a replica gun.” In the latter example, the officer was able to disarm the teen without shooting him, but that is not always the case.
For example, on September 14, police in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed 13-year-old Tyre King after he “pulled a gun from his waistband.” The weapon turned out to be a BB gun, but officers facing the boy did not know the gun was less-than-lethal until the incident ended.
The Columbus Police Department said the BB gun King pulled was “practically identical” to the one police officers carry.
University of South Carolina criminal justice Professor Geoffrey Alpert said the problem is that criminals–and people who emulate them–have formed the habit of getting guns that look authentic if they cannot afford the real thing or are too young to get their hands on a real gun. Alpert said, “If I can’t go get a real gun, it’s easier for me to waltz into Wal-Mart or whatever store sells these things and go get a replica. Because if I go to a store to hold it up, the guy behind the counter isn’t going to know it’s not real.”
Police Captain Richard London of Allentown, Pennsylvania, lamented the deaths of people using fake guns, saying, “It’s horrible, it’s horrible, when these kids are displaying these firearms and a life is lost, and after the fact it turns out it’s not real.” But he also noted that police, in the blink of an eye, have to choose to defend their lives based on what appears to be an assault with a deadly weapon.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.