This week, we took a deeper look into a disturbing incident involving a teenager’s arrest after brandishing an airsoft pistol at the Wakefield community centre. We wanted to clear up the confusion about the regulations around these types of air guns and what is considered an appropriate response by police. It’s been a controversial issue, to say the least.
Incidents that involve kids’ problematic, unsupervised use of BB or air guns are not uncommon. A few weeks ago we reported on a pair of teens who were charged by police after threatening some younger kids with a pellet gun outside an elementary school in Cantley. In a Cantley community Facebook discussion group, an outraged woman recently posted a photo she took from her car (faces blurred out) of two young-looking kids in their yard pointing real-looking guns straight at her. One reader let us know about some kids recently using BB guns in Edelweiss to shoot at a Hydro-Quebec worker while working up on a Hydro pole.
Fortunately, no one has gotten hurt so far, but we have to count our lucky stars. Anyone who tunes into the national news knows that if the Wakefield centre incident had happened in downtown Detroit or Toronto, it just might have ended in tragedy.
There are multiple reports of kids getting shot in the U.S. by cops who could not tell a real handgun from an air gun from a distance. In Regina some years back such an incident put a high school under lockdown and a whole SWAT team descended — fortunately no one was hurt. News reports after the Regina incident spoke of how police are put in a really tough place because these guns are so realistic-looking they have no choice but to respond as though a real shooter with a real gun was on campus threatening the lives of kids.
The question is: Why are we letting manufacturers sell ‘toys’ that could get a kid killed?
Shooting off a BB gun in the back forty or some other secluded setting is not so uncommon in these parts and many consider it a fun sport. A replica Beretta, the kind MRC Police said was pulled out by the kid at the Wakefield centre, can be bought at Canadian Tire in Gatineau for between $70 and $200, depending on the version. Often these guns are marketed as ‘toys.’ Most come with an orange tab on the front to signal that they are not a firearm, but it’s common knowledge that these tabs often get pulled off by the users in order to make them look more like the real thing. It’s understandable some people come out of Canadian Tire thinking they’ve bought a ‘toy’ and not grasp all the rules and responsibilities that come with owning an air gun.
Most air guns are not considered a firearm under the criminal code — but the user’s intent will change that. If someone uses an air gun to intimidate, coerce or threaten, then the user can be charged with a firearms offence. And that’s the thing — kids’ intentions can vary from a real desire to intimidate and threaten, to showing off an impressive new toy for kicks.
There is just too much confusion and too little education around these air guns.
Better for everyone: stop manufacturing and selling such replica guns altogether. CBC reports that, as far back as 1994, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has been calling for bans and regulations on such replica weapons. The Trudeau government should take its advice.