Fake guns cause confusion for officers

Fake guns cause confusion for officers

NORTH COLLEGE HILL, OH (FOX19) - A mother in North College Hill has handed off her son's airsoft revolver to police, telling them she was worried her son would get hurt with it.

North College Hill Police have seen plenty of fake weapons. This year alone, they say they have confiscated about 20.

But there is nothing illegal about the guns, unless you act with it in a criminal way.

"We have had many cases over the years where people have used them in horse play and someone has called about it or used them in place during a criminal act," said North College Hill Lt. John Ferguson.

Little research has been done on the confusion law enforcement faces when dealing with BB guns or air rifles though.

In 1990, a report commissioned by the U.S. Congress found 186 police departments combined had more than 1,100 incidents where an officer threatened the use of force in a case where a toy gun was used.

And in 252 other incidents, officers actually used force to stop a suspect mistakenly believed to be using a real gun.

"In a split second you have to make a decision if that is a real firearm or is that a replica firearm, is that a real firearm painted orange?" Lt. Ferguson said.

In August, two officers found themselves in this type of situation in a Beavercreek Walmart. John Crawford was shot after police got a call that he was carrying a gun. However, Crawford was only holding a pellet gun he had gotten off the store shelf.

Distinguishing between the guns is a challenge for the officers, but Ferguson says the bigger problem are the people the criminals that use them.

"It's the conduct of the person with the gun that is always the problem. I have never had a gun sit by itself commit any crime."

It is not illegal to own a fake weapon in 25 states, including Ohio.

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