Fake guns can pose deadly danger | VailDaily.com

Fake guns can pose deadly danger

J.K. Perry
NWS Toy Guns BH 5-24

EAGLE COUNTY – Complaints of loud music brought Eagle County Sheriff’s deputy Gianni Robinson to an Edwards home, where he and partner Aaron Veldheer encountered more than thumping bass.An intoxicated man answered the door with a metallic-grey pistol protruding from his waistband. Robinson stepped back, drew his gun and alerted Veldheer.”Gun,” Robinson yelled.The man grabbed the handgun and pulled it out, raising it towards the deputies’ direction, but not pointing it at them, according to a report by Robinson.”It’s only a BB gun,” the man said.

Robinson stripped the gun from the man and secured it. Although the weapon turned out to be a pellet gun, its likeness to a real gun nearly prompted Robinson use deadly force.”Had the muzzle crossed our bodies and pointed toward us, it would have been a fatal shooting,” Robinson said. “It’s a split decision you have to make.”The similarity of life-like toy or pellet guns to real guns makes a police officer’s ability to distinguish between real and fake difficult, and that can put a person pointing a toy or pellet gun at an officer in danger of being shot.”If you pull a gun that looks like a gun, scares like a gun and you are using it to intimidate like a gun, the typical response from law enforcement is we’re going to treat it like a gun,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kim Andree said.So Andree and other deputies recommend parents and owners of the fake guns take precautions to clearly mark the guns as fake.

“I would recommend if a child has a toy gun or pellet gun it be spray-painted bright orange or bright green to be able to determine from a distance it is a toy gun,” Sheriff’s spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis said.Some toy guns are manufactured in bright colors or have a red or orange tip to let everyone know they’re not real. Pellet guns don’t have the colored tips, Andree said.”The problem we have with pellet guns is they don’t have the ability to kill but because of the force that comes out of the gun (manufacturers) don’t have the ability to put that tip at the end,” Andree said. “Those guns are in the gray area.”Without the colored tip, an officer might pull their gun if they feel they’re in danger, Andree said. In this case – and in other situations where weapons are involved – communication often plays the lead role in deciding the outcome of a situation, deputies said.”We give them the benefit of the doubt,” Andree said. “We communicate with the person to allow them to de-escalate.”

Still, an officer’s reaction depends upon the person wielding a gun.”Most likely it’s not the gun, it’s the intent of the person with the gun that determines the officer’s reaction,” Andree said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado

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