Parents, guardians, and youth are being warned about the potential dangers associated with air guns that look like actual firearms. Although the issue is not so acute in rural areas, Surrey RCMP have seen a recent trend of youth being irresponsible with pellet or BB guns, often taking the guns to school or posting videos online that appear to show them armed.
“There’s no age limit, no law against possessing or selling these guns,” says Cpl. Scotty Schumann, media relations officer for the Surrey RCMP. “Many people have them as a hobby. A lot of people buy them for their children.” The problem, however, is not with people possessing them; the problem is when owners walk around with them.
“Even when they’re in your hand, it’s hard to tell they’re not the real thing,” notes Schumann. “This can set off all sorts of alarm bells. People see them and don’t know what they are, and they get anxious.”
Schumann notes that while incidents with imitation guns are not such a big problem in rural areas, largely because many people there have the real thing, owners still need to take care with them.
“Some of the guns are quite powerful, so it becomes a safety issue. We’ve had an increased number of minor injuries [due to pellet and BB guns], but thankfully nothing serious.”
Another issue is when people use imitation guns to commit crimes. And while simple possession of an air gun is not a criminal offence, criminal charges can follow when they are used to damage property, threaten, intimidate, or assault others, regardless of whether they are real firearms or not.
“Air guns are not toys, and should not be treated as such,” says Schumann. “If you have concerns about youth being irresponsible with air guns, please contact your local police. We would much rather educate and intervene early on than after an incident occurs.”