CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Fake guns are causing real problems on our streets. Chicopee Officers confiscated three fake guns from juveniles in just five weeks. While these guns may not be real, residents and police officers may not be able to tell the difference, and that poses a very real danger to the kids who are using them improperly.
Fake guns or replica firearms, like BB guns or airsoft guns, are being brandished and played with by teens in open, public settings and causing alarm. Most of these fake guns are available at major retailors and look like the real thing, others are manipulated to look like real guns. While airsoft and BB guns are intended for sport and recreation, it’s the off-label use that’s causing problems. Replica guns look so real, many people and police officers may not be able to tell the difference.
In the wake of several accidental police involved killings, many cities and towns are implementing stricter regulations. Boston banned realistic toy hand guns in 2015. 22News spoke with the Chicopee Police Department, which has seen an uptick in the improper use of replica firearms. Officers put real guns and fake replicas they’ve recently confiscated on a table.
Which ones do you think are fake… can you tell the difference?
“No, you can’t. Yeah parents don’t get these for your children… I cannot tell if these are real or fake, they all look real,” said Kwame Bonsu of Springfield.
The markers that indicate a firearm is not real are not only very small, but likely not noticeable in a confrontational situation. So how can you tell a fake firearm from a real one?
You can tell by the end cap that indicates it’s a pellet gun. Another has a hole where a magazine would go, another indicator that its fake.
Chicopee Police Officer Erek Machowski told 22News, “But if I were to hold it up like this or in this fashion, can you see it?”
It’s all about perception; if an officer perceives someone has a real gun, the situation will be handled like someone has a real gun. Officer Machowski describes a recent incident, “It was called out as a party with a gun. We’re not told whether it’s real or not. We have to act based on the worse-case scenario, and once we arrive on scene, access quickly and make the decisions appropriately.”
In order to prepare for almost any situation, police in Chicopee are trained on an advanced simulation system called the MILO system. Officers in Chicopee train with it multiple times a year. When using it, they are are presented with several different scenes that require them to do everything from shoot, refrain from shooting, deescalate the situation, or use transitional force, like a stun gun. It gives you a sense of how fast these tense situations unfold and how dangerous it can be for all involved.
“And this is what we teach our officers, is the ability to make those decisions based on what they see as possibly a threat,” said Officer Machowski.
Officer Machowski said if the officer perceives the weapon to be one that could cause serious bodily injury or death to another person or themselves, it would give them the justification to use lethal force.
“If a kid shows up and he’s waving a gun at somebody and it looks real, that could be a very bad day for that kid,” said Mike Tolle of Chicopee.
Massachusetts general law prohibits minors from possessing an air gun in a place where the public has right of access, unless accompanied by an adult. However there are no laws against manipulating them to look more realistic.
“Leave it looking fake. Because all these kids with these fake guns are doing nothing but getting hurt by people with real guns,” said Tolle.
Officers said it’s after the holidays when incidents with minors having fake guns increases, when they receive them as gifts. They add it’s important to teach kids about the proper use of fake weapons and the very real dangers that can come from improper use.