Grand Rapids- They look so real, there are times even police cannot tell the difference.
Toy guns, known as Airsoft pellet guns, are causing such a problem in Kent County police are calling on parents and teens to leave them at home. Police want to get the word out about the problem before someone dies.
Last October a SWAT team surrounded East Kentwood High, as students and faculty were led out by armed police. The school was on lockdown because a 911 caller saw a man enter the school with a gun.
A few months later teens chasing each other playing cops and robbers on a West Michigan street scared a woman, who called police. The kids were confronted as if they were criminals.
In both of those situations, and numerous others, police have come close to shooting people who had nothing more dangerous than a toy pellet gun.
But because the firearms, known as Airsoft guns, look so real they are a real threat. Just ask officer Timothy Hoornstra.
"I was pulling the trigger on my weapon thinking he was going to kill me and I was going to shoot him," Hoornstra said.
He was a millisecond away from shooting a 19 year old man on a Grand Rapids street, he says, after responding to a call about a drug house. When he got there, a man had an Airsoft pistol in his waistband. He pulled it out to show that it was a toy, and officer Hoornstra saw the orange marking on it. But it was close.
"I was pulling the trigger, with our guns we have to pull a certain distance and I was halfway," says Officer Hoornstra.
Police agencies from all over Kent County made a plea Tuesday, for people to avoid bringing the toy guns in public. They also want you
to keep all of the orange safety markings on the toys - which are often removed or painted.
Officers showed a dozen samples to prove how real the Airsoft guns look, and even put WZZM13 News reporter Keith Baldi through a training session to demonstrate how tough it is to tell the difference.
Keith felt threatened enough to fire his weapon, even though the person confronting him had a fake.
"We don't want these guns out in public, we don't want them mistaken as real guns," said Grand Rapids Lt. Pete McWatters.
Over the past year and a half, Grand Rapids Police say they've confiscated 56 toy guns.
And if the owner was brandishing it, they've charged them with a misdemeanor.
All of this, and it doesn't account for how dangerous the guns can be.
A girl in West Michigan recently lost an eye after being shot by an Airsoft pellet.