Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Killing me softly with airguns

You're rushing down a corridor and hear a shots fired. You duck and try to gain your bearings; but you are ambushed, shot, and forced to hold your gun above your head to signify your demise. This is airsoft.
Airsoft is a sport and hobby that seven-year-olds can play. Peter Do, owner of PowerEdge, an airsoft supply store and arena, said that it's a less expensive version of paintball, or lasertag without the smoke.
Airsoft consists of people shooting each other with airguns. There are different types of games that include holding locations and penetrating enemy strongholds.
"It lets you let out some aggression," said Michelle Saoit, a University of Hawai'i at Manoa senior.
Airsoft guns fire 6mm pellets. Being hit is like someone flicking you hard in the arm. Since there is a risk involved, there are guidelines that must be followed during gameplay. Everyone at the PowerEdge arena had their bodies wrapped up like a Christmas present under layers of clothing. Because PowerEdge enforces a policy that limits the speed at which the pellet is shot, they could not have been seriously injured. However, the players were aware that being hit by several small pellets will get them several little red bumps on your body.
The most important rule of airsoft is protection. When you are going to play at the PowerEdge arena, they will demand the use of full-face mask and gloves. A long-sleeve shirt and long pants are optional.
Ryan Kam, a PowerEdge employee, said airsoft is like doing cardio exercises at the gym.
"With all your gear on, you will work up a great sweat while having fun," Kam said.
Although children can play this sport, the price that accompanies some of the guns is not usually covered by allowance money. Getting started can cost as little as $40. Professionals invest about $1,000 and up, Do said. Since airsoft is a budding sport in Hawai'i, few people have invested large sums of cash into it. A good midrange gun will average around $200. Other gear includes the mask, gloves, and pellets.
Airsoft is also a collector's hobby. One of the first things that you will see in PowerEdge is that you can build a collection of replicas. The realism of the guns can give a sense that players are a marine or S.W.A.T. team member. PowerEdge supplies the guns from Japan and the parts to upgrade them. In essence, they are a small import toy store.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Police say airsoft gun fired at bus in Fukuoka

FUKUOKA--Several pellets from an airsoft gun were fired at a bus from a vehicle overtaking it Wednesday morning on a road in Yahatanishi Ward, Kitakyushu, police said.
None of the four passengers on the bus operated by a bus company affiliated with Nishi-Nippon Railroad Co. were injured. The bus driver reported the incident to police.
The police said the pellets hit the bus near the driver's seat. When the bus driver heard the sounds, he looked to his right and saw what looked like an automatic rifle sticking out of a car window

Monday, November 14, 2005

Airsoft pistol allegedly used by parolee in police shooting looks real

From only a few feet away, the weapon looks just like a 9 mm Beretta handgun. Get closer and you might see the black tape around the handle, though the rest of the gun looks normal. Only when inspected closely do the tell-tale spray paint marks show. Take out the magazine and scrape marks reveal orange paint.

After the air soft pistol gun, top, is compared to a real gun, Evidence Technician John Whisler of the Lodi Police Department puts on some latex gloves to place the evidence back inside an envelope at the Lodi Police Department on Thursday. (Angelina Gervasi/News-Sentinel)
The gun is actually an air pistol that shoots soft plastic balls. It is this gun, police say, that a wanted parolee pointed at Lodi detectives before they shot him Tuesday.Chad Joseph Morrow, 25, remains in fair condition at Lodi Memorial Hospital, where he is under 24-hour guard by police officers.On Thursday, officers showed the gun he allegedly wielded, and they held it up to a 9-mm Taurus handgun. Both are about nine inches long, and both are black.After undercover detectives cornered Morrow in a gas station parking lot and he allegedly rammed their vehicle, they identified themselves and ordered him out of the car, according to police.Instead, Morrow pointed a gun at them, Lt. Bill Barry said.Morrow was shot twice, and detectives quickly moved closer. They secured him and made sure they got his gun out of the way so it couldn't be fired, police say.

A detective placed the gun on top of Morrow's car, out of the way, where it remained for hours.
Chad Morrow
Onlookers at the scene at the corner of East Elm Street and Cherokee Lane guessed at the caliber of the weapon, and some thought it looked like an officer's gun.Had the weapon not been altered, it would have had an orange tip so people would know it was a fake. Officer and Evidence Technician John Whisler said most such guns are clear with bright colors.Morrow will possibly face charges, though it remains under investigation. In addition to the Lodiincident, he is wanted in connection with two armed robberies in Stanislaus County. He is also a convicted sex offender, and is still on parole.The two detectives who fired shots — Sierra Brucia, a member of the SWAT team, and Mike Kermgard, a firearms instructor and weapons armorer — remain on paid administrative leave.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Airsoft gun incidents plague campus

Campus Security is still looking for the people responsible for shooting students with airsoft guns at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa.
Recently UHM students have been the target of air gun attacks. Airsoft guns are air-powered guns, similar to BB guns, that shoot small plastic pellets. A dorm resident was accidentally shot in the face with an airsoft gun at Hale Lokelani last month according to Campus Security. The victim suffered a welt on his face but declined to file a report.
"I was walking down the side road, between Ilima and Mokihana, and felt a sting on my arm. At first, I thought it was just a rock. Then I was hit on the other arm. It stung and left a small mark like a mosquito bite," UHM freshman Daniel Galarza said. "The next day I heard someone shooting an air gun in the same area. It sounded like an airsoft gun."
A Gateway Hall resident adviser reported three men shooting an air rifle near the dorm. Campus Security was unable to locate any suspects. Another student was shot while walking to his dorm and filed a report with Campus Security.
According to the campus security log, a cat was killed with an air gun near Johnson Hall and Gateway House on Oct. 22. The shooter was never found.
"I know a few people who have been shot at. The other night someone shot at windows with a BB gun," a Mokihana resident who did not want to be identified, said. "I hope they add more security."
But the university has no plans to add more security.
"No extra security will be added," said Director of Communications for the Office of the Chancellor Jim Manke. "Dorm windows were shot at, but none were broken. We hope that students will keep their eyes and ears open and help us find out who is responsible."
Airsoft guns are banned from the UHM campus. Campus Security will confiscate any airsoft gun and file a campus report.
"If a person is caught shooting an airsoft gun, especially at another person, they would be arrested and the gun would be confiscated," Honolulu Police Department Lieutenant Mark Ross said.
Due to an increase in HPD reports of individuals carrying guns in public, a law relating to replica guns was introduced by the City and County of Honolulu and signed into law on July 16, 2003. Before the new law took effect, only people under 18 were banned from carrying a replica gun. It is now illegal for anyone to carry or display a replica gun in public. According to law, replica guns are defined as any toy or object that looks like a gun and lacks a feature that distinguishes it from an actual firearm. An airsoft gun is classified as a replica gun.
It is also illegal to discharge an airsoft gun on any public land or public place, except on a properly designated target range. Violators can be fined up to $500 and spend up to 30 days in jail. The punishment increases to $1000 and a year in jail for brandishing a replica gun in the presence of a police officer.
"It does hurt; it stings," said Lance Nonaka, the store manager at Power Edge Hawai'i, a store that sells airsoft equipment. "It's too bad that a few people are going to ruin it for other airsoft users."
Store policy states that a buyer must be at least 18 years old. They also rent equipment for use in the store's arena.
Anyone with information regarding the airsoft gun incidents is asked to call Campus Security at 956-6911. Anonymous reports can also be made on the Campus Security Web site at www.hawaii.edu/security

Monday, November 07, 2005

Uxbridge is airsoft shooting for safety

Guns, guns, guns.
As one person I talked to recently on the street said, in regards to whether toy guns should be pulled out of all stores in Uxbridge, "there's nothing wrong with the guns... it's the people that are using them." Canadian Tire in Uxbridge has already taken the initiative and pulled its soft air guns off its shelves. These units, although considered toys, could still hurt someone as they fire plastic pellets at 230 feet per second. Try standing in front of a shot from 10 feet away.
Neighbouring Scugog has had its share of problems with replica guns in recent months. One case involved youth holding guns that were mistaken by somebody as being real. Police were called. In this situation, a police officer could feel threatened and draw his or her own gun in defense, especially if it's dark and the officer can't quite see that the person is only holding a blue plastic water gun shaped like a rifle.
I'm sure we all played with a gun of some kind at some point in our lives, whether it be a water gun, pellet gun, or paintball gun. They all have their place. Paintball is a popular sport in which people actually go into closed quarters and shoot at each other, wearing body protection.
People aren't supposed to be firing at others in the streets and causing harm to people, which happened during another incident in Scugog.
Pellet guns, as explained by Uxbridge Canadian Tire owner Pat Higgins, are historically used by rural residents on their farms, presumably to get rid of pests. Water guns are, well, water guns... but if someone pulls out a black water gun and points it at you, what's the first thought that's going to go through your head? Exactly.
Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O'Connor has become actively involved in the issue and wants the public to become more educated about replica guns. She has arranged a police presentation on Nov. 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the town hall. The public will have a chance to compare real guns with replica guns, to demonstrate how difficult it is to distinguish between the two.
"Some of the replicas are so good they even have laser (targets) on them," said Mayor O'Connor. "This is serious business."
I suggest anyone with concerns about these guns go to the presentation.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Regulations on airsoft guns insufficient

With a recent series of airsoft gun shootings nationwide and weak regulations self-imposed by the industry, it is time lawmakers reviewed the current firearms law to better restrict sales, thereby preventing the use of these more powerful, potentially deadly, weapons.
The possession or use of an airsoft gun--a toy that fires a plastic pellet with low-pressure air or gas--is not prohibited by the Firearms and Swords Control Law as long as the owner of the gun does not use it to cause harm. The hobby has attracted aficionados from a wide age range, from children to the elderly.
Nationally, about 1.2 million airsoft guns are in circulation, commonly used in increasingly popular survival games, in which participants wear camouflage and goggles and arm themselves with the air-powered firearms, according to ASGK, an association comprising 18 toy gun manufacturers.
However, there recently have been a number of incidents involving remodeled airsoft guns nationwide.
On Sept. 25, a car was hit by airsoft pellets that shattered its windows along the Hanwa Expressway in Wakayama. Three days later, a truck traveling through Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, on the Meishin Expressway, was shot at with what was thought to be an airsoft gun and the driver's seat window was smashed.
Stock airsoft guns have limited power--if shot at a person, the pellets produce mild irritation and redness on the skin.
But airsoft guns can be "tricked out" by replacing low-pressure air canisters with those containing carbon dioxide gas, potentially resulting in a deadly firearm.
"With the proliferation of the Internet auction, parts are easily obtained for upgrading the guns," a senior official at the Metropolitan Police Department said.
In September, in the first case of its kind, the MPD arrested a manufacturer on suspicion of violating the Firearms and Swords Control Law by selling upgrade parts.
The aim of the arrest, according to sources, was to make manufacturers more aware of the impact of selling upgrade parts.
Yahoo Japan Corp., one of the nation's top online auction houses, has decided it will prohibit the sale of upgraded airsoft guns or parts clearly intended for adding power to the weapon.
However, there are fundamental problems in solving the problem. About 90 percent of illegal remodeled airsoft guns confiscated by the MPD since spring were produced by a manufacturer in Aichi Prefecture.
The device on the gun that regulates the inflow of the carbon dioxide gas had been reinforced so it could withstand the upgrades, the sources said.
The ASGK has set up its own restriction on upgrading the gun's body for upgrading purposes. But the Aichi maker is not a member of the organization, and the police cannot easily charge those who have only upgraded the gas injection device.
Despite frequent crimes involving airsoft guns, parts manufacturers continue to meet the demands of airsoft fanatics who decide to upgrade their guns, despite knowing full well that to do so was illegal.
As long as the association's self-imposed restrictions continue to lack bite, relevant laws, including the Firearms and Swords Control Law, must be reviewed so the sales of parts can be better controlled.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Runners hit by pellets during Valley League race

About a half-dozen girls running in the junior varsity cross country race were struck by what were believed to be airsoft pellets during the Valley League district meet Saturday afternoon at Albany’s Bryant Park, according to Jason Platt, South Albany High School’s athletic director.

None of the girls was seriously injured.

Albany Police responded to the call at 2:54 p.m.

“Several of the girls in the JV race said they felt something like a sting on their arms or legs after the race was over. The girls had little marks — like a little welt — but no skin was broken,” Platt said.

“Pretty soon, we put two and two together and we decided to go out onto the course to look for anyone who might have thrown or been shooting something. We just wanted to make sure the kids were safe.”

All of the girls finished the race, and those who were shot, were apparently selected at random, not by a specific team.

Joanne Deming of Albany said one of the pellets grazed her granddaughter’s lip. “She said it felt like a BB hit her,” Deming said.

The meet was held up for about an hour as police, team coaches, school athletic directors and parents scoured the course, especially a small wooded area where someone could have hidden. They found nothing.

The junior varsity boys race remained to be run, Platt said. Coaches and athletic directors agreed the meet should be completed if the course could be secured.

School officials and parents fanned out across the course and the race was run without incident.

Platt said there were no individual suspects as of this morning.

Alex Paul can be reached at 812-6076 or alex.paul@lee.net.