Sunday, January 29, 2006

Martial arts instructor fires airsoft pellet gun at 8-year-old

OLYMPIA — Police are investigating a martial arts instructor who disciplined an 8-year-old student by shooting him in the abdomen with an Airsoft gun loaded with plastic BBs.

The boy's parents filed a complaint this week against Scott Morgan, sensei and president of Black Lake Jujutsu, a nonprofit dojo at 1202 Black Lake Blvd. that offers an after-school program for youngsters to study homework and martial arts. It also has adult classes.

The boy was not seriously hurt. The BB, fired from about six feet away, caused some pain and left a red mark that lasted a few days. His parents have pulled him from the program.

The case was assigned to an officer to investigate, Olympia police Sgt. John Hutchings said Thursday. The incident happened Monday, after the student threw a pencil at another student.

Morgan said he made an error in judgment and apologized to the student and the student's mother. He said he had been ill and stressed and was frustrated with the student's disruptive behavior. He said it was a “knee-jerk” reaction.

“When I make my mistakes, I have to be responsible enough to say I was wrong,” he said.

The boy's mother, Rebecca Orbeck, said she's disturbed by the behavior and by the fact that the instructor didn't tell her until she confronted him. Her son reported it to her Tuesday, the day after it happened... (for full article please click on link)...

“I just want to make sure other kids are safe,” Orbeck said. “I feel that, as an adult, he should know better. He's there to set an example, and this is not the type of discipline he's trying to teach those kids. I can't believe he did that.”

Both of the boy's parents work for The Olympian.

Airsoft guns often are used during games in which participants try to shoot each other with paintballs or plastic BBs.

The Orbecks said they wonder why the gun was at the dojo.

Morgan said the spring-loaded gun belongs to his son, who stores it at the school. His son and older students occasionally strap on safety goggles and use Airsoft guns for games. It was out on his desk, which is why he reached for it Monday. He said he now keeps it locked up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

War airsoft games: Playing with fire

The battle has begun, and insurgents in headdresses swarm the field while American soldiers in camouflage run across the tops of trailers. An explosion rattles in the distance, and in the village, an Iraqi civilian crouches over an injured man and pleads, "Breathe, my friend."

This is not a war thousands of miles away. This is a game of war, set in the safety of an Orlando industrial field and tractor-trailer storage yard near Silver Star Road.

This particular game is called Airsoft, a military simulation employing guns that shoot plastic pellets. A pastime that appeals primarily to twenty- to thirtysomething men, Airsoft offers elements of war re-enactment, paintball and live-action role-playing... (For full article please refer to original article)

Still, in the past few decades, World War I, World War II and Vietnam War re-enactment have followed suit.

"It's an interesting example of the way war shapes a culture," Thompson says.

Many kids grow up watching war movies and playing with war action figures. Re-enactment is an adult version of war games that can give participants a sense of fighting a war.

"You don't have to go to Baghdad, but you can be in Florida and be a part of what that story is all about," Thompson says.

Most war simulations occur years after a war has ended, unlike the Orlando Airsoft game. It is not clear how many live-action Iraq-themed events have occurred, but another similar Airsoft game is planned in Texas in February.

Some military units use role-playing and even paintball for training purposes, says Todd Bowers, a Marine reservist in Washington, D.C., who has worked with the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

"I felt that it was a very good training," says Bowers, who served two tours in Iraq and was wounded by a sniper bullet that left shards of shrapnel in his face.

Bowers has no affiliation with Airsoft, but he approves of Iraq war simulations as long as organizers show respect to Iraqis and consult military representatives to ensure accuracy.

... (For full article please refer to original article) ...

Shots -- plastic pellets -- clink against the trailers or nick players, who then need to await a "medic."

Roadside bombs -- firecrackers attached to pellets -- explode nearby.

A civilian cries out: "Why are you doing this to us?"

There's another sound too: unscripted laughter.

They're just having a good time, a participant explains.

After all, it's not a war. It's a game.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Family to blame for ignoring pain (Florida Shooting Invovling Airsoft Gun)

The cliché "it's better to be safe than sorry," has never been more true than for the incident involving Christopher Penley, the eighth-grader who held a fellow student hostage at gunpoint in a Longwood, Fla., school was shot by law enforcement and later died from his injuries.

The loss of Penley's life is, no doubt, a crying shame. What makes it worse is the fact his weapon turned out to be an airsoft plastic pellet gun, which was painted black to mimic a deadly weapon.

According to the Associated Press, Penley's family is not only devastated by its loss but "angry" because of the reaction of law enforcement. His father and brother both insist they informed authorities the gun was a pellet gun, not the 9 mm Beretta handgun police believed it to be, and Penley's family is now questioning the shooting.

"I'm not pointing my finger at anyone," said Mark Nation, the Penley family attorney in an Orlando Sentinel article. "We all have a lot of (investigative) work to do," he said.... (For full article please refer to original article)

If a neighbor had seen the signs the family may have seen them as well.

There is no easy solution to the trend in student-on-student violence, but certainly it is not the job of law enforcement to fix it. The solution begins at home with intervention, before things escalate.

Fake gun or not, the fiasco was obviously a final cry for attention and things should not have progressed to that stage. The healing should have begun at home.

In the end, a tragedy resulted from this teen's mental instability, but at least the tragedy was only his own life lost and not the lives of other students.

Instead of finding fault with law enforcement, families everywhere should take this as a reminder to attend to and monitor their children's emotional well-being.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Second Rainier student appeals expulsion due to airsoft

RAINIER -- A second student has appealed his expulsion over a December incident involving pellet guns at Rainier High School.

Two appeal cases will now be heard by the Rainier School Board on Feb. 8. The first hearing starts at 6:30 p.m., and the second at 8 p.m.

At last Wednesday's board meeting, Superintendent Michael Carter told the board that only one appeal has been filed and that the window of opportunity for filing appeals had closed.

He also said that if any late appeal requests were filed, he would turn them over to the school district's attorney.... (For full article please refer to original article)

It is not yet known whether the families will allow the hearings to be held in open public session or if they will request a closed executive session.

Because the total number of weapon expulsions at Rainier High School stands at five, the chance of one or both of the expulsions being overturned could make a difference in the school's standing with the Oregon Department of Education.

A student was expelled this fall for having a knife on school grounds. Four more students were expelled over the Dec. 6 incident involving airsoft pellet guns.

With five weapon expulsions, Rainier could be put on a watch list for dangerous schools when the school's suspensions and expulsions are reported to the ODE.

Games using replica airsoft guns grow in popularity, but safety rules needed

If you haven’t heard about “airsoft” guns yet, you will.

It’s the hottest trend in what some call “pursuit sports” — think paintball meets G.I. Joe.

Played by both adults and youngsters, the lure — and the potential danger — of the game is the realistic-looking guns players use.

The risk became deadly apparent in Florida recently, when a distraught 15-year-old brought a realistic-appearing pellet gun to school and was fatally shot during a standoff with police.

Airsoft guns are replicas of the real thing, from handguns to assault rifles. Instead of using metal projectiles, like old-fashioned BB guns, they shoot 6mm plastic pellets.

Under New Hampshire law, the guns, which can be powered either by battery, spring-action or gas cartridges, can be sold only to those 18 and over.

And while the replicas are sold with orange tips to distinguish them from real weapons, the Florida youth had covered the orange paint with black. It’s something many airsoft players do, since the whole object of the game is to avoid detection while tracking and shooting enemies.

Airsoft guns are becoming increasingly popular among teenagers in New Hampshire. And while some play on organized teams at commercial fields, where strict safety rules are enforced by referees, others play a less organized version of the game, in backyards, fields and woods.

Game advocates say parents need to know the law, and establish strict rules about safety equipment and procedures, before buying their children guns and sending them outside to play.

Eric Lurette of Sandown, who has been playing “pursuit sports” for 22 years, said the law is clear: “If you’re under the age of 18, you shouldn’t be playing this anywhere if you’re not under direct adult guidance.”

And that means being outside if the kids are playing. “Sit out there to make sure everyone is OK.”

Strict warning
Parents also need to warn their kids, Lurette said, if a police officer approaches, “Put the gun on the ground and put your hands in plain view.”

“The kids should more or less have a simple script in their heads: ‘I am playing airsoft . . . There are 10 of us out here.’”

While most police officers are familiar with airsoft — many are even players —Lurette said it’s important to teach kids to follow any instructions an officer gives.

“This is a man with a gun. Yes, he’s there to protect you but he’s also there to protect himself.”

So who’s playing this game?

“It’s anyone from 14 to 60,” says Jeff Friedland, a co-owner of A & A Airsoft, which opened in Salem in September.

“We have everyone from nerds to metal heads, it’s the truth. People who are band geeks to people in a rock and roll band.”

Friedland, who is 40, has been playing airsoft for about 18 months and plays nearly every weekend at commercial fields.

All budgets considered
The guns he sells range from around $100 to the $6,000 Gatling gun replica one customer recently bought that fires 60 pellets a second. “You want to be on his team,” he said.

So what’s the appeal? “It’s just so much fun,” he confessed. “My ex-wife said I had a Peter Pan syndrome, and she really wasn’t far off.”

Friedland said he won’t sell airsoft guns above a certain velocity for use by minors. And he explains to their parents the importance of a full face mask.

“Personally, I only wear goggles,” Friedland said. “I’m missing a front tooth, too...”

That’s not uncommon, he admitted. “What I tell people is don’t giggle too much when you’re under fire...You leave your mouth open, you’re going to spit out chicklets.”

Friedland also warns customers in plain language about the dangers of these look alike weapons: “You can’t blame a cop for blowing you away if you point something like that at him.”

Tom Harritt of Hopkinton, 18, is a founding member of Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys (it’s a reference from “The Simpsons”) — an airsoft team that also includes his father, Thomas, and younger brother, Dan, 14.

Bonding time
He said the sport has brought him a lot closer with his dad, who bought him his first electric rifle for his 16th birthday. “It puts you in a situation you’re not often in with a parent,” he said.

Harritt said he’s happy airsoft is getting more popular, but he believes it should be played on commercial fields. “The only thing I’m worried about is kids who’ll buy these guns ... and maybe not consider the fact that it does look exactly like a real firearm.”

What happened in Florida was “very tragic,” he said.

But he doesn’t blame the police. “Because they’re trained what to do when confronted with a real gun. And if it looks like a real gun, they can’t be expected to make any assumptions that it isn’t. You could have even more tragic results from that.”

For now, the only commercial airsoft field in New Hampshire is the Rockingham Paintball Club in Fremont. With ever-changing game scenarios, on-field referees and strict safety rules, the field is open for both adults and younger players, as long as their parents sign waivers and medical release forms.

Angel Galletly, owner of RPC, said she’s seen “explosive growth” in airsoft over the past year. And, she predicted, “It’s just going to keep getting bigger.”

“It’s the next paintball.”

Players say airsoft is safer — and a lot less messy — than paintball. Galletly likens a “hit” from an airsoft pellet to the snap of an elastic band.

“You can still get a welt from one of these pellets,” she said, “but it’s not like a paintball welt. An airsoft welt goes away very quickly.”

Popular with women
While most of the players are males, Galletly said she has some female players at her field. “A lot of them are really good, and the guys learn that the first time they play against them.”

Lurette is a former manager at the RPC. He said airsoft attracts former and current military personnel, police officers, firefighters and EMTs — “a lot of guys that are adrenaline junkies.”

He knows some players who served during Desert Storm. “It was cathartic for them to be able to relive what they did, but at the same time it wasn’t doing what they had to do for war.”

The younger players look up to these adults as heroes, Lurette said — and the game also makes teenagers think. “They go out there and they ‘die’ 17 times a day on the field. They think, there’s a kid two years older than me who’s in Afghanistan. And if he gets shot, he doesn’t get brought back to life.”

“For a lot of these kids, it’s really kind of a reality check.”

Another group of players hopes to open a commercial field in Canaan by this fall. Owner Cliff Rudder, a former Navy safety officer, said he won’t let anyone under 18 play.

“Our opinion is that the airsoft weapons are actually weapons,” he said. “They’re not intended to cause bodily harm, but the misuse or irresponsible use of them can cause bodily harm. And we just don’t feel in a commercial setting that people who aren’t of legal age should be using them.”

But he does believe airsoft can be a positive activity for youngsters. Instead of being inside playing computer games, kids are out playing in the woods like he did when he was young, Rudder said.

“This is something the kids in the neighborhood can go and spend less than $50 on and have hours and hours of harmless fun, as long as they follow basic safety precautions.”

Safety first
Rudder said even for adults, it’s important to keep the face and skin covered at all times. “Because some of these hotter guns up close will break your skin.”

He found that out himself recently when he pulled down his Kevlar hood to wipe his nose during a game. “I’ve got a mark on the end of my nose that hasn’t gone away for a month.”

Galletly offered some advice to parents considering buying airsoft guns for their children. “Call a field, call a retailer, go on-line and research it before you let your kid just jump right in. So you know what they’re getting into and what would be the best thing to do so they play as safely as they can.”

And, she went on, “If they go out in the backyard, go out and keep an eye on them.”

Meanwhile, Rudder believes New Hampshire law needs to be updated to include airsoft, just as it was six years ago to incorporate paintball. “Because the law as it is really does inhibit kids from going and playing,” he said. “And it does seem to be a sport that has a positive impact.”

Student waving airsoft handgun causes lockdown at Forks High

FORKS -- A 17-year-old Forks High School student with a toy handgun prompted a 15-minute school-wide lockdown in Forks on Wednesday.

The male student allegedly aimed and fired a spring airsoft gun containing plastic projectiles at several friends in the high school parking lot, according to the Forks Police Department.

The student was being held Thursday at the Clallam County Juvenile Detention Center in Port Angeles, and law enforcement officials are considering possible criminal charges.

``Toy guns that look real at schools . . . is not funny, and it is not a game,'' Forks Police Chief Mike Powell said in a press release.... (For full article please refer to original article)

All buildings locked down

Forks Police Department responded to a call from a witness in a nearby parking lot at about 3:30 p.m., Powell said.

The witness said a white male with a mohawk and wearing a trench coat was waving a handgun near the high school auto shop building.

Police urged school officials to lock down all buildings on campus

Friday, January 20, 2006

Class video mistaken for carjacking

A group of Desert Mountain High School students who simulated a carjacking using pellet guns — including one that looked like an M-16 assault rifle — found themselves staring into the muzzles of real guns when police showed up.

The Scottsdale students were brandishing the guns for a criminology class video project.

But a motorist driving past the scene in a parking garage Monday had no idea he wasn’t witnessing a crime, police said.... (For full article please refer to original article)

Milbrandt said he believed police did the right thing and that the situation wasn’t potentially dangerous.

“The biggest thing is that students are encouraged by the instructor to do these things in a private location where they won’t be caught,” Milbrandt said.

“We have to make sure we instruct our students to conduct these things where it won’t cause unnecessary alarm.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Abducted bus driver tricks hijacker after 200-mile journey

A school bus driver was hijacked at gunpoint in Gardena early Wednesday morning but escaped at a rest stop in the San Joaquin Valley before her abductor was captured nearby, authorities said.

The driver, whose name was not released, was unharmed but "shaken," authorities said. She was alone on the bus when it was carjacked.

More than four hours into the ordeal, she told her kidnapper she was diabetic and needed to use the restroom, persuading him to let her pull into a rest stop in Coalinga, about 200 miles from Gardena, authorities said.

She took the key to the bus and got help from a couple, who called 911.

About an hour later and 10 miles away, California Highway Patrol officers arrested Christopher Lee Andrews, 29, of Los Angeles, on a highway off-ramp.

Andrews matched the carjacker's description and had with him an Airsoft pistol, a toy gun that looks real but shoots plastic pellets, according to CHP public affairs officer Steven Schuh.

Schuh said Andrews also had the bus driver's checkbook with him. "He had threatened her that since he had her information, that if anything happened to him or she ran away, he knew where she lived," Schuh said. "That's probably why she was so shook up."

Andrews is on parole and was wanted on a carjacking warrant, Schuh added.

The driver was able to identify Andrews as her abductor, according to Lt. Toby Rien of the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. He will be booked in Los Angeles County, Rien said.

The driver for First Student, which contracts with the Los Angeles Unified School District, was about to start her route at 4:50 a.m. when someone put what she thought to be a gun to her head and ordered her to drive to Bakersfield.

Apparently, Rien said, she missed the turnoff to Interstate 99 from Interstate 5 and bypassed Bakersfield.

LAUSD would not disclose which schools were on the driver's route. A message left with a First Student representative was not returned.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Student won’t return after toy airsoft gun case

A Fargo student who brought a toy gun to school won’t return to the school where the incident happened, said Superintendent David Flowers.

Instead, the student will perform community service and finish the school year in an “alternative placement,” the superintendent said.

The student brought an Airsoft replica pistol to school before winter break. The pistol shoots a soft projectile.

“We took it very seriously, although it wasn’t used as a weapon,” Flowers said. “Those things don’t belong in school.”

He declined to name the school involved or the alternative placement.

An investigation indicated the student didn’t intend to use the toy as a weapon, Flowers said. A three-person panel conducted a hearing to determine the consequences.

The toy gun is nearly indistinguishable from a real gun, Flowers said.

It’s similar to the pellet gun a Florida teen recently brandished in a middle school. Deputies there shot and killed him as he held the gun that closely resembled a 9 mm handgun.

“That’s why we have the rules we have,” Flowers said. “That’s why we take this situation seriously.”

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Angels are crying for more airsoft guns!

Re: your Jan. 10 article, "Former Oxnard man killed for entering room in error":

My heart aches. A young man, Hector Soto, 21, following a night of drinking while celebrating his upcoming graduation from trade school, is shot and killed after mistakenly entering the wrong apartment.

The angels are crying., crying not just for Hector and his family, but for the now forever tormented person who took Hector's life. It wasn't the shooter's fault, he was just reacting to an intruder. But, with easy accessibility to a loaded gun during a confusing and frightening moment, a precious life was erased from the planet. It was a mistake. It was an accident. He's gone forever.

Please don't tell me about the Second Amendment or that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." We owe it to the thousands of souls, who lost their lives like Hector, to look into our hearts and minds and stop accepting the rhetoric that guns are OK and somehow acceptable in society simply because the Constitution guarantees it.

How many times do we hear about a handy, loaded gun saving a life versus a gun taking the life of an innocent bystander or an accidental victim? We accept firearms in our lives and it is a sickening, growing trend. Video games unloading death from blazing firearms. "Harmless" replica Airsoft guns being given to our children as "play" toys.

Prime-time TV with about 60 percent featuring homicides, mostly delivered by firearm, and solved by gorgeous, sexy people with guns strapped under their arms or to their hips. Then there are the guns in our nightstands and under our pillows.

The angels are crying. We should be crying too.

-- Tim Heyne, Thousand Oaks

Lawyer: Authorities were told student's airsoft gun was fake

The eighth-grader is clinically brain dead and being kept on life support to harvest his organs, attorney Mark Nation said.

When Ralph Penley arrived at the school Friday to help police and school officials defuse the situation, he wasn't allowed inside, Nation said. (Watch Nation explain the father's frustration -- 6:55)

Nation said Ralph Penley was "angry" because he had spoken to police before he arrived at the school and told them Christopher did not have a real gun. Christopher's younger brother told school officials the same thing, Nation said.

Asked if the father blames police for his son's death, Nation said, "I'm not here to point a finger at anybody at this time."

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said one of his deputies shot Penley only after the boy threatened him with the gun, which had been painted so it would look more real.

One of Penley's classmates said he, too, thought the gun was real -- and that Penley was going to kill him -- until he grabbed the pistol and realized it was fake.

The ordeal began about 9:30 a.m. Friday at the 1,100-student Millwee Middle School in suburban Orlando, Florida.

Maurice Cotey and his classmates were about to take a test when two students noticed the gun in Penley's backpack. Cotey heard one of them say, "This kid has a gun." (Watch the aftermath of the Friday incident -- 1:54)

"The teacher, she went to the phone and told the office, and then he, the kid, he went to the lights and turned them off" before pulling the weapon and showing it to the class, Cotey, 13, told Orlando's WKMG TV.

At first, Cotey thought the gun was fake, he said, but Penley "seemed so sure that it was a real gun, so it like scared me, kind of."

Everyone darted from the classroom except Cotey and a girl, he said. Penley looked at Cotey and said, "You stay." The girl ran out.

With his gun in Cotey's back, Penley told his classmate to get against the blackboard. Cotey began pleading.

"Please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me," Cotey recalled telling Penley, who ordered him into the closet.

As the two walked toward the closet door, Penley grabbed Cotey and turned him around, and Cotey seized the chance to try to wrest away the gun from his older classmate, he said.

"He started to point the gun at me, so I started to grab for it and he pulled it away," Cotey told WKMG. "And then I grabbed for it one more time 'cause he pointed it at me for like a little while, so I grabbed it and I twisted it and I pointed it at him."

It was then that Cotey knew for sure the gun was a fake. (Watch Cotey describe the frightening ordeal -- 1:33)

"While I was twisting it, it started to come apart like a toy gun would, like a dollar-store type toy," he said.

Cotey pointed the gun toward Penley's legs, but Penley kicked him into the closet, the 13-year-old said.

Cotey was able to get out of the closet and run out of the classroom. Penley already had gone and was running from a school resource deputy and others who were chasing him, Eslinger said.

As he ran, Penley could be heard saying, "I'm going to kill myself or I'm going to die somehow," according to Eslinger. At one point, he held the gun to his neck, another time to his head.

Penley fled to an isolated alcove area and went into a restroom where he refused to speak with negotiators, the sheriff said.

Authorities pleaded with the boy inside the bathroom to put down his weapon, Eslinger said, but the boy refused.

"He refused to even comment. All he said was his first name. He did not drop the firearm," the sheriff said.

Finally, the boy came out of the bathroom and "raised the firearm in a tactical position and pointed it" at a SWAT team member, who "decided to use deadly force," Eslinger said. (Full story)

The boy's motive was not immediately clear.

After the shooting, deputies discovered what Cotey had suspected -- the gun was phony. It was an airsoft pellet gun, and the normally brightly colored tip had been painted black to make it look more authentic, Eslinger said.

Such guns generally shoot plastic pellets or paintballs.

In a news conference after the shooting, authorities displayed the gun alongside a real 9 mm handgun. To the naked eye, there was little difference between them.

"It was a terrible situation," the sheriff told reporters.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Police officer shoots armed 15-year-old in Florida school (Roundup)

Washington - A police officer shot a 15-year-old boy in a school in Florida Friday after the eighth grader pointed a modified pellet gun at him, officials said.

The boy, whose condition in hospital is not known, brought the pellet gun to school in his backpack and briefly took a fellow student hostage in a classroom, local sheriff Donald F. Eslinger told reporters outside the Milwee Middle School near Longwood, in central Florida.

The boy was shot by a Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) officer when he came out of the school's restroom pointing what looked like a 9 mm handgun, Eslinger said.

Neither the hostage nor any other students or teachers were injured, he added.

In a statement released after the news conference, Eslinger described the 15-year-old as suicidal, adding that when the sheriff's deputies attempted to establish a dialogue with him, he said he would kill himself or die one way or another.

The boy's Airsoft pellet gun had been painted black to 'look like a real gun', Eslinger said, adding that pellet guns are usually pink or red to set them apart from more dangerous weapons.

The boy had at first threatened fellow pupils in a classroom before he barricaded himself in the toilets.

'He told another girl to tell the teacher 'I have a gun,'' and then lifted his shirt to show the handle of the handgun,' fellow student Dei-end Dilworth told the Orlando Sentinel. After he pulled the weapon and cocked it, he told everyone to sit down, the girl said.

Instead, the students started running from the classroom, she added. The boy then ran to the toilets, while students were being evacuated, Eslinger said.

After being rushed by ambulance to a local hospital, he was later moved to a children's hospital, the newspaper said.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Florida 8th-grader wielding pellet airsoft gun shot down

A 15-year-old Florida boy who brandished a pellet gun at school was on life support Friday after he was shot by a deputy during a confrontation.
Last week, a fourth-grader in San Bernardino brought a similar gun to school and sprayed plastic pellets at his classmates during recess. No lives were lost, but some of the students hit had bruises.

There's no waiting period, no background check, no license needed to own one of these guns -- but even retailers say they should not be considered toys. They look, feel and operate like the real thing. The difference is, these guns aren't lethal -- although some say they are still dangerous.

A growing number of homicides involving children and teens in San Bernardino and surrounding cities has heightened awareness of violence in the community and also what prompts it -- including whether having children familiar with deadly weapons, fake or real, is a contributing factor.

Considered a sport by some and a dangerous pastime by others, the growing popularity of so-called ``airsoft'' pellet or BB guns have made them a favorite with all ages. But even airsoft enthusiasts and retailers say the guns are not toys and should be treated with safety in mind.

It was an airsoft pellet gun a fourth-grader at Davidson Elementary School in San Bernardino brought to campus last week. He shot at some classmates during recess. Although none of the children were seriously injured, several were hit by the plastic rounds from the imitation gun, leaving some students bruised and many parents shaken.

The heightened awareness of violence in homes, schools and the community in recent months has prompted school officials to take the incident at Davidson seriously, said Art Delgado, superintendent of the San Bernardino City Unified School District.

School officials are sending out a districtwide mailer to parents asking them to monitor students' backpacks and what they are bringing to school.

Delgado said he was concerned many pellet guns are being sold at swap meets or 99-cent stores that do not have the type of regulations in place such as Wal-Mart.

``I don't think any parent would buy it with the thought in mind that their child is going to take it to school,'' he said.

Christopher Penley, the eighth-grader shot and wounded by a SWAT team officer in a suburban Orlando school bathroom, brought the gun to school in his backpack, authorities said.

Sheriff Don Eslinger said two Milwee Middle School students saw the toy gun and one persuaded the other to report it, causing a scuffle.

Penley allegedly ordered one of the students into a closet, dimmed the lights and ran from the classroom. Deputies eventually isolated him in a restroom, and the school was evacuated. Negotiators tried unsuccessfully to start a dialogue with the boy, Eslinger said.

The boy did not respond, Eslinger said.

When the boy raised the gun at a deputy, he shot the youth, the sheriff said. Penley was taken to a hospital, where he was on ``advanced life support.''

No one else was injured. The sheriff's office later confirmed the weapon was a pellet gun fashioned to look like a 9-mm handgun. The tip of the gun had been painted black, covering brightly colored markings that would have indicated it was nonlethal.

Delgado called the incident in Longwood, Fla., ``every parent's and community's nightmare.''

For some, "airsoft" guns are simply recreational equipment that can be used responsibly.

The sport originated in Japan in the 1980s and the guns are used in marksmanship or recreational training games similar to paintball. Depending on the model, the replica guns are spring-loaded and gas- or battery-powered.

``It's the fastest-growing action pursuit sport,'' said Joe Hulog, manager of the Airsoft Extreme shop in San Diego.

Safety is key when handling even imitation firearms, said Hulog, who runs an airsoft team known as Omega Force Airsoft.

Safety is the ``No. 1 priority'' for most airsoft enthusiasts, who follow the same regulations as with paintball, using full face masks and sealed goggle protection.

``We emphasize safety,'' said Hulog, whose team has played with children. ``Any time you handle a replica firearm, you have to teach the children about gun safety because it looks and feels and works the same as a regular firearm and must be taught about the dangers."

Customers must also sign a waiver stating they are 18 and will play only on private property or a regulated sporting facility or field, Hulog said.

Wal-Mart also sells the Airsoft pellet guns in its sporting goods section but raised the age restriction for buying them from 16 to 18 in 2003, said Karen Burk, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart's corporate office. Prices are $15 and up.

``We certainly recognize that this item is not a toy,'' Burk said. ``As a responsible retailer, we treat them with the same respect as a firearm.''

The store's cash registers are even set to prompt the cashier to ask for identification verifying a customer's age when purchasing the product, she said.

``This is an item that you want to make sure does not get into the wrong hands,'' Burke said.

Yucaipa resident Larry Brewer, who has two sons, said he has never allowed his children to play with imitation or toy guns.

Children who play with pellet guns ``have no regard for what a weapon can do,'' Brewer said. ``If you give your kids that kind of a gun, you're teaching your kids how to use a weapon.''

In September 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation prohibiting pellet or BB guns from being displayed in public, unless they are made of clear plastic or painted a bright color to ensure they won't be mistaken for real firearms.

The law allows prosecutors room to bring extra charges if a toy gun is displayed at a public building, airport or a school campus.

The mandate also requires that imitation guns manufactured and sold in California after July 1, 2005, come with a warning label informing the purchaser about the law. Breaking the law can result in consequences that range from a fine of $100 to a misdemeanor.

Federal law also requires retailers to sell guns outfitted with a plastic orange tip that keeps it from being mistaken for a real weapon. Altering or removing markings on a replica gun, such as the orange tip, is illegal.

John Lovell, a lobbyist for California Police Chiefs Association and a former Los Angeles County prosecutor, said even markings like the orange tip may not be enough because they can be removed.

Jeanie Kocher, whose daughter was hit by the plastic rounds her classmate fired at Davidson Elementary, had bought her own son a similar pellet gun. She now regrets buying it and has since destroyed it.

``Oh, my God,'' she said. ``What was I thinking?''

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Student expelled over airsoft pellet gun

RAINIER -- One Rainier High School student has been expelled for a Dec. 10 incident involving airsoft pellet guns on campus.

Three other expulsion cases have been heard and decisions are expected today or Wednesday, according to Rainier School District Superintendent Michael Carter. The outcomes of those three cases will determine whether Rainier is put on a watch list of dangerous schools by the Oregon Department of Education.

"Jim Mabbott, Superintendent of the Northwestern ESD, conducted two of the expulsion hearings Monday and he will have a resolution within 48 hours," Carter said. "I was the hearing officer for the other two."

The student Carter expelled is out for an entire calendar year.

Initially, five students were recommended for expulsion over the Dec. 10 incident, which school officials have not described in detail. According to Carter, after the circumstances were reviewed only four faced expulsion.

The parents of the four students requested closed hearings. Carter excused himself from some of the hearings, saying he felt he was "too close" to the situation after serving as the investigator of the incident.

"After the hearing officer renders his decision, expelled students can appeal to the school board within five days," Carter said. "If they do that, I'll put the appeals on the school board agenda. The parents can again elect for closed or open hearings."

In addition to the student already expelled over the airsoft gun incident, the district last fall expelled a Rainier High School student for having a knife at school.

If all three remaining airsoft cases result in expulsions, the school would be put on the state's watch list for dangerous schools. After three years on the list, the state would classify the school as "persistently dangerous" and step in and administer the school's safety plan. Rainier would have to have five weapons-related expulsions a year to remain on the watch list.

"In the first year of being on the watch list, the school has to submit a school safety plan," ODE spokesman John Lenson said.

Two of the suspended students' families are contending that airsoft pellet guns are not weapons.

"In no way, shape or form are these things weapons by the school's own definition," one of the student's mother said last week.

The school's student handbook says that "bringing, possessing, concealing or using a weapon is an offense subject to expulsion. A weapon is described as any object which will or is designed to expel a projectile by action of an explosive." (Airsoft guns use a compressed spring to fire plastic pellets the size of BBs).

The student handbook also says "dangerous weapon" means any weapon device, instrument, material or substance readily capable of causing death or serious injury.

According to the Website for Taurus, a manufacturer of the airsoft pellet guns, the pellets travel at 250 feet per second and can puncture a pressurized pop can from 10 feet. Taurus airsoft guns come with the warning: "Misuse or unsafe use may cause severe injuries or death. Sale of this product to minors is not permitted."

The MFI company, another airsoft gun manufacturer, said airsoft guns were originally designed as look-alike toys. The guns later gained popularity as a training tool for law enforcement live-fire training. The word "soft" is a bit of a misnomer, according to MFI, whose website says there is nothing soft about being hit by a plastic BB. MFI reports that its guns shoot pellets from 425 to 1,500 feet per second.

The airsoft guns come with a florescent orange or green tip, and manufactures warn that to remove the tip may violate state and federal laws.

Archived User Comments:

Jim Booher wrote on January 10, 2006 10:15 PM:"Comparing these "guns" with a toy cap gun that "looks like a gun and goes boom" to me is a real stretch. These weapons do more than just "go boom" if they dispense a plastic-tipped projectile that will penetrate a pressurized pop can at 10 feet and come with a warning that they can cause serious injury or death. Eyes, teeth, soft passages to the brain, etc. would be in danger. Were the students carrying them in plain sight innocently thinking that they were acceptable or were they at least somewhat if not completely hidden from view of others because they knew that there was a problem having them? I don't know the answer to that question but I have a hunch what it is. What is the question about their being an unacceptable weapon to have in a school? Expulsion is a very serious punishment for a very serious infraction, and appropriate in these cases."

Quanah Blue-Eagle wrote on January 10, 2006 5:39 PM:"I am in total agreement with the angry Rainier parent and Kathy Clark ! A gun is a gun no matter what it does. How many times have genuinely innocent people brandished a "fake" gun and been shot for it or otherwise injured in some way. In todays society, people are already on edge due to all the incidents and violence in our world. How many robbers and crooks have gone in to rob an establishment with only a finger in the pocket to appear as though they had "the real thing " and been either killed or imprisoned for their actions . We MUST send the message out that these toys are no longer just toys! In my opinion, the parents of these kids are just as guilty as the child who commits the infraction. Why do you think so many of our children are in trouble and have absolutely no respect for society, much less themselves ? We have become far too complacent and liberal in our thoughts as to how to raise a child. Wake up people ! Do something with your kids before the law is forced too ! "

Mistified Former Resident wrote on January 10, 2006 3:37 PM:"Is anyone actually surprised? This is Rainier we're talking about. A place where up until a few decades ago (or less) it would have been acceptable to have a hunting rifle in your locker. There really is no excuse for the school or society at large tolerating this kind of behavior, but there is history here. Sometimes you need to look at where you've come from to figure out where you ought to be going."

mike wrote on January 10, 2006 12:18 PM:"I do think that there should be a repremand to the students but expulsion is a bit excessive. These "toy's" are not particularly dangerous. Is a cap gun a gun just because it looks like a gun and goes boom? does it belong at school? NO but should this incedent end in this drastic measure? NO"

concerend and angry Rainier parent wrote on January 10, 2006 11:58 AM:"I have a child in Kindergarten @ Hudson Park Elementaray, and they asked not to bring itmes like play makeup and jewlery. So why should a high school student get away with bringing a "airsoft" pellet gun? I think the students should be punished and agree that the parents are just as much as fault for allowing their kids to bring the guns to school. A gun is a gun. No matter what it shoots!!"

Kathy Clark wrote on January 10, 2006 9:10 AM:"In no way should those toy guns be brought to school. We all know by now what to bring to school and what not to bring. School is about learning not bring toy guns that may look like real guns and may cause harm to others. What ever happend to just bringing paper and pencils to school? Those kids should be expelled from school and there parents should be ashamed to think that they should get away with bring those guns or anything else that can harm other people. Kathy Clark"

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

‘Airsofters’ (Airsoft Players) to tighten guidelines

War game players using airsoft guns have vowed to heed Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s warning to clear their activities with the police to avoid misencounters.
Larry Balayan of Rangers Elite (RE) Davao said he has met with city police director Senior Superintendent Catalino Cuy and promised to tighten the rules and procedures covering the war games.

Balayan said he has ordered his members to stick to the directives of RE regarding the wearing of proper uniform, keeping and handling the airsoft guns, and playing at the right game site.

He said he and his group have been following the rules and regulations of airsoft clubs. “Unlike other teams that wear Philippine Army uniforms, we use tri-colored ‘Desert Storm’ uniforms,” he said.

Balayan said RE is under the supervision of the Mindanao AirSoft Club Incorporated (MACI), the only registered airsoft organization that is recognized by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Bureau of Internal Revenue. Balayan is the president of MACI.

He said RE’s legality was approved by Cuy, former regional police director Chief Superintendent Antonio Billiones, and Task Force Davao (TFD) commanding officer Colonel Eduardo del Rosario.

Balayan said he is planning to call a meeting with other airsoft players to discuss the rules and to let the people know they are responsible airsoft players.

Stanley Suarez of One Airsoft Davao, encouraged interested players to register with established teams in Davao City.

“Players who do not know the guidelines and conduct are those people who give a bad image to airsoft players. That’s why as much as possible, register with an established team so that you will know the rules and proper conduct,” Suarez said.

Duterte had earlier warned airsofters to coordinate with the authorities after receiving reports that men in full-battle gear were doing military exercises in a neighborhood. The “military men” turned out to be airsoft players.

Cuy advised airsoft players to coordinate with the police and provide the authorities the location of their game site. He also advised them to bring their airsoft identification cards and the names of their members to avoid misinterpretations from civilians.

Captain Louie Villanueva of Task Force Davao also directed the players to come up with bylaws for the members to follow to strengthen the groups’ legitimacy.

Meanwhile, air soft war games have been prohibited for the duration of the Asean Tourism Forum from this week until January 22. Night games are also permanently prohibited. Wargames must be held in secluded and isolated areas and not in commercial and residential areas.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Student faces expulsion for toy airsoft gun

A Fargo middle school student is facing suspension and possible expulsion for bringing a toy gun to school before the winter break.

Fargo Superintendent David Flowers says the student brought an Airsoft replica pistol to school. The pistol shoots a soft projectile.

Flowers, who declined to name the school involved, says the investigation indicates there was no malicious intent either by bringing the toy gun as a weapon or intending to use it as a weapon.

Another student saw the toy gun in the student’s backpack.

A punishment has been recommended and will take effect next week. That punishment could range from a year’s expulsion to a short-term suspension and community service.

A three-person panel conducted a hearing to determine an appropriate consequence. Flowers says the student’s intention helps determine the punishment.

“We do take it seriously because these weapons are so realistic that the police even consider them a danger and a threat. If the orange tip is off the barrel, they look so realistic that even the police can’t distinguish them from a real weapon,” Flowers said. “No weapon whether it’s replica or real belongs in school.”

The student has been on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation and the hearing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

BB airsoft guns confiscated at MEMS

A 14-year-old boy was caught with two BB guns on school grounds Monday morning.

According to Flagstaff police reports, a teacher at Mount Elden Middle School, 3223 N. Fourth St., was given an anonymous note about a student with a gun on campus and possible threats being made. The student was identified by name in the note. The student was brought into the principal's office. In his backpack were a spring-loaded BB gun pistol and a spring-loaded pistol that fires plastic pellets.

When questioned by school officials, the student said he was going to play with the guns after school. He stated that he and his friends shoot them at each other.

"He said he had already been spoken to about how dangerous this was and he explained that he used eye protection," stated a police report.

The school will hold the BB guns until the completion of a "board hearing," stated the report.

Roger Hill, principal of MEMS, said the incident is considered "private information" that he is not allowed to divulge. He did say that anytime a student makes a mistake, the school follows through with policy.

He would not specify what the policy is.

Kevin Brown, superintendent of the Flagstaff Unified School District, as in a previous case with similar circumstances, the district will act according to policy and use "best judgment and common sense" in concluding the matter

"All of the details I am not aware of at this point," Brown said. "But I do know that it happened and we will be following policy."

Disciplinary action against students is considered confidential, Brown said.

In October, an 8-year-old Kinsey Elementary School student was suspended for 10 days for bringing a plastic BB-type "soft" air gun to school to show a friend. School officials cited in police reports said the action was taken in accordance with district policy. The boy was scheduled to undergo a hearing to determine if he should face more days on suspension or be expelled from school.

Brown said the Kinsey student is back in school.

"I believe that common sense prevailed in that situation," Brown said. "The adults who look into these matters take in all the facts related to the incident into account in terms of initiating discipline."

He added there is no one answer for any particular incident. All incidents are unique as to what disciplinary action is to be taken.

According to FUSD policy, "No student shall carry or possess a weapon or simulated weapon on school premises without authorization by a school administrator. No student shall use or threaten to use a weapon or simulated weapon to disrupt any activity of the District."