Friday, June 29, 2007

When is a gun not a gun

NEWTON — One day after a Newton man pleaded guilty to having a CO2-powered BB gun without a permit, the Superior Court in Sussex County took aim at a related firearms topic — plastic pellet guns.

Rules surrounding BB guns are relatively clear, because the metal pellets can cause real damage and hurt someone. But even after a close reading of New Jersey statutes, attorneys said it's unclear whether guns that shoot lighter, hard-plastic pellets should be considered true firearms.

Christopher Apostola, 19, of Newton, was indicted earlier this year for allegedly pointing and firing a Crosman pellet gun at the passenger side of a car at the intersection of Water Street and North Park Drive in Newton on May 2, 2006.

The grand jury charged him with second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, third-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and fourth-degree aggravated assault.

At a status conference Tuesday, the state asked for additional weeks to prepare their case.

Apostola's situation is a "middle-ground case" in the realm of firearms, and some county prosecutors treat pellet gun charges more strictly than others, Assistant Prosecutor Robert L. Klingenburg told Judge Thomas Critchley Jr.

A plastic pellet gun may be ideal for backyard play, but the handler can be criminally charged for using one in a harmful or threatening way against someone or their property.

Newton Police have seen a dramatic increase in the number of pellet gun incidents, and the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office just received a case involving a young man who shot pellets out of the sunroof of a car, authorities said this week.

There are a variety of pellet models — often referred to by the brand name "AirSoft" — which may or may not meet the definition of a firearm, which requires enough force to injure a person, state attorney general spokesman Peter Aseltine said.

"It's really within the discretion of the county prosecutor, based on the facts and circumstances of the case," he said.

Prosecutors in Sussex County would like Apostola to plead guilty to a fourth-degree firearms charge, but the defense will agree only to a non-firearms crime, Klingenburg told the judge.

Apostola's attorney, Robert Mattia, said his client should receive pre-trial intervention, a program that dismisses the charges if conditions are followed during a period of probation.

Under state statute, unlawful use of a weapon includes a device or instrument "from which may be fired or ejected any solid projectile ball, slug, pellet, missile or bullet, or any gas, vapor or other noxious thing...."

Mattia said a close interpretation of the law lies in favor with his client, because an AirSoft pellet would not likely cause bodily injury or fit the physical description contained in the statute.

In the dictionary, solid can be defined as "not gaseous" — and certainly a hard plastic pellet is not — but it can also mean "not hollow," he said. Unlike BBs, airgun pellets have a small hole inside, according to Mattia.

In a simple analogy, he compared the difference between a plastic pellet and a metal BB to getting hit by a Wiffle Ball or a 98 mph fastball. But under the statute, he said, "I can see why there's confusion."

An observer can immediately tell the weight difference between an AirSoft pellet and a metal BB, said Thomas D. Frapaul, co-owner of the Simon Peter fishing and hunting store in Andover Township.

"You could probably have 10 of these to equal one BB," he said, holding up AirSoft ammo.

AirSoft guns have an orange tip, because, unlike BBs, they were invented for young people to run around and shoot each other while wearing eye protection, Frapaul said.

Some people paint over the orange tip, creating a dangerous situation for police who respond to an incident and do not know whether a firearm is real.

"If you looked at a Beretta 92, it look just like this," Frapaul said, holding up a plastic pellet gun.

New Jersey residents must be 18 years old to buy an AirSoft gun, but must have a firearms permit to purchase metal-pellet guns such as the BB rifles behind the counter at Simon Peter.

Assemblyman Guy Gregg, R-Sussex, Hunterdon, and Morris, introduced a bill in November to revise the law and state that BB guns are not firearms and therefore not subject to "New Jersey's strict firearms licensing and permitting statutes."

Mattia believes that pellet guns would be included in this bill, since they are considered more benign than BB guns.

"Some very clear legislation is needed," he said.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Airsoft Guns in Massachusetts

They're so realistic, the U.S. military uses them for simulation training, but they're all the rage during adolescent play.

Toy guns that are marketed to "make you feel like you're 'packing' the real thing," airsoft guns are also fast becoming a problem - actually mistaken for the real thing - and have many fearing big problems could follow these small-pellet shooting guns.
"There is certainly the potential for danger," said Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "There are several airsoft guns on store shelves. Some of (them) look like real guns, and those are the ones that concern us a great deal."

Airsoft guns are BB-style toy guns that use plastic pellets actually much larger - so less likely to break skin upon impact - than regular BBs. They're sold, over the Internet and in retail stores in some states, in many models, including pistols and rifles, that look just like the real thing.

They're toys, but they're illegal for purchase to anyone under 18, and regularly are sold to law enforcement agencies and the military for training because of their realism.

No one is denying that appeal.

"I think one of the selling points definitely is that it's very realistic," said Kent Woo, marketing director at, a California-based airsoft gun manufacturer. "You can't get away from that, it's one of the driving forces of the industry. It's obviously an attractive feature for younger users, but for more advanced users and in training scenarios. It's a double-edged sword."

Woo points out the relative safety of the guns, when used in proper play.

He said the pellets are four to five times larger than paint ball guns - which have caused their fair share of controversy - and the gun-pellet's weight density ratio makes it very difficult to break a certain firing speed.

Also, he said because consumers want to imitate realistic play, they often dress in full military ensemble, which protects skin. Airsoft gun companies also sell protective gear for users' faces and heads.

Most seem to agree that problems could arise when kids get the guns in their hands.

"Any time you have an instrument that has a projectile to it, there's that danger," Sampson said. "The younger they are, the more inclined they are to show them to their friends - and that's where accidents can happen."

North Attleboro resident Laurie Lawes became especially concerned after she noticed several young children in a relative's neighborhood starting to play with them.

A mom to two grown children, Lawes struggled when her then teenage son pleaded for, but was denied a paint ball gun. She said no - based on the potential for dangerous situations - and feels the same way about airsoft guns.

"It sounds like it's a toy, but it's not a toy," Lawes said. "You're talking about something that's going to hit you. What if they shoot it and there's a crowd, or they mistake me for one of their buddies? They could do bodily damage. It's an adult form of entertainment."

Lawes pleaded in an e-mail to The Sun Chronicle, for an open meeting between area towns to come together and make the public aware.

The problem, Sampson said, is that they are not illegal, though the state Attorney General's office last December filed suit against six out-of-state Internet retailers and one state store owner to halt sales to minors.

An alarming concern is when the toy guns are mistaken for the real thing in dangerous situations.

Last month, a Framingham teenager fleeing police tossed an airsoft gun on the ground during chase, and police thought it was an actual weapon. No one was injured.

Earlier this month, police nearly shot a teenage boy in California when they found him and two others playing with the toy guns on an elementary school playground, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Sampson wants to avoid similar instances, or worse.

"Some kids will get a hold of these or use them for an attempted robbery or that type of thing," he said. "Police will never know if there's a real gun there or not. Our training is to treat each of those situations like a deadly-force weapon."

Then, there are the psychological arguments.

Lawes fears that children who play with real-looking toy guns might start to appreciate the real thing.

Mitch Labrett, a criminal justice professor at Bridgewater State College, said the argument could go either way.

"A social psychologist would say that any behavior that could be looked upon as modeling after violence, that's not a good thing. Others would argue very vigorously against that," Labrett said. "Once they start turning up used in crimes, there will be a move to regulate them rather quickly."

Woo said there are as many measures as possible to keep the guns' sales and play safe.

Safety precautions are posted on his company's Web site, and they require credit cards for all purchases, which theoretically would rule out underage buyers. The company also randomly selects orders for phone confirmation, and does so for all large orders.

Realistically, he acknowledges, children will get them - either on their own, or from a parent. The best hope is for supervision and the knowledge that it's not OK to bring the toys to school or other public places.

"The only problem is when you have it with the younger audience. They have to be very careful with the environment and situation they're using them in," Woo said. "The guns, themselves, are safe."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Police get realistic training on UR campus with Airsoft Guns

REDLANDS - Sounds of gunfire and screams for help were heard at the University of Redlands.

A team of police officers, with their guns drawn cautiously, entered Ted Runner Stadium May 30 in search of a shooter and a hostage during a simulation of an "active shooter" on campus.

"I am going to kill her," the shooter yelled as he dragged his screaming hostage beneath the stadium.

Four officers took cover at the east end of the stadium and searched for the now hidden suspect and hostage.

The realistic simulation was part of active shooter training for Redlands Police Department, a day of training scenarios that prepared officers to respond to a situation in which a shooter is at large on a campus.

"They try to keep it as realistic as possible," said Carl Baker, spokesman for the Redlands Police Department.

Thirty police officers, dispatchers and police Explorers spent the day on the university campus responding to scenarios in the stadium and in a classroom and dormitory. The event was the first time active shooter training was done on the university campus.

Dan Orrell, owner of Evolution Sports in Redlands, donated "airsoft" guns to be used for the training. Orrell also volunteered as the active shooter. During each training session, instructors talked to Orrell and the Explorers, who were in the roles of gunshot victims in the training. As they took their places, calls were made to dispatchers who then alerted police officers to the shootings. Officers then responded in teams of four to the sites of the shootings.
The officers responded as they would have during an actual shooting.

The scenarios mirrored those of the April 16 shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech. The massacre left 32 people, plus shooter Seung-Hui Cho, who committed suicide, dead.

"This is a natural outgrowth of that," Redlands Police Capt. Tom Fitzmaurice said.

Lt. Dan Shefchik, the University of Redlands' director of public safety, said the reality was that such a shooting could happen at the Redlands campus. Shefchik, who is a lieutenant with the Redlands Police Department, said the college campus was made available to the Police Department for training purposes a few days before the training because classes were no longer in session and there were few people on campus to get in the way of the training, he said. The Police Department has had similar training sessions at Redlands High School. Other types of police training have been at the university.

The training gave the officers a chance to learn the basic orientation of buildings on the campus. Shefchik led officers around the campus and pointed out the various buildings.

"They are getting a walking tour of the campus so they know the unique aspects if they have to respond here," Fitzmaurice said.

There were few people on the campus during the training as three police officer instructors from within the department discussed the officers' responses to the situations. The department has had a safe school plan that was put into place during the late 1990s, and worked with the Redlands Unified School District to come up with a joint plan.

All the officers get a taste of safe schools classroom training, Fitzmaurice said. Annually, all of the officers get active shooter training.

The active shooter training combined those aspects and focused on getting officers "prepared to address active shooters immediately."

"You have to change the culture to be able to have a group of officers respond without waiting for assistance from specialized teams," Fitzmaurice said.

To prepare for that, even patrol officers now have equipment that was once traditional for only specialized teams such as ballistic helmets, long guns, military-like rifles and smaller assault rifles.

"They have to be confident and trust their equipment," Fitzmaurice said.

Sgt. Shawn Ryan, one of instructors, said the training was much more realistic for the officers than having to shoot at a paper target.

"You get more realistic scenarios with chaos and people yelling and you have to make split second decisions," he said. "It's a lot more realistic than our normal training."

Boy accused of hitting mom with airsoft gun

TRI CITY: A 13-year-old boy was arrested Sunday after allegedly shooting his mother with an airsoft gun at a Tri City home.

The incident occurred shortly before 8 p.m. at a home on Hill Street after the boy’s father dropped him off to visit his mother, according to a court affidavit filed by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

The boy and his mother reportedly started to argue and the boy pulled out the gun, a replica of a Smith & Wesson 1911 pistol.

Airsoft guns are typically plastic, spring-loaded replicas that propel hard plastic pellets. They can cause serious injury if the pellet hits someone in the eye, according to the affidavit.

As the two were fighting, the boy allegedly shot his mother once in the cheek and once in the left arm from about 10 to 15 feet away, leaving small welts.

Police were called and the boy was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault, recklessly endangering and harassment. He was lodged at the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Toy airsoft gun triggers alert

young student with a pellet gun triggered a police investigation after a incident Friday afternoon near CE Barry School.

“Police understand that these guns.... have become very popular. We further understand that many view these guns to be toys,” reports Corporal James Paulsen.

Because of their popularity “some children are purchasing these guns, receiving them as gifts, and playing with them at home and in neighborhoods with parental permission,” adds Paulsen.

“The problem is there is potential for injury. The guns are not meant to be shot at people. There is potential for injury especially in the eye area.”

The other problem is that Airsoft guns can often be mistaken for real ones.

“In today’s political climate, it is not going to be tolerated and there is potential that if your child brings an Airsoft gun to school or any public place they may be observed by a bystander who believes the gun may be real,” adds Paulsen.

“This situation obviously could rapidly deteriorate into an ugly situation, involving police, potential arrests, injury or worse. Times have changed, Toy guns don’t belong at school.”

Last month an incident in Chilliwack lead to the evacuation of a school and the deployment of a police emergency response team until it could be determined that a reported firearm in the school was a replica toy gun.

“Besides endangering other people, it also endangers the student who might be carrying a toy that could be misconstrued to be a weapon.”

On Friday, as school was letting out for the day, a group of students were standing on the corner of 5th avenue and Queen street across the street from the school, reports Corporal James Paulsen.

With an air-powered handgun which shoots plastic pellets, “one of the students shot at other students with the plastic pellets as they were leaving the area.” Two students were struck in the hip, hand elbow, hand, kidneys and buttocks.

“Fortunately neither of the boys had any lasting injury. “

The incident is under investigation by the school.

Toy Airsoft Gun Control

So, a couple of google searches this morning turned up some interesting articles on a new and entertaining kind of gun control, specifically toy guns. When I was a kid, California passed the law that mandated that toy guns (including Airsoft) be marked with the blaze orange tip on the barrel, ostensibly to keep police officers from mistaking them for a real gun and drilling some idiot kid.

This article in the Pasadena Star points to what was almost a tragedy in the San Diego Metro area; again some dumb kids were playing with what were probably airsoft guns in the park, someone called the cops, etc. Luckily, no one ended up dead this time which is a credit to police officer who responded to the call.

Yesterday in Soviet Canuckistan, two schools were locked down as the police responded to calls, both of which ended up involving fake guns. Again, no one was shot, so bravo for the cops. Although, this one had the glimmer of a solution to the "toy gun problem."

Alyson Edwards of the Saskatoon Police Service said police appreciate being called whenever people think they see a real gun, but she stressed it's important parents remind their kids not to play with toy guns or pellet guns in public places.
You mean it's a bad to go waving realistic looking guns around where people can see you? Perish the thought.

Finally, Dallas has passed a law which makes it illegal to brandish a toy gun in city limits, remove the blaze orange tip, or sell a toy gun from an ice cream truck. A note on the last; apparently the "thing" is to sell cheap airsoft guns from ice cream trucks these days. Color me surprised.

Of course, none of this actually addresses the fundamental toy gun "problem", which actually has nothing to do with toy guns and everything to do with the kids and their parents. As I often do, we'll take a trip to my childhood to examine the toy gun situation.

I had lots of toy guns. Very few of them had blaze orange tips, and yet neither I nor my friends were ever shot by a cop for having a toy gun. This is of course because we weren't stupid enough to point guns at cops. Honestly though, we had an empty lot across the street where we'd play cops and robbers or army, and we'd run around with toy guns. But our parents repeatedly reinforced that if you're ever approached by a cop and you have a toy gun, you do not move, and you certainly don't grab your toy gun.

So, the first part of the "problem" is that parents aren't teaching their kids the fundamental rules of gun safety; kids should treat even toy guns (and especially airsoft guns) like real guns. They shouldn't pack them in public, and I can't even begin to stress that they shouldn't point them at cops. So, first to blame are the parents for not teaching their kids to be responsible with their toys.

Of course, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him be responsible. Parents have to do their jobs and instruct their kids, but it's up to those kids to make good choices with that instruction. If I have any readers in their teens, allow me to explain something.

I know your Airsoft gun is cool. I know it's fun to play with. If you're going somewhere and have your toy gun with you, do not stuff in your pants like some kind of gangbanger wannabe. Not only is it dangerous, but you will also succeed in looking like an idiot. Actually, you know what? Unless you're going to and from somewhere you'd be using your toy, like an Airsoft match or something, don't take your toy with you.

So, we can blame kids for being idiots, but we can't hold them at too much fault because, well, teenagers are usually idiots. Third on my list of people to blame for the toy gun situation are the people that call the cops in hysterics about the kids with the toy guns. This goes back to the general paranoia about guns in the first place; and it's part of why I seesaw so much on the open carry issue. I wish that people wouldn't freak out over the mere sight of a gun; on the flip side I also agree that you shouldn't go waving your airsoft gun around in public and not expect someone to call the fuzz.

However, despite all the evidence, the government has decided that instead of just saying "Parents need to teach their kids better", they should pass laws to make us all safer. After all, it's for the children.

Increasingly realistic toy airsoft guns worry police

A sheriff’s deputy in a department store parking lot looks over to see a boy in the next car brandishing an assault rifle.

Think fast.

Rob Averbeck did recently. The Winona County investigator noticed the orange tip on the barrel, which assured him the otherwise authentic-looking gun was an air-powered toy.

From handguns to assault rifles, air-powered toy and pellet guns that look like the real thing have some police officers on edge.

Federal law requires toy guns to have an orange plastic tip, but the tips are easily removed or blackened.

The popular replica guns have resulted in tragedies: Police in Florida last year shot and killed a boy who brandished a toy 9-mm look-alike; Chicago police shot and wounded a 14-year-old with a BB gun.

In Winona, criminals have also used them effectively in robberies and assaults.

Law enforcement officials say they don’t always have time to distinguish the replicas from the real weapons.

“It looks real, and if I stop somebody at midnight I don’t know it’s not real. I’ve got to watch out for myself at the end of the day, and there are plenty of incidents where they are real,” said Winona County Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude. “We don’t have the luxury of seeing the orange and thinking it’s no big deal. We have to be on guard all the time.“

Both Winona police and the sheriff’s office have confiscated look-alike pellet guns over the past year. These air guns that shoot pellets or BBs can be powered by springs, carbon dioxide gas canisters or batteries and cost as little as $10.

Some shoot plastic pellets and are used to play a war game called Airsoft, like paint-ball without the mess.

After the Consumer Product Safety Commission called for toy manufacturers to stop selling real-looking toy guns in 1994, several major retailers pulled them from their shelves.

In February, Gander Mountain stopped selling replica guns in Minnesota and has plans to phase them out nationwide.

Minnesota law prohibits fake guns on school grounds, and in February St. Paul adopted an ordinance designed to curb the public use of them. Chicago has banned BB and pellet guns.

Winona has an ordinance against the use of replica guns in city parks or on city property, but Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand said they should also be carried in a case or in a car trunk when they are transported.

Winona Middle School Principle Sharon Suchla said five years ago a student brought a red plastic gun to the school, but they’ve had no incidents since.

“It’s cyclical,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a current fad ... but I do hear about them playing with the soft pellet things on the weekends.“

Winona Police Sgt. Chris Nelson remembers playing with toy guns as a kid, but his son’s pellet gun is hard to distinguish at first glance from the gun he carries for work.

“It’s becoming more and more real. It’s one of those threats you have to be aware of and it’s one of those decisions you have to make in a half second,” Nelson said. “You just hope you don’t have to look back at that decision made in half a second for days after.“

Engery bar for airsoft players

The Headshot Guarana Infused Energy bar (better known as “Headshot”), is the new and innovative energy bar from Uncommon Loot, Inc. Its unique chewy, chocolately, toffee flavor and its 100mg of Guarana make it a perfect pick-me-up for the generation that plays well into the night.

What Makes Headshot Different:

The guarana berry is a highly caffeinated berry native to the Amazonian rainforest. This natural caffeine is believed to be gentle on your system and less likely to produce headaches that are more common with other sources of caffeine.
The candy bar market has a lot of choices. Uncommon Loot is all about bringing something new and unique to the industry. Rice crisp was chosen because of its consistency, texture, and health benefits.
The bold toffee flavor is very evident as soon as you open the wrapper. Itwill keep you coming back for more.
Initial distribution of Headshot will be through PC and console gaming centers around the country. LanLizards Game Cafe President Jonathan Zook (Mishawaka, IN) says, "The combination of chocolate, toffee and chewy crisps makes this a deliciously irresistable snack, and the punch of caffeine makes it that much more desirable." The tournament and competition atmosphere of gaming centers truly make them the perfect locations to launch Headshot. We also plan to sponsor LAN parties and eSporting events.

The paintball /airsoft industry is trying very hard to get its own niche in the world and we plan on helping it. Their competitions are held on a worldwide stage. And our plan is to be there with them side by side. Currently there is nothing on the market other than beverages that have kept this market awake. Now Headshot and the flavors following it will be front and center to help bring more profit streams to night clubs, and to keep their customers awake through the night.