Sunday, November 25, 2007

AirSoft Guns – Harmless?

It looks like a sub-machine gun, but it's not.

It's an "AirSoft" gun.

The plastic B.B.s it fires are practically harmless. In fact, no one has ever been killed by one.

But people have been killed holding AirSoft guns, because police officers can't tell the difference – even up close.

SWAT team member: "We're clear to go."

The Kenton County SWAT team moves in, ready to storm a Ft. Mitchell bank where masked men have taken hostages.

SWAT team member: "We've got movement in that window."

But this bank robbery isn't real, and neither are the weapons.

The SWAT team is now training with very realistic AirSoft guns.

"We train with these weapons because they are so realistic, they perform a lot of the same functions as the weapons we use in real missions," said Sergeant John Lonaker, of the Ft. Mitchell police.

One of these pistols is a real firearm, shooting .40 cal bullets.

The other is an AirSoft pistol, shooting plastic BBs.

Can you tell which of these is the deadly weapon?

Now imagine you're a police officer, and you have a split-second to decide whether or not to take a life.

"I was behind a car and I kept noticing a handgun being stuck out the passenger window," said Sgt. Lonaker.

Sgt. Lonaker had no idea the teenager was waving an AirSoft gun.

The plastic BBs they fire are far safer than the traditional metal BBs they've replaced.

But, the guns are also far more realistic – indistinguishable from the real firearms they mimic – until you pull the magazine to reveal bbs instead of bullets.

"It turned out to be an airsoft pistol," said Sgt. Lonaker. "However, in the dark, at that distance it looked very real."

And it had an orange tip, like these AirSoft pistols, as required by federal import law.

But there's nothing to stop the customer from removing the orange tip or painting it black.

When Sgt. Lonaker was asked, "Had you not seen the orange tip on that pistol, you would have killed a teenager?," he replied, "Correct, if he had picked up that weapon and pointed it in my direction, at any time I was coming in contact with him, I would have shot him."

[2]Brad morris - Airsoft Arms Inc. "The AirSoft BBs transfer typically about one-eighth the amount of energy compared to an average paintball gun," said Brad Morris, of AirSoft Arms, Inc.

Morris owns AirSoft Arms in Milford, a supplier of high-end AirSoft guns for use in sophisticated gun play.

These weekend warriors square off in mock battles, using M-4 AirSoft rifles so close to the military weapon, many of the parts are interchangeable.

"Use some common sense as far as where you're going to play," Morris advised.

The disciplined sportsmen follow rigid safety protocols – a far cry from reckless teenagers brandishing AirSoft guns in public.

"They go out and they shoot one of the kids on the school bus, that makes the news," said Aaron Thomas, an AirSoft player. "It gives a very bad image to our sport. And I say sport, not 'hobby,' because we take it very seriously."

"I take it just as seriously as the guy who plays basketball for college, or the guy who plays football in his backyard with his buddies on Labor Day," added Marshall Howard, another AirSoft player.

"They're safe to play with if you use them correctly, but they're very dangerous when you just have them out in public," said Sgt. Lonaker.

Remember Sgt. Lonaker, the SWAT commander who almost shot a 17-year-old with an AirSoft gun in Ft. Mitchell?

He doesn't just train his own officers with AirSoft guns, he trains his own family with them, too.

"My eight-year-old actually does have an AirSoft gun and he practices guns safety with it," said Sgt. Lonaker.

No question AirSoft guns are safer than the real thing.

But the more realistic they get, the more care and responsibility they demand.

Bottom line? They're no longer toys – and must be treated with the same respect as real firearms.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:00 PM

    I completey agree. I own a H&K G36 Compact airsoft rifle and a couple of spring operated handguns. I mostly use them for target shooting (read: fun) with my kids (6 and 9 years old), but I always tell them never to turn the barrel towards anything or anyone and always to bear in mind that other people might think they were real firearms.