A man arrested for brandishing an airsoft gun and threatening people in Old Town this week and a February case in which boys pointed the guns at girls in a park have focused attention on the weapons, which are illegal to shoot in Fort Collins city limits.
Police arrested 18-year-old Adrian Campof-Leija Wednesday on suspicion of felony menacing for threatening people with an airsoft gun at the intersection of Linden and Walnut streets.
It’s the second incident involving airsoft guns that police have been called to in the past two weeks. The guns shoot plastic pellets or BBs and are sometimes used in a sport similar to paintball.
On February 23, police were called to Killdeer Drive after a couple of young boys pointed an air-soft gun at several young girls at Beattie Park. The gun was confiscated by a neighbor, who followed one of the boys back to his house.
No charges were filled and the airsoft gun will be destroyed.
It is illegal to use any weapon that fires a projectile in Fort Collins, including airsoft guns, accord-ing to police.
The guns are a danger to people, animals and private property, said Susan Vance, a Fort Collins po-lice officer.
They are also a danger to law enforcement.
“Some of them are so realistic looking that it's difficult for officers to know if it's a real gun,” said police spokeswoman Rita Davis.
Manufacturers make the guns with a painted tip to differentiate them from real guns, but that does not always help.
“Criminals can paint there guns so that they look like toys and kids can paint their guns to look real,” Vance said.
Airsoft guns have prompted Fort Collins police officers to draw their own weapons in the past, Davis said. No shots have been fired in these instances.
In cases across the country this has not always been the case.
A teenager was killed by police in Orlando, Fla., in 2006 after he pointed a realistic looking air rif-fle at an officer. Later that year a Chicago teen was shot by police when he brandished a BB gun.
These situations are lose-lose situations for officers, Vance said.
Vance experienced this when she observed two children playing what appeared to be an auto-matic pistol. She had to order both children to the ground while she checked the gun.
“It's scary for the officers because they don’t know (if it is a real gun),” she said. “We might put the people in a very uncomfortable position.”