Friday, February 27, 2009

airsoft guns dupe police, Marketplace tests find

Robberies, school lockdowns and police shootings are sometimes caused by sitdogy guns that look so real, even veteran police officers can't always tell the difference, an investigation by the CBC television program Marketplace has found.

In tests conducted by Marketplace, four Vancouver police officers could not distinguish between a real gun and airsoft gun 14 times out of 40. The officers had between six and 24 years' experience on the force.

Marketplace co-host Erica Johnson gave the officers five seconds to look at each gun and then asked them to decide whether the gun was real or airsoft. Five seconds is much more time than they would have to make that decision in a real life situation.

The airsoft guns look so much like the real thing because some manufacturers licence the look — and even the names — of actual weapons brands like Colt, Smith and Wesson, and Beretta. They’re available online for anywhere from $40 to $400.

Since trained police officers cannot always tell the difference, wielding an airsoft handgun can lead to deadly results.

At least four coroner's juries in Ontario have recommended that the current patchwork of regulations around fake handguns be streamlined. The coroner's inquests were looking into the deaths of Faraz Suleman in 1996, Scott Reinhard in 2000, Henri Masuka in 2000 and Michael Kolisnyk in 2005. All four men were shot and killed by police in incidents involving imitation handguns.

Just last month in London, Ont., Joseph Barnes, 26, suffered at least two gunshot wounds in a dispute with police. Barnes was carrying an airsoft gun.
Police forces want more legislation

The number of incidents involving airsoft handguns has police forces across the country requesting more regulations from the federal government.

There are three different types of guns in circulation in Canada: real ones, airsoft guns and BB guns.

Real guns can be purchased and owned only with a special licence. Real-looking airsoft guns aren’t legally sold in Canada, but they can be owned without any special licence.

BB guns are available just about anywhere and can be bought without a licence. There is no age requirement to buy a BB gun in any part of the country except Ontario, where a BB gun buyer must be at least 18 years old.

At a conference in 2000, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police called on the federal minister of justice to ban "the manufacture, sale, possession and importation of replica firearms."

"These replica firearms have been used to terrorize victims and compromise the safety of the Canadian public," the association said in a resolution on the issue. "There has been a regrettable need for police officers to resort to the use of deadly force in situations where they believe these replica firearms to be authentic, and … there is a concern amongst police that such use of deadly force will result in the preventable tragedies associated with persons who brandish replica firearms for the purpose of enticing police into shooting them."

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson declined an interview for the CBC Marketplace story.
Fake guns used in real robberies

In the last two years in Toronto, police said they have seized almost as many fake handguns as real ones.

Recent school lockdowns across the country have been caused by the use of replica guns as well.

Vancouver store owner Pat Johnson didn’t know the gun pointed at her head was fake when a robber walked into her antiques shop in December 2006.

"He pulls his gun and points it right at me and said, 'It’s a holdup,' … but then he drew alongside, and he grabbed me and put the gun to my head. And said, 'Give me your money, or I shoot her'," she said in an interview.

Johnson said as far as she was concerned, what the robber was holding to her head was a real gun.

"It terrified me so I did exactly what he wanted."

Other people in the store overpowered the man, and his gun fell to the floor in the scuffle. It wasn’t until later that Johnson found out it was a realistic-looking fake.

"They said it was a BB gun. And of course, you know, a gun’s a gun," said Johnson.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Students Brandish Airsoft Guns in Suites

Around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009, several students occupied Providence College's Suites Hall Pavilion, threatening passing students with what appeared to be real guns. Although it was later determined that the guns were not real, students who encountered the scene were uncertain whether or not they might be in danger.

According to students who witnessed this display of potential violence, there were about five or six students carrying the airsoft guns. Several students kept an eye on the situation from the third floor of Suites Hall, which overlooks the pavilion through a glass window.

Stephanie Kanniard said that one student pointed an airsoft gun at her and told her that she "better run" when she entered the Suites Pavilion.

"I had just walked into the Suites, so I did what they said and kept walking," said Kanniard.

"The guns looked pretty real," said one witness who requested anonymity. "They didn't look like airsoft guns or anything at first glance."

The student reported what he saw to his resident assistant, who later went down to the pavilion to investigate.

"I guess the RA found out that the guns weren't real, but when we asked him, he refused to tell us," said another anonymous student. "So for all we know, those airsoft guns could have been real."

Many students said that they were frustrated with the way the resident assistants handled the ordeal.

"I think they should have made some sort of report about the incident," said Kelly Sheehan '11.

"If they can tell us when someone's purse gets stolen off campus, why can't they tell us about something that happens in our dorm?" said Kiley Phelan '11.

Major Jack Leyden, executive director of the Office of Safety and Security, said that his office was only contacted once on Sunday morning. According to Leyden, two students were reported to be shooting air guns in front of Suites Hall on Feb. 8 at 3:37 a.m.

"Officers responded and located the two students walking toward Fennell Hall," said Leyden. "The weapons were confiscated and found to be plastic airsoft pistols."

According to Leyden, the students were only shooting at each other, based on a report from a witness.

"The students were referred to Student Conduct," said Leyden. "These airsoft guns are not allowed on campus."

"With all the recent school violence, this activity is taken very seriously," said Leyden.

However, this was the only incident reported to the Office of Safety and Security on Sunday morning. According to Leyden, there were no reported incidents inside the pavilion.

Students are still wondering exactly what happened in the Suites Pavilion that morning and why the Office of Safety and Security had no record of it.

"Clearly something happened in the pavilion," an anonymous student said. "There was an RA there. So why doesn't the security office have any information?"

The student also said he believes that RAs should be required to give out information that pertains to student safety.

"For all they tell the students, the guns in the study lounge could have been real," the student said. "If there was a threat to students, I think the campus should be made aware. We don't need to know the students' names, just that something happened."

Leyden said that the Office of Safety and Security has a procedure in the event that there is a gunman reported on campus. According to Leyden, a supervisor is notified immediately to respond to the area, and then officers are deployed to set up a perimeter. Then, the Providence Police and Fire Departments are notified, with appropriate communication between these departments and the PC Office of Safety and Security.

Leyden said that the next step would be to contact the executive director and the director of Emergency Management. The final step is preparation for activation of the College's Emergency Notification System, overseen by Koren Kanadanian, director of Emergency Management.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Man accused of shooting kids with airsoft gun

A Sargeant man has been charged with shooting his two children, ages 9 and 11, with an airsoft pellet gun.

According to the complaint, A Mower County sheriff’s deputy met with a Dodge County sheriff’s deputy on Jan. 6 to retrieve a report documenting child abuse involving a pellet gun.

On Jan. 20, a detective spoke on the phone with the defendant, who would not commit to a time or place to meet with the detective, and asked if his ex-wife reported the alleged incident. He said that he shot one child in the stomach and the other in the chest because he was teaching them that “guns should not be pointed at people.” Records show he claimed his children wanted to know how it felt to be shot.

Both children said it hurt. The defendant, age 40, told officers he shot with hard plastic pellets, which travel at 220 to 325 feet per second, and said they “can put somebody’s eye out easily.”

He told the detective that “sometimes the only way you learn is through the school of hard knocks,” and claimed his father did the same thing to him.

The defendant turned over two airsoft guns to the Law Enforcement Center in Austin.

He is charged with two counts of felony second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon; two counts gross misdemeanor malicious punishment of a child; and two counts of misdemeanor domestic assault.

The defendant, who has not been named to protect the identities of the children, has been summoned to appear in Mower County District Court on March 9. Both victims are residents of Dodge County.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lehi police arrest man in airsoft gun incident

LEHI — An 19-year-old man is in jail for threatening another man with an airsoft gun after an argument over a cigarette.

The man and his two younger brothers had been arguing with the victim outside an apartment complex in Lehi early Sunday but then left and returned with an airsoft gun, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court.

During the follow-up argument, the man pulled the airsoft gun — which police later identified as an airsoft gun — from his waistband and cocked it, police said.

He threatened the victim then left, and the victim called police.

The victim told police he thought the group of men might have gone back into another apartment building, so responding officers surrounded the area to watch it, the affidavit states.

When officers saw a man leaving on foot, they tried to talk with him, but he took off running, ignoring officers' calls to stop.

The man was finally detained after several blocks, according to the affidavit, and when asked where his gun was, told officers "it's a fake gun."

Police found the airsoft pistol at the man's apartment and confirmed it looked like a real pistol, except for the clear plastic body material. However, in the dark apartment area, the victim had described it as a black Glock pistol, police said.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Airsoft scenarios bring thrill to local enthusiasts

In football, it’s the end zone; baseball, home plate; soccer, the back of the net.

Just like any other sport, airsoft teams work to accomplish a goal, while dodging opponents and pellets fired from their airsoft guns.

“You are so focused on trying to get your job done that you’re willing to do crazy things,” Appalachian State University alumnus and airsoft enthusiast R. Andy Gouge said. “That’s the thrill, leaping over a tree trunk, diving back behind a door to get the job done for your team.”

Gouge unites with about 20 other members to create the High Country Gunslingers, an airsoft team including Appalachian students, alumni, community members and military personnel who share a passion of thrill and excitement of airsoft games.

The team travels across the state to compete in different games or scenarios through the North Carolina Airsoft Organization.

The sport involves shooting 6 mm diameter plastic BB out of replica airsoft guns to prevent the opponents from completing their tasks.

Tasks are any mission assigned to a team, whether it be reaching a certain area or taking over a base.

Many of the scenario missions are based off real military events.

“[The BBs] can bring welts, they can draw blood…but sometimes you can’t even feel the hit,” alumnus and Gunslinger co-captain Eric B. Huffman said. “For us, it is the closest thing to being in the military without the side effects.”

Both Gouge and Huffman have been members of the team since it emerged over two years ago.

They both enjoy the realistic feel of military scenarios.
“We’re so used to playing video games now where it is point and click and you’re sort of detracted from reality… there are no real consequences in the game because you can turn it off,” Huffman said. “In Airsoft, you learn not to be so reckless because you can’t do what you do in a video game.”

The players wear gear that resembles authentic military operators and play in all weather, adapting to the atmosphere as military personnel do.

While some may think a sport that involves simulation killing is violent, the team plays out of respect towards soldiers and works to promote gun safety even within their name.
“The history of the gunslinger was known to take care of their guns and know their guns properly. They know the ins and outs of all their airsoft guns and so forth,” Huffman said. “We treat the airsoft guns as though they are real and can seriously injure somebody.”

Combat fans fall hard for airsoft's almost-real war games

Underneath a full, black face mask, your hot breath causes sweat beads to build upon your brow and drip onto your eyelashes. Your shoulders and back are tense. The gun you carry is heavy and your arm tires quickly, but your discomfort is secondary to the mission.

Right now, this is anything but a game.

While it may resemble the similar combat sport paintball, airsoft is often built around such high-concept scenarios like hostage rescues and insurgent takeovers. Instead of paintballs as ammunition, airsoft guns make use of pellets that produce a wound only as severe as a rigorously scratched mosquito bite. Shots to the eyes or mouth can be worse, but that's what the Army-grade protective gear is meant to protect against.

>>> FESTIVA TV: OPERATION AIRSOFT Get a firsthand look at the front lines of a hard-edged airsoft battleground in this exclusive online video.

The place they call The Freeze is more like a furnace on this smoldering Sunday afternoon.

Some members of Gunz 4 Hire, one of the Valley's four notable airsoft teams, is preparing to play three-on-three games at the abandoned warehouse, one of two secret battlegrounds the team tries to keep on the down low.

Not that they're elitists - they invite outsiders to play with them, but joining the team comes with special privileges, like training and mentorship.

Gunz 4 Hire member Chris Jackson, whose experience includes nine years in the military, started playing airsoft in 2003. He said that after years in the Marines and National Guard, he enjoys the tactical aspects of airsoft and sometimes teaches his teammates methods that help them work as a group.

"The stuff they learn, they're not going to go out and rob a bank. It's not possible," he said.

He focuses more on teaching them how to play as a team.

"If a retired military man is looking for something fun and enjoyable to break out of the monotony of every day things, this is something for them," he said.

At the Green Beret in McAllen, owner Marcus Silva remembers when he put his first airsoft gun on the shelf several years ago. He had found it at a convention in Nevada, where airsoft was touted as the next big hobby.

The sport took about two years to find a following in the Valley, but Silva said even the larger guns have no problems selling now, despite their $189 to $3,500 price tags.

"When I talk to paintball reps, I tell them airsoft is beating them up," he said.

Jackson said the reason might be the effects of airsoft. Among his friends, he has seen the benefits of physical activity and the team mentality.

"The more you play, the more your self-esteem lifts up. You feel better about yourself," he said.


Though airsoft teams get permission from landowners to carry out these fictional scenarios on their property, their hyper-realistic battles can appear frighteningly real to those who might happen to come upon them. The police have been called on them three or four times and "it gets kind of scary," said Ono Zarate, an 18-year-old member of Gunz 4 Hire.

They've developed a procedure: Drop the guns, remove the masks and approach with caution. One time, six police cars responded.

"Usually most cops are cool," said Samuel Manzewitsch, 20. "And when they realize (we're only playing), it's always like ‘That's cool, no harm no foul.'"


Gunz 4 Hire team member Samuel Manzewitsch said airsoft has been growing slowly but surely in South Texas. Overseas, and to a lesser degree in other parts of the Unites States, the sport is a lifestyle, he said.

In Scotland, for example, the games are massive events for which teams fly in for from across the globe. Today, Gunz 4 Hire will be in Harwood, Texas, for "Operation: Desert Vanguard II," a match that will attract teams from all over.

Despite its worldwide popularity, regulation by the government varies significantly from place to place.

In Texas, airsoft guns are considered toys, not firearms. The United Kingdom, however, requires that at least half of an airsoft gun be painted in a bright color, like neon orange or yellow.

"We don't want to abuse that privilege," Manzewitsch said. "We try and keep it safe ... so we don't have a PR (public relations) issue."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Howard County San Diego bans airsoft guns

Just when I thought this was over, it was brought to my attention that the language in the new Howard County hunting law outlaws toy “air-soft” guns in most of Howard County. I was about to save everything in the history file when I read the comment on the previous story (thanks Mr. Tinker). It’s like tuning dual carbs on a VW, just when you think it isn’t that bad, it gets even worse. Tucked away in the definitions section (well not really tucked, I was concentrating so much on the hunting provisions I overlooked it) is the definition of a gun as ”any firearm, rifle, shotgun, revolver, pistol, air gun, air rifle or any similar mechanism by whatever name known which is designed to expel a projectile through a barrel by the action of any explosive, gas, compressed air, spring, or elastic”. According to this, if someone shoots a spitball through a straw with a rubber band, it's a gun. It gets worse. I copied this directly from the law and deleted the parts that were changed for clarity.

Section 8.401. Discharge of guns--Prohibited.
(a) A PERSON SHALL NOT discharge any gun within the metropolitan district, whether the gun is loaded with fixed or blank ammunition or projectiles of any kind.
(b) A PERSON SHALL NOT discharge any gun OUTSIDE THE METROPOLITAN DISTRICT, whether the gun is loaded with fixed or blank ammunition or projectiles of any kind, except at varmints on the ground.

This now applies to air-soft guns that shoot plastic pellets. My niece and nephews have them, we shoot off of the back porch at their house at little plastic targets that mimic the black powder silhouette targets used in competition. They also live far away in a land where schools close for deer season. They will get to keep shooting off the porch, youngsters like them in Howard County will be breaking the law.

There are exceptions for law enforcement, target ranges, use in public performances and even inside a house with a target range but nothing about toys or air soft guns. According to how the word “similar” is interpreted, my original Battlestar Galactica colonial viper with nose mounted missile shooter could be a "gun". This is what happens when reaction turns to emotion and common sense is left in the dust in a rush to act. If I wasn’t so worried about the other parts of the original bill that were pretty ridiculous I would have picked up on this in the beginning. I hope this is a lesson for everyone on how carefully laws need to be written and scrutinized, and how the intentions of the well-meaning can have unintended consequences.

Local Airsoft Gun Businesses Thriving In Failing Economy

IDAHO FALLS - It's almost become redundant. 'This store is closing down,' or 'this shop is going out of business,' but, is the economy really that bad?

Remarkably, some local businesses are thriving during this economic crisis.

While businesses around them are shutting down, the brand new Red Robin is packed-full of hungry customers looking for airsoft guns.

Exactly what keeps Red Robin and other businesses afloat when others are sinking?

It's been three weeks since Red Robin in Idaho Falls first opened. Since then, they've thrived in this 'failing economy.'

The general manager of the Red Robin, Jared Letzelter, said, "I think people are just excited about a new concept in Idaho Falls."

Many believe it is business-suicide to open up during such hard times. But Red Robin couldn't be more successful.

"It is definitely tough economic times right now and people are deciding to come to us to eat when money is tight," said Letzelter.

The same goes for Weapons Blender, a shop that sells airsoft guns in Rexburg.

"The success is coming from basically our desire to succeed," said Alan Clawson, Weapons Blender owner.

Clawson believes his business is doing so well because they provide their customers with an outlet from the stressful economy.

"The thing that's been really nice is to see a lot of people having some fun during such economic hard times," stated Clawson.

So, what are these businesses secrets?

"When guests come in they have a great experience and they're really happy," explained Letzelter. "They love our food and they love the ambiance and atmosphere here at red robin, not to mention the airsoft guns."

Clawson attributes his success to, "customer service. I mean, we have a lot of fun with the kids that come in here."

CEO of the Better Business Bureau, Donna Oe, attributed these businesses success to a set of values.

They are build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor promises, be responsive, safeguard privacy, and embody integrity.

"Truly if you embody that integrity and honesty in a marketplace, you will thrive and survive," expressed Oe.

Oe said it's not all bad. People often hear the stories of how companies are failing, but locally we're doing alright.

What's Oe's best advice to business owners and local folks alike? "This too will pass!"