After responding to several calls about “assault rifles” being carried in public that turned out to be airsoft guns, the Kirkland Police Department has issued an alert to raise awareness about how and where to properly use the potentially dangerous airsoft guns.
Kirkland Police spokesman Sgt. Rob Saloum said Wednesday that there haven’t necessarily been any close calls recently regarding the use of the air guns, also known by the brand name Airsoft guns. But they come in models that look just like real pistols and assault rifles -- such as AK-47s and AR-16s -- and the department hopes to prevent potentially dangerous situations.
“We’ve had several contacts,” he said. “We’re not going in there half-cocked. (But) we get calls from people who see kids or young adults dressed in camouflage and carrying them [airsoft guns]. So we wanted to educate the public.”
The airsoft guns are used for target practice and interactive gaming, and shoot plastic or ceramic projectiles like a large airsoft BB at rates up to 700 feet per second. Some people use them outside for war games, similar to paintball contests, wearing combat fatigues and other camouflage apparel. Under federal law, airsoft guns must be painted orange on the tip when they are sold.
“The problem is kids will paint the orange to make it look more real,” said Saloum. “Criminals sometimes too. The kids are looking for weapons that look like real guns, and they do. They are very realistic. It’s not what we did as kids with our Red Rider BB guns, it’s just a whole 'nother level.”
Tragic accidents have occurred in past nationally when police believed such weapons were the real thing. So to get the word out on their safe use, the Kirkland Police and the city have created a notice listing laws regarding airsoft guns and safety tips. For example:
• If you’re younger than 18 years old, you must have a parent or adult with you when carrying or shooting an airsoft gun.
• It is unlawful for anyone to point or shoot an airsoft gun at any person or property, or to discharge an airsoft gun that may cause injury to the person or damage to the property.
• Airsoft guns may not be used in any Kirkland park.
• Do not paint over the orange tips.
• Learn and follow firearm safety guidelines.
• Teach your young airsoft gun user how to safely handle it.
• Treat every [airsoft] gun as if it is loaded.