AURORA - By the time you’ve read this paragraph, it’s already too late to tell if a gun pointed at you is real or fake.
And if you aim a look-a-like rifle or handgun at a cop, you risk not being left alive to tell a judge "but it was only a replica!"
Those were among the grim warnings York Regional Police issued Wednesday, after three teens were recently arrested in Newmarket while playing with increasingly-popular, realistic assault battle game rifles.
The toy gun trio, whose Airsoft weapons fire plastic projectiles, were released without charges after officers determined no one was threatened, Const. Blair McQuillan said.
Officers were called when someone reported seeing a teen armed with what appeared to be a real AR-15 assault rifle after he walked in front of a house from the back yard.
After apologizing, they were released to their parents with a warning, McQuillan said.
"We’ll treat them as real when we see them," he said after officers set police assault rifles and handguns on a table beside matching replicas.
Holding a confiscated rifle, he said "this is an unregulated item, but if it’s used in the commission of an offence, it will be treated as a criminal offence."
Airsoft game guns, including replica machine guns and sniper rifles are sold online, at flea markets and sporting goods stores at prices ranging from $200 to $800.
"As long as they are used in a controlled setting, such as inside a building or an open area away from a community, they’re legal," McQuillan said.
Many owners prefer to take them to paint ball facilities.
Despite being made of plastic, one of the [airsoft BB] projectiles "can raise a welt," McQuiggan said. "And if the person you hit was not part of the game, you could be charged."
Plastic toy [airsoft] guns must have red or orange tips when sold in the U.S. Though not required here, most imports are fitted with what some bravado boys simply paint over, a firearms expert said later.
Pellet and B-B guns come under separate regulations.
The Toronto Airsoft store’s phone was constantly busy Tuesday.
Since most people don’t know real from replica, fake gun-users have committed robberies or swaggered with them in public.
In Toronto, Meneliki Jafari David-Lee, 21, faced four gun-related charges Sunday after an Apple iPad owner reported fleeing an armed man who answered his sales ad on Kijiji.