Victoria Newspaper on replica guns
Police: Wielding a replica gun can get you killed
Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist
Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Police in Victoria are seizing at least one replica handgun a week and it is only a matter of time before someone dies, Victoria police Insp. Les Sylven warned yesterday.
Police are forced to make a split-second decision when faced by someone wielding a weapon which looks, feels and, sometimes, even sounds real, Sylven said.
"I have had my coffee and I am fresh and alert and I can't tell the difference," said Sylven, looking at an array of black and metal weapons, laid out on a table. Some shoot pellets and others are simply for show.
"Put that at 3 a.m. in a dark alley, when a police officer has to decide whether that's real. It's a defining moment," he said.
In October, a 37-year-old Pitt Meadows man was shot and killed by police after he produced a handgun, which was later found to be a replica.
Police frustration is growing as the law does not forbid carrying a replica gun in public, although, if it is used in the commission of a crime, it is treated in the same way as if it was a real weapon.
"Should there be a ban on them? Talk to any police officer and any police officer's family and they would say there should be a ban on them," Sylven said.
On Sunday, Victoria police responded to a call from a member of the public about a man openly carrying a gun.
"We knew him to be someone we meet downtown quite often -- a street-level drug dealer," Sylven said.
But the gun turned out to be a replica, so the man was released without charges.
Often, police have to question whether they can even seize the fake weapon, he said.
The sight of apparently deadly guns on downtown streets affects passers-by and the abundance of replica weapons is costing thousands of taxpayer dollars and using valuable police time, Sylven said.
Some incidents are dealt with by police officers on the beat, but, frequently, the full emergency response team, with 20 to 30 officers, is called out to a gun incident.
Each report has to be treated as if it is a real weapon, said Sylven, who cannot yet estimate the cost of incidents around the seizure of 65 replica weapons last year.
Sometimes, roads, bridges or buildings have to be closed as police investigate the weapons report, he said.
"It happens all the time and primarily, we don't want someone to get hurt."
In Victoria, all replica guns have been seized from men. "In all my time, I don't think I've ever had a female with one," Sylven said.
The weapons can be bought online -- with assurances they are perfectly legal in Canada -- from sporting goods and chain stores.
Sometimes, parents purchase them for their children, said Rebecca Wellman, of the police property and supply section.
"We've had one incident where a mother called to get the replica gun back for her son," she said incredulously.
Parents should be reminded of the extreme risks, Sylven said.
"If you do possess one, assume police are going to react as if it's a real weapon."
Thought the community would like to read this. FYI.