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Can You Tell The Difference In a Split Second?
A radio call crackles on the unit radio; "4L22 respond to the area of Smith Park. The reporting party states there is a male wearing a T-shirt and shorts seen holding a black handgun near the playground." At the time, it is late evening, and there are children and families enjoying the park like they would on any other day. After you arrive, you are checking the area looking for someone who might fit the vague description given to you by dispatch. Your heart is pounding and adrenaline is coursing through your veins. Suddenly, a young male comes running around the corner of the restrooms. He is being chased by a another young male, who has a black metal semiautomatic handgun in his right hand. You order him to stop, and put his hands up. He stops running and brings the handgun up. Your attention is intently focused on that black object in his right hand as it comes up for being held down at his waist area. Is he raising the handgun to kill you because you interrupted him as he was trying to rob another young male in the park. Or was he just trying to show you that the very realistic looking handgun he was holding was in fact a replica of a Heckler and Koch USP 40 air soft pistol.
Law enforcement officers everywhere are presented with situations where they need to make a split second decision, with little or no information at the time. There isn't a law enforcement officer anywhere who wants to be placed in this situation. As the officer on scene, Do you hesitate to find out the hard way that what he held in his hands was a real handgun? Or do you protect yourself and the other park patrons, only to find out afterward that the intricate detail used to manufacture this replica was what caused this confusion in the first place.
California Penal Code Section 20160(a) states that all manufacturers of imitation or replica guns must provide conspicuous or obvious markings so that the gun would not be mistaken by law enforcement officers for a real gun. The owners of these replica guns do not always adhere to the law, because they want their guns to look as real as possible, which is their selling point. They are not thinking about the potential consequences of their decision to market the realism of these replica guns. That decision could have very deadly consequences, and ruin the lives of everyone involved.
Replica, air soft, pellet or any other type of imitation pistol or rifle should be treated like any real firearm. They should be kept out of public view, and kept in a case except when being used. In light of the horrible tragedy in the City of Cleveland Ohio, where a 12 year old boy was shot by police, while he reached for a replica pistol. People are very quick to blame the officer or deputy for not taking the extra time to find out if the gun was real or fake. However, those same critics will not be there to support and comfort the family of the officer who hesitated too long, and was shot dead by a gun wielding criminal who took advantage of the delay by the officer. It is very easy to look at this situation from the comfort of your living room chair with the luxury of hindsight. That luxury is not always afforded to the officer in the field, who wants to go home to their families at the end of their shift.
Depicted below are two Hechlor & Koch USP pistols. The only difference is that one is real and the other is an airsoft. Can you tell the difference?