HOPKINS, Minn. (WCCO) — Airsoft guns are becoming a popular toy for kids, but they are also posing a potential risk for police officers.

The guns look so real, there are times when it’s hard for even trained professionals to tell the difference. In the gun and rifle section at Joe’s Sporting Goods, sales are not just limited to the real thing.

“Very popular. They’ve become popular over last five or six years with all the kids,” said Matt Mullner, gun manager at Joe’s Sporting Goods.

Youngsters ready to take on their first firearm are starting with airsoft guns.

“They’ve got to start some place and I’d rather have them start with a safety gun like this. It’s a smaller, non-lethal way to do it,” said Mullner.

Whether it’s a replica rifle or a small 9-millimeter, the gun shoots plastic pellets not meant to injure.

“There’s not a lot of energy behind the bb.  They’re plastic, not designed to penetrate the skin and just bounce off safely,” said Mullner.

But Hopkins Police Sergeant Michael Glassberg said these fake firearms carry a certain risk. Side by side, the fake and real gun look so similar even the trained eye can’t always tell the difference immediately.

It’s led to some tense moments in recent weeks for officers responding to calls of people with guns, all of which turned out to be airsoft guns.

“It hit close to home that we don’t want to get into a shooting situation and take someone’s life or shoot at them with a replica handgun,” said Sgt. Michael Glassberg.

Airsoft guns are sold with an orange cap to immediately distinguish the difference between a replica and a real gun. But there are times when the owner either removes the orange tip or colors it.

Hopkins Police are now pushing for a change in the law, limiting the areas where airsoft guns can be used. The goal is to keep both officer and citizen safe for a device that some say is no toy.

“We’re just in fear of if we get someone who doesn’t comply or doesn’t get that we think it’s a real handgun,” said Glassberg.

The Hopkins City Council will take up the ordinance next week.


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