Edmonton police warning public about real dangers of fake guns
'Sometimes people make mistakes, but if it looks like a gun, it’s treated like a gun by police'
The Edmonton Police Service is warning young people about the dangers of playing with imitation guns in public.
"Fake Gun, Real Danger," a public education campaign launched Wednesday, is attempting to build awareness about imitation guns and to encourage safe use.
The campaign is to educate youth about how difficult it can be for police to tell the difference between a real and a fake gun in a encounter.
"Whether it's a replica or not, if we see a firearm, especially a firearm pointed at a police officer or anyone else, we have to make that split-second decision and access our firearm," Sgt. Matt LeBlanc said in a video released as a part of the campaign.
Police take firearms complaints very seriously due to the threat to public and officer safety.- Const. Chapman Lee
"It could be a lethal encounter."
Imitation gun files typically rise over the summer months especially in July.
Cases are increasing dramatically. In 2015 alone, EPS dealt with 1,598 files involving imitation guns — a 38-per-cent increase from the 1,160 files in 2014.
Four of 23 officer-involved shootings in Alberta investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team in 2014 and 2015 were linked to imitation guns. The shootings resulted in two deaths and two serious injuries.
Police are encouraging people not to show off imitation guns in public.
EPS Const. Christopher Marshall, who helped develop the safety campaign, said that there is a "general lack of awareness" of the dangers posed by imitation guns.
"We want the public to know that police can't always tell if a gun is real or fake, so to avoid a potential confrontation, we ask that you don't show imitation guns in public," said Marshal in a release.
Edmonton police warn that anyone who uses an imitation firearm to commit a crime will face the same penalties as if a real weapon was used.
'If it looks like a gun, it's treated like a gun'
Const. Chapman Lee once responded to two incidents in one week involving fake guns and noted that this spring, a community college was locked down after a man was seen carrying a pellet gun with a scope.
"Police take firearms complaints very seriously due to the threat to public and officer safety, and will respond with appropriate resources, tactics and level of force,`said Lee.
"Sometimes people make mistakes, but if it looks like a gun, it's treated like a gun by police."
The campaign was developed through talks between EPS, RCMP, school boards, retailers, parents and the Airsoft community. Airsoft is a game similar to paintball in which the players shoot each other with small non-metallic pellets fired by replica firearms.
Ben Holliday, an instructor with Capital Airsoft Indoor Battleground, said that this is "an opportunity to partner with police to make the sport of Airsoft safer."
"We take the extra time to talk to our customers about the safe and responsible use of Airsoft guns and these materials will help us get the message across, especially with young adults tempted to play with their guns in nearby neighbourhoods or parks," Holliday said in the police news release.
EPS has launched a series of multimedia materials to inform the public, including videos and a dedicated website.