St. Paul, Mn., may make it illegal to carry realistic-looking toy guns in public, says USA Today. The proposal would extend a ban on traditional BB guns to what are called airsoft weapons – fake firearms that shoot plastic pellets and are used in simulated military games similar to paintball. “These things are really hard to tell from a real weapon, and they are being used to commit crimes,” says one official. Dallas and San Diego are considering barring sidewalk vendors from selling cheap look-alike guns.
Alan Sapp, a retired criminologist, says up to 10 percent of handgun robberies involve fakes. He says criminals use toy guns to avoid firearms charges if they’re caught. In St. Paul, at least 67 robberies, assaults and other crimes were committed using fake weapons in the first few months of 2006. In some places, police killed teenagers who waved toy guns that looked like the real thing. Fake firearms include black plastic models sold for $8 from ice cream trucks and metal reproductions that are authentic down to serial numbers and sell for $1,000 or more over the Internet. Federal law requires that all toy guns be sold with a bright orange tip to distinguish them from real weapons.