The air guns are inexpensive, easy to buy and often look like the real thing. Since July 2004, police in 11 states – Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – have recorded many robberies that involved youths who used BB guns to steal money and groceries, USA Today reports. In Toledo and in Philadelphia, would-be robbers with BB guns were shot with real guns by people they allegedly were threatening.
“It’s getting kind of scary,” says Capt. Michael Sinclair, who leads the detective squad in southwest Philadelphia, where at least 13 BB-gun holdups have occurred during the past two months. “These (BB guns) look like the real thing. One gets stuck in your ribs, there’s no way you know the difference.” BB-firing rifles cost as little as $30 and BB handguns cost slightly more, making the new generation of real-looking air guns attractive to petty thieves. Bob Hampton of Crosman Corp. of East Bloomfield, N.Y., a leading maker of air guns, says the robberies are “a concern.” He says manufacturers have begun applying bright orange paint to the muzzles of replica air guns to make them easier to distinguish from real firearms.