It's almost impossible to distinguish toy air guns from genuine handguns or automatic weapons, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “If a police officer stops a car and sees one on a seat or a kid holding one,” said Apple Valley Police Chief Scott Johnson, “We'd hate to see a teenager get killed.” Airsoft guns, the most popular style, fire plastic pellets. The fakes typically are used in a recreational sport similar to paintball and show up in mock war games. There are Airsoft leagues and clubs, and a devoted online following.
The popular guns are popping up in schools and neighborhoods, prompting police to warn parents about the risks and spurring government agencies to try curbing their use. St. Paul police plan a public awareness event this week to share their concerns with parents. “You could set these guns on a table, and a trained eye could maybe determine that one is fake and one is real – or maybe not,” said Eagan Police Chief Jim McDonald. Said Dakota County prosecutor Jim Backstrom: “It's a disturbing trend, and one that causes me alarm. You can't be fooling around with toy guns that look real and brandishing them or pointing them at people.”