Last week in a Brownsville, Tx., middle school, administrators noticed that Jaime Gonzalez Jr., a 15-year-old eighth grader, had a gun tucked into the waistband of his pants, says the New York Times. It was a high-powered BB gun that resembled a black Glock semiautomatic handgun that can be bought on the Internet for $60. School officials announced a lockdown and called 911. In a confrontation, officers shot the boy dead.
The death was only the latest in a series of shootings involving realistic-looking BB guns and pellet guns. In recent years, dozens of police officers in Texas, California, Maryland, Florida, and elsewhere have shot children and adults armed with what they believed were handguns but that were determined later to be BB guns or other types of air pistols. In addition, the gun replicas have killed or injured thousands of children in cases in which the victims were accidentally shot by relatives or friends. The weapon in the Texas case was a Umarex SA177, was a .177-caliber, carbon dioxide-powered gun that shoots steel BBs and that has a metal slide with a plastic frame. “When I looked at that gun, there is no doubt that looking at it from a distance it's absolutely real,” said Carl Montoya, the superintendent of the Brownsville Independent School District and a reserve constable in the city.