Carrying air guns recipe for disaster

The Tribune

Air guns are not toys. If local children and teens don’t understand this soon, something tragic could happen.

Unfortunately, this message still needs to be reinforced, based on a recent incident involving two teenagers.

North Vernon police officers were called to an abandoned building on the evening of Jan. 20 in response to a call about two people wearing hooded sweatshirts entering with firearms.

What police discovered were two males, ages 14 and 16, carrying three Airsoft replica weapons. Two of the replica guns had been painted, camouflaging the orange safety tip and making them appear more realistic.

The problem camouflaging causes is the difficulty police officers have in distinguishing real guns from replicas.

It is difficult enough for ordinary people to determine whether air guns are real or not. In 2013, several motorists thought they saw a young man with some type of weapon near a Columbus restaurant, and the police were called to the scene.

When police arrived, two men fled, one dropping an item later identified as an air gun. The man later told police he displayed the air pistol to students during the lunch hour and didn’t think it was a big deal.

It was. And he and the North Vernon teens were fortunate nothing tragic happened to them — either by the actions of police or an armed resident.

In November, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by police in Cleveland when he reached for a toy gun on his waistband. The police believed the gun was real. About two months prior, police fatally shot 22-year-old John Crawford, who was carrying a toy rifle in a store in Dayton, Ohio.

Hammering home the message about the potential dangers of air guns needs to start with parents. Have honest discussions with your children and supervise what replica guns they are allowed to have and how to use them.

Playing with air guns can provide entertainment — if used properly. That means not camouflaging the orange safety tip, and using common sense. Carrying air guns around in public settings is a recipe for disaster.

Lives are too valuable to be lost due to mistaking a toy for the real thing.

Send comments to

At issue

Air guns often are hard to distinguish from the real thing.

Our point

Recent incidents reinforce the message that brandishing seemingly harmless weapons can have tragic consequences.