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Prop Gun F-Ups

Moments when you wish for a do-over
Playing @ Home
Mark Ott, Jr., an 18-year-old senior at Lincoln-Way Central High School was issued a 5-day suspension for making the mistake of walking down the hallway to go to the bathroom one night without leaving the fake handgun being used as a prop in a play he was rehearsing. Mark had the plastic gun tucked in his pants when he left the school auditorium to go to the bathroom, discovered his error when he got there, and returned to the rehearsal carrying the prop in his hand. A woman attending another school function was making a cell-phone call in the hallway when she saw the gun and panicked, getting a school administrator to call the local police. By the time police officers arrived, the rehearsal was over and Mark had gone home. Police found 4 prop guns on a table backstage, and one student who was still there cleaning up, helped authorities piece together the events, and tracked down Ott for questioning. He was suspended from school the next day.

Bloomington, Ind.
Replica Guns Stolen From Homeland Security Trailer -- A thief stole riot gear and several replica guns from a trailer owned by the Department of Homeland Security, police said.

Friday, August 15, 2003
3 charged under city law on replica guns on Honolulu. 
Three of four men arrested early Wednesday in Manoa Valley are the first people to be charged with violating a new city law that prohibits carrying unconcealed replica handguns in public. Jamieson Pond, 20, and two 19-year-olds, Andrew Park and Kory Takekawa, were arrested at 12:20 a.m. on Kolowalu Street near Noelani Elementary School. Honolulu Police Department Capt. Marie McCauley said an officer, responding to reports of suspicious activity, confronted one man holding what appeared to be a silver handgun. Police seized a second gun from the waistband of another suspect and found a third gun on a railing near a third suspect. All were air guns that shoot plastic BBs or pellets but are reproductions of real firearms. The intent of the law signed by Mayor Jeremy Harris last month is to protect officers and the public from situations in which a replica gun might injure someone. The law prohibits people from having unconcealed replica guns in public or having them out in the presence of a law enforcement officer."It's not something you should be carrying on the street," McCauley said. "It's not a plaything."

 Lawrence of Arabia designer spared jail over 'prop' guns in England.
A 77-year-old set designer, who has worked on films such as Lawrence of Arabia, was today given a suspended sentence for illegally having guns once used as props on screen. Anthony Rimmington pleaded guilty to having three prohibited guns and an assortment of ammunition. The court was told the weapons and bullets were found in a locked cupboard in his flat in Ealing, west London, in June 2001. Police had broken into the flat over unrelated matters which were not proceeded with, said Mark Rainsford, prosecuting. A Luger had been bought back from Germany during Rimmington's national service in 1948. "He swapped it for a hot drink and something to eat," said Mr Rainsford. "He is a very skilful set designer and draftsman, and on film sets there is a need for authentic-looking weapons. After filming, he was allowed to keep them." James Guthrie QC, defending, said Rimmington had bought the Luger pistol "from a one-armed ex-Panzer captain who was down on his luck" after the war. It was last fired in 1951 at Bisley as an experiment to see if it worked. An 1892 French revolver had been a film prop 50 years ago, as had a Browning pistol also seized by police. The box of ammunition had come as a job lot from the film industry. Mr Gurthrie said Rimmington had no previous convictions and was "fortunate still to be working. His skills are still required." Judge Beaumont told Rimmington that as a prominent member of a gun club, he knew the weapons were illegal. But he accepted that they had been kept by him as souvenirs and not for criminal purposes. Rimmington was sentenced to a total of six months, suspended for two years, at the Old Bailey. The Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont, said he was suspending the sentence because of the unusual circumstances of the case. Rimmington, who was said to sometimes arrange film stunts, has worked on Lawrence Of Arabia, Casino Royale, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Entrapment with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. He left court without commenting. 

Backlash at curbs to restrict replica guns in England
Relatives of people killed or injured by acts of gun crime clashed with sporting enthusiasts yesterday over the government's plans to restrict the manufacture and sale of imitation and replica firearms. Members of the Gun Control Network (GCN), many of whom have personal experience of tragedies caused by the use of illegal weapons, hit out at an international campaign being run by devotees of paintball and the similar but more militaristic airsoft shooting events.

Middleton, Connecticut
Sat Feb 3 2001 12:00:10
Police find props were actually real guns Middletown police recovered what were thought to be three prop guns stolen from a theatrical production at Wesleyan University, only to discover the guns were real.

Times Herald-Record
The real problem with fake guns Harmless toys that can get you killed..
By Ramsey Al-Rikabi
The graveyard shift at the Walden Hess station ended at 7 a.m. for Viktor Gridin, and it ended with an empty cash register. With only 36 minutes left in the shift, two men in black hooded sweatshirts walked in. They went to the newspaper rack. Gridin, the cashier, rubbed his chin, and then put his hands in his pockets. The two walked up to the counter. The guy on the right put a newspaper on the counter. The guy on the left pulled out a black pistol and pointed it at Gridin's face. Gridin emptied the drawer, slot by slot. He handed over the cash. The pistol went back in the pocket. The two walked out 40 seconds later with $294 in cash and a newspaper. Another look at the video, and the gun looks real. Feels real in the hands of the officers who arrested the robbers. Cocks like a real gun. Heavy, too.  Gridin emptied the till like it was real. But the pistol is a replica - a BB gun made to look like the real thing.  Imitation guns are easy to get, convincing in a stick-up, and possibly deadly for someone willing to commit a crime with a fake. As a detective in Newburgh NY put it: "It can get you killed in a hurry.

" John Peel and William Keator, the two men later arrested for the Hess robbery, both face felony second-degree robbery charges. Peel, who swapped his black-hooded sweatshirt for a blue Orange County Jail jumpsuit, says he was drunk at the time of the robbery. As he says now: "Judgment seriously impaired."

Jaswinder Singh, 20, a driver for Syndicate Taxi in Middletown CT, was sure the gun a would-be robber put to the back of his head was fake. "He said 'I'll blow your head off,'" Sing recalls of the attempted robbery in January. Then the robber smacked him on the head with it. "I said 'Go ahead,' because I felt it was plastic. If it is a real gun, it's heavy. It would hurt." State police believe the same people tried to rob other drivers two weeks later.

When three teens were arrested for the attempted robberies, only a fake plastic gun was recovered. The Town of Wallkill NY Police Department gets a couple of guns like this a month, almost all with the orange tip snapped off or colored over. City of Newburgh police says they get between five and 10 a week.  "When you're confronted, you don't see that," Wallkill Officer Anthony Kuhn says about the barrels. "Ask someone who's been robbed, and they'll tell you it was this big." He holds up his hands in a circle the size of a cannon ball. And what if somebody pulled one on a cop? "One of our biggest concerns," Wallkill Chief Robert Hertman says, "is if somebody pointed one of these at a police officer, there would be no way to differentiate between one of these and a real weapon."

Last October, a village of Chester NY cop almost pulled his weapon on a 15-year-old boy with a pellet gun.

In January, a sergeant for the Department of Veterans Affairs almost shot a Warwick High School student who pointed a BB gun at a girl. Four days later, a sheriff's deputy in the state of Florida shot 15-year-old Christopher Penley in the head, killing him. Penley had pointed a plastic pellet gun at the deputy. The orange tip had been painted black.

Walk into the Middletown NY Flea Market on Dolson Avenue any weekend, and you can find cheap made-in-China airsoft guns. Similar to BB guns, airsoft guns are imitation firearms that shoot plastic beads that could barely break the skin. Playing with airsoft guns is similar to playing with paintball guns; the point is to shoot your playmates. Show an ID that says you're at least 16, fork over as little as $6, and take one home. It's simple to paint over or just snap off the orange tip. On some plastic guns here, the tips are already black. These aren't like the metal BB gun that John Peel used in the robbery, but local police departments have recovered a fair number of these plastic look-alikes. "You'd have to be crazy to rob someone with a pellet gun," says a vendor selling orange-tipped airsoft guns who declines to give his name. "But there are a lot of crazy people around." Kids and adults stop by to see the guns, nestled in white Styrofoam molds, everything from little handguns to assault rifles. A mother comments on how real they look.

The imitation guns for sale here are "a matter of concern," says Christine Pritchard, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. New York state law, since 1989, has prohibited the sale of real-looking imitation guns without an orange stripe that runs the entire length of the barrel. "Realistic toy guns put in jeopardy the lives of New Yorkers, especially children and law enforcement personnel," says Pritchard. "It's a matter we take quite seriously and would want to look into." Possession and sale of imitation guns is legal everywhere in New York state except New York City and, recently, Rockland County. The county passed a law in January that makes the sale or possession of an imitation gun a civil penalty. "If it stops one person from using a non-firearm, it's a plus," says Lt. Anthony Costa of the Rockland County Sheriff's Department. The sheriff's department supported the legislation, says Costa, an NRA member. But its limits are clear to him. "Is it a complete answer? I'd have to tell you 'No.'"

There is a belief among some that the criminal charges would be significantly less for using a fake gun in a robbery. It's not a real gun so it's no big deal, right? That is mostly fiction. First-degree robbery can be reduced to second-degree robbery if it's proven a fake gun was used. It still "appears" to be a real gun. Still a felony and still punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Police found an imitation gun last November when they arrested Matthew Pickett, the 19-year-old accused of six armed robberies in the Middletown area of Connecticut. It's black plastic with a fake-wood handle; the orange tip is snapped off. Michael Brownstein, Middletown police ID officer, calls it "junky." But it worked. Brownstein has a BB gun that cops took off a guy during a traffic stop. It's black, heavy, cocks like a real pistol. It's a Walther replica, the same type Peel pointed at Viktor Gridin's face when he robbed the Hess gas station that morning in Walden. "If they pulled this out on us - on a cop," he says, "they would be shot."
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