Fake guns, real crimes

Posted at 6:56 PM, Nov 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-29 18:57:53-05
One is fake and one is real but even up close, it's hard to tell the difference between the airsoft gun and the real firearm.
“If you are about 40-50 feet away, especially in the dark, there’s no way you could tell the difference,” said Alex Shkop, owner of Gun Range Training Center in West Palm Beach.
The realistic look is the point for airsoft and BB gun enthusiasts.
“Sometimes those kids they would come out with real tactical gear," Shkop said. "They would look like SWAT teams.”
For officers who only have seconds to decide, it can be a life and death decision. 
“The deputies are going to react to what’s presented to them," said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. "If they see something with what appears to be a firearm then the danger level rises.”
In 2014, 12-year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by officers in Ohio after they thought he had a real gun. It turned out to be a BB gun. 
Shkop said that's why he doesn't allow his son to play with fake guns. 
“It’s pretty scary,” Shkop said. 
If you're thinking about buying your kids fake guns for Christmas, Palm Beach County Sheriff Bradshaw has some advice for you. 
“There is no reason to buy these look-a-like guns,” Bradshaw said. 
If you do, Shkop said make sure you supervise your child and give them proper gun safety training, just as you would with a real gun.
“Finger always off the trigger," Shkop said. "Always know what’s behind your target. You never point your barrel anywhere but your target.”
If you remove the orange tip, it can become especially attractive to criminals. 
“For some of these wannabe thugs or gang members, they can’t afford to buy a firearm so they just get one of the fake ones,” Bradshaw said.
Since they look more realistic, fake guns have been used more and more often across the country to commit crimes. 
“If you’re a clerk at a store, you’re not going to take the time to find out if it’s real or not,” Bradshaw said. 
Under Florida statue, you have to be over 16 years old to buy a BB or airsoft gun, unless you have your parents' authorization. 
Fake guns are still less regulated than real firearms and it's a problem for law enforcement. 
“There’s a lot of bad things that can happen with these fake guns," Bradshaw said. "Nothing good can come out of it.”
Fake or real, Bradshaw said the penalties for your crime remains the same. 
“If you thought it was a gun then the penalty is the same, regardless whether it’s real or not,” Bradshaw said. 
In the case of the two boys in Boynton Beach, officers are not charging them with a crime. They got a big break because they could have faced felony charges.