Airsoft guns are kind of cool. They’re a safe way to, well, shoot at other people. That’s why mil-sim (military simulation) likely sprung up in the first place. You had realistic guns that you could fire at someone in relative safety.
Oh, there are dangers that have to be accounted for, but some safety equipment mitigates those easily enough.
Yet there’s one danger we can find with any realistic replica of a real firearm and that’s what happens when you point it at someone else, particularly if they’re armed.
That’s a lesson from an incident in Indiana involving an airsoft gun and law enforcement.
A woman who was shot and killed by an Evansville police officer Wednesday evening was armed with an airsoft gun modeled after a Smith and Wesson revolver, officials said Thursday during a news conference.
At 6:10 p.m., according to a timestamp seen in the body camera footage, the officer issued a command: “Ma’am, stop reaching.”
Seconds later, he pulls out his handgun and calmly orders McKinney to “stop reaching” a second time. McKinney appears to say, “Uhm,” as she reaches into her pocket and produces what appears to be the airsoft gun, which Gray said the officer believed to be a real firearm. In one fluid motion, McKinney moved the replica gun behind her back.
At 6:10 p.m. and 11 seconds, the officer issued another command to McKinney: “Drop the gun!”
McKinney does not drop the replica weapon and appears to say, “I don’t,” but her words were cut off when the officer fired two shots at her from close range. McKinney is then seen collapsing to the ground. According to police, she fell on top of the airsoft gun.
Gray said in the seconds before the officer fired his weapon, McKinney appeared to “bring her arm up in a motion as if (she was) lifting the gun.”
Now, there will be those who will object to this shooting because it was an airsoft gun and that wasn’t likely to do serious harm to the officer.
The issue is that if McKinney had a real gun and the officer delayed, he might have been dead, out of some misplaced concern it wasn’t a real firearm.
In the eyes of the law, if it looks like a gun and you handle it like a real firearm, you’re going to be treated like it’s a real firearm. If you use an airsoft to rob a liquor store, for example, you’re going to be charged with armed robbery, even if it’s not a real firearm.
And that doesn’t just apply to law enforcement shootings or committing crimes. If you or I were to find ourselves being robbed by someone threatening us with a gun-shaped object and we used lethal force, the fact that it was actually an airsoft wouldn’t somehow magically make us guilty of murder instead of acting in self-defense.
At least, not in most places and this isn’t legal advice, for the record, just an observation from numerous armed citizen stories and discussions with people who know the law better than I do.
The long and the short of it is bringing an airsoft gun into a situation is bringing a toy to a gunfight and this case makes it pretty clear how that’s going to work out.