COMSTOCK TOWNSHIP, Mich. - In the wake of a Cleveland, Ohio grand jury deciding against charges for police officers involved in the shooting death of Tamir Rice, 12, airsoft guns are continually mistaken as the real thing. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff and airsoft gun users alike urge people to use them safely.
Concerned neighbors called the sheriff's office Tuesday morning to report two young people on Shirley Street with a gun. Deputies responded and found a 12 and 13-year-old with an airsoft pistol; a toy gun that looked real to those in the area.
The deputies explained not to play with an airsoft in the street or public places. Meanwhile Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller urges all parents to take responsibility and explain how to safely use airsoft guns. Fuller said the orange tips on these toys are not always visible, and to treat these toys like real guns.
“When somebody has a firearm pointed at them, they’re not going to notice an orange barrel," said Fuller.
"So it’s very important again for parents to have these conversations with their youth, making sure that they understand that this is a toy yes, but it’s a dangerous situation, and you really need to choose where you have your children play with a toy firearm.”
The West Michigan airsoft group, "Nest of Vipers Airsoft," is one of the many quickly growing airsoft groups nationwide. The group's posted videos of their simulated games look and sound like they are using real guns.
“It’s definitely an adrenaline rush, and the more realism in the game I guess the more adrenaline you feel," said Justin Buczek, N.O.V.A. member.
Buczek and fellow N.O.V.A. member Robby Lamie told FOX 17 that the airsoft sport is growing but they want it to grow safely.
“It all comes down to responsibility and accountability for both parents of youth who have airsoft guns, and for airsofters as well," said Buczek.
“You have to have the same safety idea as you would handling a real firearm.”
Their airsoft group takes additional safety steps and urges other airsofters to as well, including: leaving the orange tip on their airsoft guns and marking them with extra bright tape; always transporting their airsofts in gun cases; wearing safety equipment like face masks and goggles; and shooting airsofts only on a private airsoft field.
Both agreed airsoft guns are not a kids' toy.
“These aren’t a toy, it’s not like you can just go out in the street and have a Nerf gun war which some of us did as a kid," said Lamie. "It really comes down to responsibility."
The Sheriff's Department is reminding parents to talk to their kids about the proper places to play with toy guns and the dangers that can present themselves in today's world. Instances like this can cause concerns to neighbors and reactions by first responders that have resulted in shootings in the past.