Airsoft guns aren’t quite BB guns, but they're not a toy, either. They shoot a hard plastic BB, powered either by spring action or CO2.
Manufactures have gone to great lengths to make these guns look like real firearms, from handguns to assault rifles. Kids love them because they can affordably obtain a gun that looks like the real thing, yet they can safely shoot them in their backyard —at targets, critters, or even each other — when wearing proper safety equipment.
Visually, about the only thing that sets airsoft guns apart from a real thing is a blaze-orange piece of plastic affixed to the end of the barrel.
Federal law requires that these airsoft guns and other realistic-looking toy guns feature a blaze-orange marking, at least 6 millimeters in length, permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel. The same law does not make it illegal to remove or alter that orange tip, meaning those who buy these guns and wish for a more realistic look can paint that orange tip, cover it with tape or simply remove it.
That law also doesn’t apply to BB pistols, which are equally realistic looking, though nearly as harmless.
A few weeks ago, a Grand Rapids police officer shot and critically wounded a young man who threatened officers with what turned out to be a BB gun. The officers said the BB gun was extremely realistic looking.
This raises the question: Why don’t lawmakers require orange tips on BB guns made to look like real handguns? And why aren’t there any consequences for those who remove or alter the orange tip on those toy and recreational guns that require them?
We would urge lawmakers to take a careful look at this situation.
Police officers put themselves at great risk when responding to calls involving violent acts, and we don’t blame them for taking extreme action when they see a suspect flashing around a gun.
We owe it to our police force to make it easier for officers to know what they’re facing when they’re in the field. Airsoft guns and BB pistols, and even BB rifles crafted to look like actual firearms, should all include an orange marker at the end of the barrel.
Otherwise, we’re bound to have more tragic instances where an individual is shot, and possibly killed, for flaunting a relatively harmless air-powered gun.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.