In light of national news, local police advise taking extra care with toy guns

Gun safety tips you need to know

Cassie Shockey, an instructor for Shoot Smart Shooting Range in Fort Worth, Texas, talks about gun safety tips.
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Cassie Shockey, an instructor for Shoot Smart Shooting Range in Fort Worth, Texas, talks about gun safety tips.

Last week, Olympia police responded to a call about a man shooting a gun under the dock at Percival Landing. The caller thought it was an airsoft gun, Lt. Paul Lower told The Olympian, but wasn’t sure.

When officers arrived, they found a young man shooting his airsoft gun into the water.

Airsoft guns, which launch plastic BBs, are often designed to look like real weapons. Lower said that in “plenty of true crimes,” people have used these types of instruments — pellet guns, airsoft guns, etc. — as if they were real.

The encounter at Percival Landing is what Lower calls “a teaching moment.”

Shooting an airsoft gun in a public space is against the law, Lower said, but people don’t always know that. People — especially children, Lower noted — need to understand that the gun looks real, so bystanders will react to it like it’s real.

“We tell them, ‘You’re not trying to be mean, but recognize someone standing 100 feet away doesn’t know your intention or what that is,’” Lower told The Olympian after the incident.

Calls like the one last week aren’t unusual. In fact, Lower said the department gets one or two calls per week from people who say they think they saw someone with a firearm. Sometimes they’re accurate, and sometimes they turn out like last week’s incident.

Examples Lower gave: Somebody will think they saw someone with a rifle, but it’s an umbrella. Or somebody calls to say they saw some kids running through LBA Woods with a gun, but it turns out to be a Nerf gun.

People who own pellet and airsoft guns, Lower said, need to be “super careful,” especially in light of recent gun violence and mass shootings across the country. If you walk around in public with one of these guns, Lower said people are likely to call law enforcement.

“Still treat them as you would treat a firearm,” Lower said. “Don’t be pointing them at people.”

He said the police department wants to be reasonable in its approach to these situations, that “kids are kids, and they’re going to play with these things.” Officers also want kids to enjoy their time responsibly and safely, and parents to be in-the-know as to where and when their kids use the imitation guns.

“It’s important to have those conversations with your kids, that these toys can be misinterpreted out in public,” Lower said. “So, carrying them in shopping malls, at school, or down the street is going to raise alarm.”

Sara Gentzler joined The Olympian in June 2019. She primarily covers Thurston County government and its courts, as well as breaking news. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Creighton University.