It can be said that it was only a matter of time before state lawmakers would begin looking at increasing the types of crimes and violations they can impose on those who use Airsoft-type guns in the commission of crimes. While many states are looking into the widening problems associated with the use of Airsoft-guns, Nebraska is, perhaps, taking the lead as they debate criminalizing the use of these types of guns when used in the commission of a crime.
There are several issues that need to be addressed. For instance, last summer a man was shot and killed when he pointed his fake weapon at police during a robbery of a fast-food store. Vice President of the Omaha Police Officer’s Association, Anthony Conner, and state lawmakers recently agreed that even though the gun was not capable of firing a real bullet, it looked so real that it caused police and others to be in fear, thus leading to the suspect being shot.
This is not an isolated case. Police in virtually every jurisdiction in America are experiencing the same types of encounters. People, some children, are being shot dead by police who cannot tell the difference between a real weapon and a fake one. Also, many criminals, who cannot get a real weapon, are now using these types of guns to commit a variety of crimes from robbery to car-jackings.
At issue in Nebraska is a new proposed law (LB14) that would make using a facsimile weapon in the commission of crime a felony. Right now, weapons charges cannot be levied against suspects who use fake guns. Because these guns look so real that even professional police officers cannot tell the difference, the level of fear that they instill in victims is no different than if a real gun were being used. This is the premise of the debate going on.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said: “The fear you see with victims, whether it’s a real gun or not, it’s the same: them being terrorized.” He was testifying in support of the new bill. If passed, using a fake gun in a crime could carry with it a Class 3 felony charge.
Some lawmakers are not in favor of the new law. They say that passing this law may cause future criminals to use real guns instead of fake ones as they will have nothing to lose by doing so. They argue that leaving the law as it is allows criminals to choose to use fake guns (to avoid the weapons charges) and that is safer (for victims and police) than if real guns are used.
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