The Edmonton Police Service developed the Fake Gun, Real Danger public education campaign to build awareness around imitation guns, encourage their safe use, and reduce the number of incidents requiring police response.
The materials were developed in consultation with the airsoft community, retailers, parents, the city’s school boards, and officers from the EPS and the RCMP.
The message is simple: Police can’t tell if your gun is real or fake. Avoid a confrontation. Don’t show imitation guns in public.
What is an Imitation Gun?
An imitation gun is a copy of an actual firearm. Sometimes a fake gun is indistinguishable from a real gun because of the attention to detail.
Imitations can include:
- Airsoft, BB or pellet guns
- Replica or prop guns
- Paintball guns
- Toy or novelty guns
Imitations can be fun to play with, but they can pose safety hazards and create fear and panic if used in public places.
People might mistake a fake gun for a real gun and call police, which could have serious consequences.
Police Response to Gun Calls
Police respond to numerous incidents where firearms are reported, but later upon close examination, the guns are revealed to be realistic imitations.
In 2014, imitation guns were involved in approximately 1,160 EPS files from mischief to weapons complaints to serious crimes. In 2015, imitation guns were involved in approximately 1,598 EPS files, an increase of 438 occurrences or 38 per cent in just one year.
Because of their realism, imitation guns have also been involved in numerous police shootings and close calls across North America. Of the 23 officer-involved shootings investigated by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team in 2014 and 2015, four involved imitation guns (two deaths and two serious injuries).
Police take firearms complaints seriously due to the threat to public and officer safety, and will respond quickly with appropriate resources, tactics and level of force. It could be a potentially deadly confrontation.
If it looks like a gun it is treated like a gun by police. Even under ideal conditions, it can be challenging to determine if a gun is real or fake.
Imitation Guns and the Law
Because of the potential risks involved, you cannot show or use imitation guns in public places. Depending on the circumstances, you can be fined, arrested, or charged and have your gun seized.
- City of Edmonton Bylaw #14614 – Possessing a loaded weapon capable of firing a projectile, or firing a projectile in a public place, can result in a fine between $500 and $10,000, a mandatory court appearance and up to six months in jail.
- Canadian Firearms Act – There are legal requirements for the ownership, safe use, transportation and storage of certain types of air guns. Check with the RCMP Canadian Firearms Program or your retailer for more information.
- Criminal Code of Canada – Using an imitation firearm to commit a crime results in the same penalties as using a real firearm.Possession of an imitation gun can cause individuals to breach their court-imposed conditions.
Imitation Gun Safety Tips
Please use imitation guns in a safe, responsible and lawful manner:
- Never play with an imitation gun in public places such as malls, parks or schools.
- Use air gun imitations only at designated play areas, gun ranges, or on private land outside of the city.
- Do not point an imitation gun at another person, even if you are joking.
- Handle air gun imitations with care to avoid injuries, and consider taking a safety class.
- Set rules for children playing with imitation guns so they understand the dangers of misusing them.
- Keep imitation guns out of sight and locked in a case to prevent misunderstandings, accidents or theft.
- If you are carrying an imitation gun and are approached by police, put the gun down and obey their instructions.
The EPS Fake Gun, Real Danger public safety campaign was launched on June 29, 2016.