Toy Gun vs. Real Gun; How Do Police Determine the Difference?

By: Jim Freeman Email
By: Jim Freeman Email

Knox County (WVLT) - There is no policy in Knox County Schools addressing pellet guns on school grounds or buses.

But, after a Bearden Middle School student was taken into custody Monday for having a pellet gun on the bus, police say it's not easy to tell the difference between a pellet gun and a real gun.

Volunteer TV's Jim Freeman has the details.

The student's mother told Volunteer TV that the situation on the bus Monday was an innocent situation, but police say it could have quickly turned dangerous.

"Well, it's very difficult from the law enforcement side to distinguish what's real and what's not," says Lenior City Police Chief Don White.

When we placed three handguns on a table together, and only one was real, but all three looked like they could be.

"The airsoft guns very much so look realistic, fit together realistically, like the clips and things like that," said Jonathan Wagner, who coordinates Knox Airsoft Group.

That realistic look is one reason why police took Monday's incident involving a student on a Knox County bus so seriously.

And why airsoft gun enthusiast Jonathan Wagner preaches common sense.

"Hey, don't brandish these in public. If you have one, you make sure it's in a bag. Obviously, there's places to go that you don't go with these and there are places you do go with these," Wagner said.

He adds that school and a school bus are on the "don't go" side of that list.

And he says airsoft guns are not for youngsters.

"These are for 18 and older. To buy anything, you have to be 18 and older," Wagner said.

"On the street, when you only have a split second to make a decision, whether this is a real weapon or not, it's very, very difficult for us to make that determination," said Chief White.

The young man accused of taking the pellet gun on the bus was not at school Tuesday.

Russ Oaks with Knox County Schools says by law, he can't tell us if the student will be allowed to return to school Wednesday.


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