MADISON (WKOW) - A spike in threatening situations in Dane County with look-a-like, Airsoft guns playing a role leads to warnings from law enforcement.
"They're absolutely still a dangerous weapon that could inflict injury on a person especially to the eyes or anywhere else to the face," Madison Police Spokesperson Mike Malloy says of the legal, facsimile guns. "The Airsoft pellet - that's going to be a hard plastic."
Police officials say a man doing yard work Saturday on Sharpsburg Drive was shot by an Airsoft gun, with the suspect in a car that drove by. The victim was shot in the ear and it's believed the incident was random.
Authorities say a road rage incident in the 3100 block of Muir Field Road Sunday ended with a 56-year-old driver threatening another driver with what appeared to be a black handgun. Police says the allegedly threatening driver was arrested.
Malloy says if an Airsoft weapon lacks an identifying orange tip, the weight and appearance of some look-a-like hand guns and long guns can be perceived as a firearm, even by experienced, patrol officers.
"I think an officer is going to perceive that to be a firearm and they're going to respond to that as they've been trained to proceed," Malloy says.
Authorities say another recent incident took place in Brooklyn when a homeowner urged those in a car speeding in a residential neighborhood to slow down. Officials say passenger Sebastian Streiff pulled out what appeared to be a black hand gun and threatened the homeowner.
Streiff's been charged with disorderly conduct with the use of a dangerous weapon. While no one was hurt in the incident, a spokesperson for the victim referenced the danger in such a confrontation during a Tuesday court appearance for Streiff.
"The next time it could not end this way," the spokesperson said.
Malloy notes Airsoft look-a-likes are more accessible than actual firearms and cost less. He says that may help to explain the recent uptick in incidents involving them, although Malloy says they've been an ongoing concern for police.
Malloy says Madison Police encourage people to turn in their Airsoft devices if possessed by children too young to purchase them or if they are no longer needed to legitimate, safe recreation.
Malloy says Airsoft devices should be transported and handled in the same, safety fashion as actual firearms. He says owners should also be aware of how the appearance of the facsimile gun is perceived.
"People are going to perceive what they see and when we look at these weapons, they appear to be functioning firearms," Malloy adds.