“Get your wallets, or I’ll shoot her!” yelled the gunman, as he put his weapon to Pat Johnson’s head. He’d just walked into the antique store she manages in Vancouver’s swanky Shaughnessy district.
When he turned away, some colleagues tackled him to the ground, sending his weapon flying. But the gunman’s arrest wasn’t the end of the story. When officers picked up the gun for evidence, they learned it was an imitation — a BB gun, made to look just like the real thing.
Of course, that didn’t make it any less traumatic for Johnson. “A gun’s a gun,” she says. “And we were all terrified.”
And it seems, that’s what criminals are learning, too. Police across Canada say fake guns that look real are being used in more and more crimes. They’re used in car-jackings, bank robberies and convenience store hold ups, too.
And realistic looking guns are causing problems in schools. In Toronto, there have recently been more incidents involving fake guns than the real thing.
So what’s the attraction? Well, for one, young people tell us it’s fun to shoot a BB gun that looks just like a cop’s. And these fakes are easy to buy. In most parts of Canada, there are no age requirements around who can buy a realistic looking gun.
Manufacturers sure know the appeal of real looking fakes — they’re making buckets of money, by getting licensing agreements from the real gun manufacturers to make theirs as real as possible.
And criminals know that it’s perfectly legal to carry a real-looking gun, and no permit’s required to get one.
For the cops? It all spells big trouble. When they get a “gun call,” they respond as though the person — young or old — is carrying a real gun. In Canada, that’s lead to unnecessary shootings and fatalities.
Over the years, numerous coroner’s juries, and police at all levels have called on the federal government to tighten up the laws when it comes to these fake guns. Some cops want the imitations outright banned.
Others want a “must be 18 to buy and possess” law. And others say you should have to have a license to buy a gun that looks like the real deal.
The federal government says it’s looking at the issue — a “working group” was struck two years ago.
While we wait for its recommendations, store manager Pat Johnson has installed tighter security at her shop, so now any “customers” have to be buzzed in.