Victoria Police have seized two replica handguns from a man in the Burnside Gorge area—the latest in a series of cases involving imitation firearms that have spiked in the first half of 2020.
Officers were called to the 300-block of Gorge Rd East on August 18 shortly after 11 a.m. for a report of a man with a gun.
Upon arrival police were informed that a man at a multi-unit temporary housing facility had surrendered a replica handgun to staff.
The handgun was handed over to officers, who determined that it did not match the description of the gun the man had been seen with earlier.
Police located the man in a suite at the facility and negotiated his surrender. After he was taken into custody, officers searched his suite and found a second replica handgun.
VicPD spokesperson Bowen Osoko says this incident is only the latest in a string of cases involving replica firearms.
He says that from January to July, VicPd have seen over 50 cases with airsoft guns, pellet guns, or other imitation guns.
“It’s unheard of. This is the most I’ve ever seen,” said Osoko in a phone interview with Victoria Buzz.
In some cases, Osoko says replicas have been altered to make them look more realistic, including removing or painting over orange safety tips.
For members of the public, the effect can be as harmful as the real thing.
“If someone points it at you, you’re going to think it’s real,” says Osoko.
“We had a file where a guy pulled what looked like an AR-15 on people. That will cause an emotional or psychological injury for sure.”
A pellet gun was recently used in an incident where a suspect shot at City Hall and the McPherson Theatres, damaging multiple windows.
Osoko says these guns can also cause non-life-threatening or even life altering injuries, such as permanent eye damage.
He worries that it’s only a matter of time before the spike in replica handguns leads to a more tragic outcome.
“We’re definitely concerned,” Osoko says. “In every case, people should treat the gun as if it’s real, and call 9-1-1.”