Shooting enthusiast Ryan Murabayashi of Pearl City leveled a very authentic-looking pellet gun Friday in The Power Edge on Waialae Avenue. Except for lighter weight, the Japanese-made replicas are indistinguishable from assault rifles.

Replica risk

Too-real toy guns are
creating close, potentially
deadly calls for Hawaii police

By Nelson Daranciang

The rising popularity of a new combat game is alarming Honolulu police because the replica guns the players use look so real that they are being mistaken for actual firearms.

The game is similar to paint ball except it uses so-called airsoft guns that propel .20 gram plastic BBs or pellets rather than bubble gum-sized vinyl balls filled with paint. The airsoft guns look so real that people have called 911 after spotting them being carried in public.

On Sept. 28, police received a report of a male walking around Manoa with a rifle. He was seen loading a magazine into the gun.

When police arrived they drew their service weapons, ordered the male to freeze and put his weapon on the ground.

"It's a good thing he complied," said Capt. Marie McCauley of the Honolulu Police Department.

The male turned out to be a 16-year-old boy and his weapon was an airsoft replica of an AR-15 assault rifle.

The next day two boys were spotted at a Kapahulu area school with what police believe were airsoft replicas.

Responding officers were not able to locate the boys.

And on Oct. 7, officers were sent to the Market City Shopping Center on a report of a male armed with a gun. When they found the 21-year-old man on a city bus, he was carrying an AR-15 replica.

"It's alarming to citizens and potentially dangerous for kids to be running around with exact replicas of dangerous firearms," McCauley said.

Power Edge owner Peter Do has been working with Honolulu police to keep the authentic-looking pellet guns from being brandished in public by his customers.

The replicas are so accurate that when one was placed next to real assault rifles, officers who use AR-15s could not distinguish the replica without picking it up, said HPD Lt. Alan Anami.

The replicas are lighter than the real firearms. But they also have their own magazines that hold the pellets and are loaded into the guns just like the firearms they resemble.

Rifles and pistols that use compressed air or springs to propel BBs or pellets are air guns as defined by Honolulu City ordinance.

However, the airsoft replicas also use battery-powered electric motors to propel the plastic pellets.

McCauley is spearheading an effort to amend city ordinances to include battery-powered replicas as air guns and to prohibit anyone from carrying them unconcealed in public. Section 41-8.3(a) prohibits only people under 18 unaccompanied by an adult from carrying unconcealed air guns in public.

The owner of a store that sells airsoft guns agrees with the proposed changes and goes a step further.

Peter Do, owner of Power Edge in Kaimuki, said he does not buy, trade, service or repair any airsoft gun brought into his store without a case or covering. And anyone who brings an uncovered gun into his store will not be allowed into the store's shooting gallery.

Do said he has been selling airsoft replicas for four years and knows of two other retailers on Oahu that only recently began selling airsoft guns. Do sells airsoft guns for as much as $1,200 for a replica of a M60 machine gun. He said airsoft guns have been in Hawaii for more than 10 years.

Airsoft Hawaii, an organization of airsoft gun enthusiasts, was formed in 1987, according to the organization's Web site at Do said the organization operates in Nanakuli. Prior to the guns being sold in Hawaii, Do said enthusiasts obtained their airsoft guns directly from Japan, where they are manufactured.

Anami said U.S. manufacturers color at least a portion of their replica guns a bright red or orange to distinguish them from real firearms. He said Japanese manufacturers do not follow the same guidelines.

Honolulu Police Department
Airsoft Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk


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