Replica guns should be licensed and registered just like the real thing, say safety advocates and police. In recent years, police officers across the country have shot and killed several people holding guns that later turned out to be replicas.
The Canada Safety Council has approached police to push for gun replicas to be regulated under the federal Firearms Act, said council president Emile Thérien. That would require them to be licensed and registered.
The Ottawa Police Services Board supports that proposal and is asking its provincial and federal counterparts to lobby for the changes.
Acting Staff Sgt. Mark Patterson of the Ottawa police guns and gangs unit said it's often difficult for police officers to tell a real gun from a replica during threatening situations like armed robberies.
"You don't have that luxury, for lack of better term, to see what firearm is being used being by the suspect," he said.
Replica guns and fatalities
In the past four years, police officers have shot and killed a number of people holding guns that later proved to be replicas. Among the incidents were the following:
•Jan. 16, 2010, Edmonton: Bernadette Auger, 48, was fatally shot by police at an Edmonton apartment while holding an air-gun replica of a Sig Sauer handgun and failing to respond to police commands.
•March 6, 2009, Ottawa: Bank robbery suspect Paul Jeffrey, 27, was shot and killed by police after pointing a replica pistol at police and threatening to shoot.
•Oct. 13, 2006, Burnaby, B.C.: Daniel Antony King, 37, was shot to death by police after getting out of a car holding a replica gun following a car chase.
Just a month ago, Edmonton police shot to death a woman brandishing a replica handgun.
Last March, Ottawa police shot to death a bank robbery suspect who pointed a gun at officers and threatened to shoot. The man's gun later proved to be a replica, but Ontario's Special Investigation Unit cleared Ottawa police of wrongdoing, saying the man's behaviour would cause a "reasonable" person to think the gun was real.
Patterson said replica pellet guns are also a risk because their pellets can travel fast enough to cause serious injury, especially to people's eyes.
Replica guns are extremely common in Ottawa and about 40 per cent of handguns seized by police last year were replicas, Patterson said.
Thérien said replica pellet guns are advertised by many mass merchandisers in their catalogues around Christmas. "So they're easy to buy."
In Ontario, the only restriction he knows of is that you must be 18 to purchase one.
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