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Recent events such as a police crackdown on look-a-like rifles could ultimately lead to further laws to regulate replicas, says Toronto criminal lawyer Tushar Pain.
In recent news, York Regional Police warned that it would be treating replica rifles as real when they see them, following the arrest of three teens in Newmarket who were playing with realistic assault battle game rifles. Read Toronto Sun
Given how realistic the guns look as well as the escalation of gun violence in cities, Pain says he can understand the police approach to these situations.
“My initial reaction is that I am not surprised. When police are faced with unknown individuals brandishing what appear to be real firearms, I can see that they would want to proceed with caution to not only protect themselves but members of the public. It is understandable that that would be their first priority,” he adds.
While fake firearms are usually treated differently than real ones, they can be used in ways that violate the Criminal Code of Canada, he notes.
“For instance, if they even only fire sponge plugs and you shoot someone who hasn’t consented to ‘playing’ with you, you could face an assault with a weapon charge. If you walk around with one trying to convince people it is real, you could face a mischief charge. Other charges that could arise through the misuse of these ‘toys’ are criminal harassment, assault, armed robbery, weapons charges,” he explains.
However, he says, police should also take into account the total circumstances of the encounter in deciding how to react.
“For the time being, many of these imitation guns are unregulated and legal (there are exceptions for those imitation that can fire a projectile),” he explains.
Ultimately, Pain says he would not be surprised if further laws are passed to regulate even those replicas that don’t fire projectiles.
“It is not too hard to imagine the potential tragedy of someone holding a ‘fake’ and getting seriously hurt by a police officer or other individual who took it to be a real gun. On the flip side, one can also imagine someone getting seriously hurt by a gun they thought to only be a toy. Perhaps these things should be readily identifiable as fake,” he says.