They may be fake, but the problems they make are dangerously real. A toy gun might seem innocent, but you don’t need bullets for a situation to turn deadly. Fake guns are being made to look so realistic, even police officers and gun fanatics struggle to tell them apart.
"I would not hesitate to shoot somebody if we had to if this was pointed at myself or somebody else trying to defend their life," explains Cpl Edward Koczan with the South Bend Police Department.
Koczan shows us a variety of guns. Some are real. Others shoot small, plastic balls instead of bullets. But you might not know that in the dark when your life is in danger.
"There would be no way of determining in that quick second whether you're going to be firing or don't fire...trying to determine if that's a toy or not," Koczan says.
"Your instinct and your training is automatically going to say, shoot that person with this gun," says Brad Foster, owner of Midwest Gun Exchange in Elkhart and Mishawaka.
"People will start to get shot because of firearms like this because they look so real."
We asked several folks at the gun shop if they could tell the difference between the reals and the replicas. They were able to recognize the real guns, but admit, they would not feel comfortable if any of them happens to be pointing their way.
"If somebody pointed this one at me...any of those...I wouldn't question that they would be real. I wouldn't take a chance," says Mike Rimpel.
Not only are the guns being made to look real, people are making them look even more realistic. Often times, toy guns come with an orange plug so you can easily recognize if it’s real or not. But a common practice is to cover that orange plug with black marker or tape.
Federal law says toy guns must, “have as an integral part, permanently affixed, a blaze orange plug inserted in the barrel of such toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm.” However, there are exceptions. “Such term does not include any look-alike, nonfiring, collector replica of an antique firearm developed prior to 1898, or traditional B-B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.” Police say those make up the majority of guns they find on the streets.
We asked viewers to take a look at our website to see if they can recognize the real from the replica. About 700 people took the poll. About 65% of viewers got it right, but still, 35% recognized the wrong gun as being fake. The real gun in the picture is on the left.