Bite The Bullet
Keeping It Safe (2000-10-19)
Halloween is fast approaching and we here at RedWolf would just like to remind everybody to be careful and discrete with your airsoft collection during this time. Every Halloween, many enthusiasts feel its the perfect time to dress up in full gear and share their enthusiasm of airsoft with friends and neighbors. While admittedly this is the only day when you can actually dress up like that and not look out of place or odd, we hope everyone exercises the utmost care when going into public with anything that looks like a real weapon. Avid readers of our Bite The Bullet column will remember my story of where Wildgoose and I were mistaken as SWAT officers first on the scene of a crime. While I did tell the story from a humorous angle, guns are very hard to come by in Hong Kong and it is extremely unlikely to have people walking around the street with guns. The police officers who mistook us for the real deal were much less on-guard and wary of us due to this fact, and also because airsoft is quite common here. Police officers here also have much tighter rules about unholstering their guns, which requires them to file long reports every time they even pull their gun out. Hence, you'll rarely see them pull out their revolvers unless they feel a real threat.
This may not be the case in other countries though and displaying airsoft weapons in public may draw much more extreme reactions. While browsing discussion forums at www.airsoftguns.com, I came upon this article which I feel quite illustrates my point.
A very long time ago (15 years ago to be exact) I had some experiences similar to what is being discussed here. I was 17 at the time. Way back then, my friends and I had no access to airsoft (whatever airsoft guns that were produced were so rare and expensive it was the same as if they didn't exist). But that didn't stop us from dressing up in military gear and going up into the hills with fake guns that I made out of old 2x4s in my garage. I did a very good job with my replicas, and constructed, over time, an AK-47, a Dragunov, and an M-60. They fired nothing, and were made of wood, cardboard and tin cans. Up close it was obvious they were fake, but from a few feet away, it wasn't too hard to mistake them for real. One of my friends was kind of rich and had several replica guns (also non firing); very realistic.
Anyway, we were doing nothing more than a dressed up version of 'Bang Bang! You're dead!" We played on public land, close to residences. Never asked anyone. Not very smart in hindsight but things were different back then. More than once, people called the police on us. Usually when the police showed up, they simply walked up on us and asked what we were doing. At any rate, we were smart enough to know that if and when the police came around, there was no other option for us than to STOP what we were doing, DROP our toy guns, and go talk to the officer. We even practiced for it. I'd line everyone up and go, "Police!" and everyone would throw up their hands. We were always let go, with a "Be careful!" from the officer. Once though, we blew it. My friend with the money seemed to have less sense than a grapefruit and really got us in hot water one day. Now, we ALWAYS put all our gear in the trunk of our cars when we finished for the day. Well, Rich Kid decided he wanted to keep his replica Sterling with him in the back seat. We went to a 7-11 for some drinks and there was a school district police officer there. He saw that fake Sterling in the back seat, and I don't need to tell you what he thought.
This officer followed us in his car after we left. At the time I was driving and had no idea why he was following us (didn't know Rich kid had his gun w/him). We got on the freeway headed for another friends house, and this school cop is still behind us. I thought, "I haven't run any lights or stop signs. I'm not speeding. What's up?" Then I see a highway patrol car go by on the other side of the freeway. Then another. Then I see two rollers in my rearview. My hair stood up. I pulled off the freeway and into a residential area. Well, we hit an intersection and suddenly two black and whites screech into the intersection and block it, followed by an unmarked car. The two following us did the same. Now I'm thinking, "Oh no!" Like an idiot, I got out of the car, knowing exactly what it was this was all about now.
And then I heard shotguns being racked, and hammers being cocked, and all these guys have drawn down on me.
I nearly died of fright right there. "PLACE YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD AND GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES!" they ordered through the loudspeaker. No problem. They got my other friends out of the car and had us all face down on the street. This whole time I'm going, "They're not real!" "Can we look in the trunk?" as if I was going say no. "Sure," and I gave them the keys. Well, very quickly they saw that all we had were chunks of wood and cardboard. They took our names and let us go.
I'll never forget that though. Having a dozen cops ready to shoot me was a pretty life affirming experience (as in , "Do I want to live? Affirmative!!")
But even then, we understood why the police did what they did. We were being stupid and there was no excuse for it. My rich friend never lived it down either, but we shouldn't have been wearing our fatigues either. Nowadays, it would be impossible for anyone to play airsoft in that area anymore. Not in this day and age. As far as I'm concerned, airsoft should ALWAYS be played in a controlled environment. NEVER play on public land, especially if you are in an urban or residential area (although out in the boonies, miles from anyone is probably ok). Play on private land only with permission, and NEVER display an airsoft gun in public. Guns should always be kept in bags when not on the playing field, and you should wear civilian clothes to and from your field. If the police show up, stop the game immediately, put down your guns, and do whatever they tell you. I can understand where Foxhound is coming from when he says, "Act responsibly with the airsoft and you shouldn't have any problems." Mike (Stinger)
With past incidences of innocent shootings by police on airsoft enthusiasts, we should be real careful. So let's be careful this Halloween. Not only will that make it safe for everyone, but it will also help against public outcry for a ban on all airsoft.