A fake gun frenzy washed over Kelowna this week, scaring area residents and keeping cops on their toes.
The first of two episodes was sparked by a graduation tradition gone seriously awry in the 1800-block of Crossglen Court on April 16, at 10:30 p.m., explained Const. Kris Clark.
“Apparently, a group of (young men) exited three vehicles, all wearing masks and brandishing firearms,” he said.
That sight prompted a neighbour to call 911, and when the police swooped in they found the teens nearby. Mounties quickly determined that they were participating in a grad kidnapping, seized six imitation guns and spoke with some parents who weren’t exactly pleased with the police attention.
“One guardian described the event as ‘harmless pranks’ but the police disagree,” said Clark.
Mounties disagreed so strongly that they held a press conference April 17 to show how fake firearms can look menacing to an untrained eye and issued a public plea to keep them tucked away.
Clark may have hoped it would mark the end of area gunplay, but by that night another episode was called to the police’s attention.
“Just before 7 p.m., the Kelowna RCMP were called to a report of a man waving around what appeared to be a handgun in the parking lot of the Same Sun Hostel, 245 Harvey Ave.,” he said.
“Upon police attendance, it became very clear that the gun was a toy, considering that it was made of clear plastic and had an orange tip. Once again though, from a distance the gun could’ve certainly been mistaken for a real firearm.”
And, it’s better to be safe than sorry, said Clark, in defence of those who call 911 about toys.
“It’s very likely we’re more sensitive here because of the high profile incidents that have happened here in the last couple of years,” he said, making reference to the gangland slaying that took place outside the Delta Grand last summer. “But if you look at a Glock or an M16, those up-close don’t look real, but they are.”
The problem is, police can’t respond to a call with toys in mind. “When we have a complaint of firearms involved in a criminal offence then we have to respond appropriately, we have to protect the public and ourselves,” he said.
“It makes for a precarious situation for the person who’s holding a toy gun and it’s also putting us at risk.”
Ultimately, he said, whether they’re real, Airsoft, paintball or any other imitation firearms, they should be used in designated areas only and handled in a safe and responsible manner.