Officer Involved Shooting – Airsoft Related?

There is a senate bill in California right now that is trying to ban airsoft in Los Angeles County. SB1315 was created to prevent law enforcement from accidentally shooting civilians with airsoft guns. Supporters of SB1315 think that by banning airsoft guns they will eliminate all police shootings involving citizens with airsoft guns. This bill is a knee jerk reaction to an officer involved shooting a few years ago in Los Angeles County. It is like blaming the pencil for misspelling words. One of the many important things I have learned in my academic career as a criminal justice major is that crime control policy usually does not work the way it intended to be, and the policy generally get tied up at the Supreme Court, resulting in spending millions of tax payer’s dollars. The policy does not usually work for criminals, because a determined criminal will commit the crime even if the policy is in effect. SB1315 will end up punishing law abiding citizens instead of the criminals.

The purpose of SB1315 is to give each county the authority to limit the sale, manufacture, or possession of imitation firearms, in this case, airsoft. The reason this bill came about is because of cases of officer involved shootings in LA County with suspects carrying imitation firearms. Law enforcement agencies do not want to use deadly force against civilian armed with imitation firearms. This is what bothers me. I graduated with a bachelor of science in Criminal Justice Law Enforcement option; I have learned that it is dependent on the action of the individual in police contact, not what he has in his hands, that determines the chances of him being shot or walk away.

To further understand officer involved shootings; Tim invited Sergeant Scott Graham from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department to give us a better understanding on why police officers use deadly force. First, let me give you a little background on Sergeant Graham. Sergeant Graham has been a Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy for almost 25 years. For the last few years, he has been in charge of investigating officer involved shootings. During the time as an officer involved shooting investigator, he has never received a case regarding an officer shooting a civilian with an airsoft gun.

According to Sergeant Graham, all the cases he investigated involved real handguns. However, there are other cases which the suspect did not follow the officer’s instructions and as the result, the suspect was shot. According to Sergeant Graham, the shooting happened not because of what was in the suspect’s hand, it all depended on the movement. There have been cases where the suspect has a cell phone in their hand, and because of their movements, the officer decided to use deadly force on the suspect.

Sergeant Graham gave a perfect scenario during the interview. If an airsoft enthusiast walks down a street with an airsoft gun in his hand, there is a huge probability that people in the surrounding area will call the police on him. Since the call will be man with a gun, officers responding will have heightened sense of awareness, and will be looking for a gun. Now the airsoft enthusiast’s actions determine whether he will be shot or he will walk away unharmed. When the officers roll up, they will have their gun drawn on that airsoft enthusiast. They will instruct the subject to drop the weapon and raise his hands. If the airsoft enthusiast drops his weapon and put his hands up, he will walk away unharmed. But if he decides to turn and have an inconsistent movement than raising his hands up, he is probably going to get shot.

It is understandable for police officers to fire upon a suspect who moves his arms in a manner consistent to drawing a gun. What the general public and politician need to understand is the officers do not fire because the suspect has a gun in his hands, it is because they moved in a manner which is consistent to present harm to the officers. SB1315 supporters seem to think that by banning airsoft guns, officers shooting unarmed civilian will stop completely. They need to understand that even if you have a cell phone, you have a chance of being shot if you do not follow officer’s instruction.

Let me remind you that police officers in the state of California went through extensive training in order to be trusted with a gun. It is up to the individual’s action to determine if he will get shot or not. Working as an intern for a local police department I have witnessed numerous incidents which involved the officers drawing their weapons. Fortunately, every time I was there, the officers did not fire upon the suspects, even though the suspects have firearms on them. It is because the suspects obeyed the officer’s instruction. At the end of the day, the officers just want to go home alive, and they do not want to use deadly force if it is not absolutely necessary.

As a representative of an Airsoft Company, we have a responsibility to inform and educate our customers about safety. Our primary goal is safety; therefore, we have a lot of counter fraud measures in place in our online store. This prevents minors from unauthorized purchases with their parents’ credit cards. At the police department I intern for, we have confiscated numerous airsoft guns from high school students. Those students used their parent’s credit card to purchase airsoft guns from one of our competitors and brought it to school. The principle called our SWAT team that day. Luckily, there were no shots fired.

I understand why local law enforcement agencies would like to ban airsoft, but it is not the answer. SB1315 is targeting the wrong crowd. Since most airsoft companies are located in Los Angeles County, thousands of people will lose their jobs. With California being the third worst state for unemployment, is it really worth raising the unemployment rate in California by banning airsoft? Instead of targeting the industry, maybe SB1315 should target irresponsible individuals and punish more severely to those who do not follow the law. Since minors (under 18) cannot purchase airsoft guns, the parents or guardians are responsible for the purchase and the action of that minor. It is the parent and guardians, and responsible airsoft players’ responsibilities to play airsoft safely. I am Andrew, until next time, stay safe, and get our and play responsibly.

Action You Can Take

Please have as many people you know in CA to call the governor’s office at (916) 445-2841 (press 1 for English, then press 6 for a representative) and say:

My name is _______, I am calling about SB1315 and I oppose it.

What is SB1315? Simple, end of Airsoft in Los Angeles. Why does this matter? Most of the airsoft companies are located in Los Angeles.

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