Low-velocity air guns that resemble high-velocity weapons are becoming a growing concern for Columbus-area law enforcement.
During the lunch hour Monday, several motorists saw a young male with a weapon of some type near the 25th Street Taco Bell. Fearing the pistol was dangerous, one passer-by called 911, Columbus Police spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
When investigating officers pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot, one of the males tossed the gun on the ground and both fled the area, Myers said.
But one of the males, later found and interviewed by police, admitted he had been displaying the air pistol to students during the lunch hour and didn’t think at the time it was a big deal, Myers said.
Within the past three weeks:
- A similar type of weapon was used to shoot cans off a concrete wall at Mill Race Park. It looked realistic enough to persuade a number of frightened residents to call police.
- A pellet gun resembling a high-powered weapon was used to frighten a store clerk and do damage at the Village Pantry convenience store at Washington Street and National Road.
What Myers feels is the biggest danger concerning look-alike guns was illustrated in a March 30 incident near downtown Columbus. Two men shooting at birds near Seventh and California streets were surrounded by officers with their guns drawn after a witness mistakenly thought they were threatening children, Myers said.
“Making threats with these guns, when even officers can’t immediately tell the difference, can lead to real tragedy,” Myers told The Republic earlier this month
While the low-velocity weapons are legal, state law permits police to arrest someone who intentionally or unintentionally alarms the public with these weapons.
They can be charged with disorderly conduct, especially if the incident takes place near a school or office building.
Disorderly conduct in Indiana is considered a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail, as well as fines reaching $1,000.