ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Lookalike guns have caused some very real scares in New Mexico. There’s a national push to regulate the way they look, and how they’re sold. KRQE News 13 asked if state lawmakers will take up a bill this session, but several lawmakers said it would be a tough sell.
The similarities of lookalike guns versus the real deal have caused some deadly encounters with police, and scary experiences for people in the community, such as the one near EMCORE last week.
“I just heard gunshots,” a 911 caller told the dispatcher.
The fears were very real.
“He’s all dressed in black with gloves on and he has a handgun,” another caller said.
“We don’t have the luxury of predetermining what’s a hoax and what’s not,” said officer Tanner Tixier, of the Albuquerque Police Department. “And if we receive numerous calls saying someone’s shooting inside or outside of EMCORE, we’re going to respond appropriately.”
Witnesses worried for their lives last week when they saw the man police later identified as 28-year-old Andrew Godsey, shooting a gun near EMCORE and an elementary school in southeast Albuquerque. Officers later learned Godsey was carrying two airsoft guns.
“There are currently no laws on the books here in New Mexico that makes it illegal to hold a fake gun, or even to wave it in the air,” said Democratic Senator Michael Padilla, Majority Whip.
Fake or lookalike guns have been the source of deadly police shootings around the country. A 12-year-old carrying a toy pellet gun was killed by a Cleveland officer last month.
In Española earlier this year, 16-year-old Victor Villalpando called 911 on himself. He was shot and killed by police after pointing a real-looking cap gun at officers.
“We’ve had some very unfortunate incidents across the country that involved actually children, and we need to do everything humanly possible to make sure that folks know the danger of guns, and how they should handle them,” said Senator Padilla.
Padilla told KRQE News 13 he expects the topic to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session. However, he doesn’t expect it’ll go far, since New Mexico is a gun-friendly state.
“With the political composition of the legislature changing the way that it has, the passage of any additional gun laws is going to be nearly impossible,” Padilla explained.
At least 12 other states have laws restricting the sale or appearance of imitation guns. In Ohio, one state representative wants to require lookalike guns be brightly colored.
But, police point out, changing the look of a weapon may not change the threat. “The threat is always real,” explained officer Tixier. “As long as you treat the gun, real or fake responsibly, you shouldn’t have any issues.”
According to a criminal justice professor out of Michigan, legislative proposals are often opposed by manufacturers and other groups, so an outright ban on fake guns will likely never pass.
Police and lawmakers agree, part of the solution lies within gun education and safety.
“Parents need to definitely educate their children as to the dangers of not only guns themselves, but the perception of guns,” said Tixier.
The man who caused the scare near EMCORE was charged with carrying a deadly weapon. Even though he had an airsoft gun, police explained, people believed the gun was real.