Northern Virginia authorities caution residents about replica guns

Officials say that the similarity between replica guns and guns with live ammunition is dangerous. Photo: Gail Pennybacker

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14-year-old Jordan Tomajko knows that his airsoft gun doesn't look like a toy; rather, it looks just like an M-14.

That's something that a coalition of law enforcement agencies say is a dangerous thing, and they're trying to educate the public on just how difficult it is for cops to tell the difference between a gun that shoots real bullets and one that doesn't.

After dozens of tragic cases across the country during which officers have shot people who are later determined to have been brandishing replica firearms, police in Northern Virginia say it's time to take action.

"We train police officers the same way we train 3rd graders: treat every gun as if it was a real gun, and treat every gun as if it was loaded," Fairfax City Police Chief Rick Rappoport said.

Replica guns have become incredibly popular, especially with boys and young men, but Jordan and his father, Stan, say it's time to rethink how and where he and his friends use their replica guns.

"Someone could see us, think they're actually real guns and perceive us as a threat," Jordan said.

For Brady Wilkinson, whose replica sniper rifle looks just like the real thing, it's making him reconsider his stance on using it.

Despite his gun having an orange tip on the end, police in the area say that doesn't always indicate that the firearm doesn’t have live ammunition.

"It has made me a lot more apprehensive about the kids playing with them," Wilkinson said.