Imitation firearms should trigger concern for parents

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There have been a series of incidents in which local young people have gotten into serious trouble with look-alike handguns and rifles. The teenagers involved have all scared people with the fake guns and been arrested. Parents of teens with look-alike guns need to wise up. These are toys with a serious downside. Misuse of the guns and/or altering the all-too-real looking weaponry can get you put into jail or worse ” you could wind up dead. The latest incident involved three teens in Downtown Auburn. The teens on Friday, March 14, allegedly pointed two imitation weapons ” one that looked like a Lugar pistol and the other an M-203 automatic rifle ” at a motorist in a threatening manner. The driver, who was understandably shook up, called 911 and the Auburn Police Department responded. A 16- and 17-year-old now face related charges. Another incident in Lincoln on Nov. 2, 2007 resulted in the arrest of two Lincoln High School students. Their crime? Bringing real-looking airsoft guns onto campus and flashing the weaponry at other motorists while driving through town. The students, both then 16, were arrested on felony charges stemming from their harebrained scheme to frighten the public by pointing the guns out the window of a moving vehicle. After the Auburn incident, Auburn Police explained that the young suspects were lucky that they were not shot by someone, including policemen, who could easily have mistaken the fake guns for the real thing. In Lincoln, the situation was similar. Lincoln Police officers said the guns brandished there closely resembled a Ruger handgun and an MP5 submachine gun. The rifle is the same size, same dimensions, has the same exterior features, it even loads like a real gun, Lincoln Police Officer Tim Jaekel told a Gold Country Media reporter. Shortly after the 2007-08 school year began in August, 19-year-old Francisco Evangelista was arrested for bringing a gun onto the Placer High School campus. Evangelista has been jailed for months. He recently pleaded guilty to charges that he brought a BBx gun onto campus, although the gun has never been found. As an adult, he could face up to three years in jail. The Placer High campus lockdown that ensued after the Aug. 27 report of a gun on campus affected many people. It cost considerable money in police and school officials' man-hours, not to mention the lengthy incarceration costs, attorney fees ¦ The tragedy is that each of these incidents could easily have been avoided if some common sense were to prevail. The young men themselves, their parents or guardians and their peers have a responsibility to speak up. If you know a teenager who owns a real-looking-but-imitation gun, talk with them immediately. Altering these guns by sanding off the orange tips is illegal. Threatening someone with one of these guns will get you arrested and might get you killed. Three local incidents in six months are cause for concern. It's time for the teens, and their parents, to get a clue. These guns might seem like innocent toys, but there are serious consequences to their misuse.