Metro police have warned criminals using imitation firearms to commit crimes that they could be charged as though they were in possession of a real weapon. The City’s Metro Police Department confiscated 25 firearms, 28 imitation firearms and 336 rounds of ammunition between July and November.
In terms of the Firearms Control Act, an imitation firearm means anything that has the appearance of a firearm, but is not capable of operating as such and cannot, by superficial examination, be identified as an imitation. The Act prohibits the possession of such imitation firearms.
Le Roux added, however, that although it is possible to be charged as if you were in possession of a real firearm, each case is always considered on its own merits.
Cape Town Metro Police officials are aware of criminals making use of imitation firearms for various serious crimes in the city and lament how children are sometimes used by gangsters in committing crimes and possibly carrying illegal firearms.
“These days, some of the toys produced and sold resemble the type of firearms police officials operating on a daily basis use…Young kids are running around with these imitation firearms and when it comes to the committing of a crime, for a police official, if he sees a firearm is being pointed at him it’s only natural for the officer to react,” warned Le Roux.
Officers have arrested 72 persons in connection with the confiscations, resulting in a total of 106 charges. The charges included possession of an illegal or prohibited firearm, pointing a firearm and discharging a firearm in a municipal area, among others.
Le Roux said sixteen of the charges stemmed from incidents in Manenberg, followed by Mitchell’s Plain, Delft, Heideveld, and Hanover Park .
“The increase in imitation firearms is not surprising. They are easier to get hold of, can fool most people into believing it is the real thing and it is likely that criminals believe they will face a lesser charge in the event that they are caught. This is an unfortunate misperception as suspects are charged in terms of the legislation, even if an imitation firearm was used in the commission of a crime. Furthermore, enforcement agencies could well end up reacting to a person in possession of an imitation firearm, which could also have dire consequences for them,” added Le Roux.
An imitation firearm has the appearance of a firearm but is not capable of operating. An item or object can, therefore, be regarded as an imitation firearm if it can be used to give people the impression that it is a real firearm.
Parents have been urged to take precautions when purchasing toy firearms for their children.
“It’s all good and well buying young kids toys but consider looking at the imitation firearms as a concern because the ones we’ve confiscated resemble real 9mm pistols. Many of these imitation firearms are used in crimes…
“If you’re going to buy your kids toys, consider that there could be consequences. The last thing we ever want to do is have a situation when a young child points a firearm with an officer under the impression it is the real thing – there could be horrible outcomes.”