Advantages of Criminals Using Imitation Guns

Advantages of Criminals Using Imitation Guns
Advantages of Criminals Using Imitation Guns

Arizona -( In Iowa, criminals who use imitation guns are not treated as harshly under the law as are criminals who use real guns. It seems an obvious policy decision. When criminals use imitation guns, the vast majority of the risk is on the criminal. They are more likely to be shot. They are not able to shoot back. They are relying on the power of bluff and image to coerce people who they are attempting to victimize. It seems like a win-win for law and order.

In a recent AP article, a county attorney and a police chief want to change that. From

But police say they would support stronger deterrents in the law against using them like real weapons. The worry is twofold: First, that people are using them to commit crimes, and second, that a situation could arise where, in self-defense, a civilian or a police officer would use shoot someone displaying one.

While it’s illegal to carry a real firearm in city limits without a concealed carry permit, Sioux City code does allow for the carry of lookalike “toy” weapons, such as a hand BB guns, provided they are not discharged. Police can only confiscate such weapons if they are used in a crime.

“You’re not going to come across a lot of cops who have not patted someone down for weapons and found simulated weapons at one point in time,” Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller told the Sioux City Journal . “(But) there’s kind of a gap in the law there that allows police officers to act.”

Woodbury County Attorney P.J. Jennings says the trauma experienced by the victim of a criminal using an imitation gun is the same as if the criminal had a real gun.  That would apply if criminals with real guns never shoot people. If the criminal has a real gun, the victim has a real chance of being shot. If the gun is fake, the chance of being shot with it is non-existent.

Iowa law has additional penalties in place for the use of “Dangerous” weapons. Dangerous weapons are defined in Iowa law. From

Section 702.7 – Dangerous weapon.

A “dangerous weapon” is any instrument or device designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal, and which is capable of inflicting death upon a human being when used in the manner for which it was designed, except a bow and arrow when possessed and used for hunting or any other lawful purpose. Additionally, any instrument or device of any sort whatsoever which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other, and which, when so used, is capable of inflicting death upon a human being, is a dangerous weapon. Dangerous weapons include but are not limited to any offensive weapon, pistol, revolver, or other firearm, dagger, razor, stiletto, switchblade knife, knife having a blade exceeding five inches in length, or any portable device or weapon directing an electric current, impulse, wave, or beam that produces a high-voltage pulse designed to immobilize a person.

An imitation firearm is a relatively inexpensive tool to use in violent crimes. It competes directly with other low priced alternatives such as knives and clubs. Criminals armed with knives and clubs are more likely to cause injury to their victims than are criminals armed with guns. The result would be amplified with imitation guns, as the risk of gunshot injuries would be eliminated.

An imitation firearm that is not designed for inflicting death or injury is not a “dangerous weapon”.

Committing a robbery with an imitation firearms has a maximum sentence of 10 years, while using a real weapon results in a maximum  sentence of 25 years, all else being equal.

California differentiates between imitation guns and real guns in their laws on brandishing.  From

    1. Brandishing  a  pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person… in a rude, angry, or threatening manner… in a public place:
      • a minimum three (3) month, to a maximum one (1) year, jail sentence, and/or
      • a maximum $1,000 fine.92
  1. Brandishing any other firearm… or brandishing a firearm in other than a public place… in the same manner:  not less than three (3) months in county jail.93
  2. Brandishing an imitation firearm: not less than 30 days in county jail.94

Should the use of imitation firearms in crime be subject to the same penalties as real firearms?

Is it good policy for the penalties of using imitation firearms in crime to be less?

The criminal is putting the victim(s) at lower risk, and is putting themselves at higher risk. This is behavior that should be encouraged. Society wins.

Encouraging criminals to take on more of the risk for anti-social behavior is a positive thing.

Criminal law generally has lower penalties for crimes with lower risk for the victim. Non-confrontational crimes such as burglary have lower penalties than home invasions.

Would you prefer to confront a robber armed with an imitation gun instead of a real one?  Would you prefer to confront a robber armed with an imitation gun instead of a knife or club?

Many criminals are ignorant of the law. Incentives do not always have a significant effect.  Many criminals intuitively believe using an imitation gun is safer than using a real gun. In this case, the law would reinforce an existing belief, so the chance of success is greater.

Are criminals using more imitation guns?  Are there any negatives to this trend?

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

Link to Gun Watch

About Dean WeingartenDean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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I have read your article; it is very informative and helpful for me. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles.


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Steve Gaines

Play STUPID games-win STUPID prizes!!!

John Fender

I am tired of law abiding firearms owners being punished for the deeds of criminals who misuse their firearms for criminal reasons. I think we should get really draconian with these lowlifes. The penalty for using a gun to commit a crime should be so harsh that no criminal wants to be within 10 miles of a firearm. I would suggest that if you use a real gun while committing any crime you should be simultaneously given the electric chair and the gas chamber. Criminals who used a fake gun could be given their choice of either the gas chamber… Read more »

Longhaired Redneck

Or, as Stephen Wenger of the ‘Defensive Use of Firearms’ daily digest would say, “The ‘Lead Oscar’ goes to…”

The Lead Oscar is awarded to those who are shot or otherwise subdued by their intended victims when attempting to rob or coerce said victims while using fake or lookalike guns.


The first law in marketing I learned when I studied that issue is this: people don’t buy what they ARE buying. They are buying what they THINK they are buying. Value is ALWAYS in the mind/heart of the buyer. SO it becomes incumbemt on the seller to work on the mind/heart of the buyer to raise the PERCEIVED value of what the seller has on offer. So what does this have to do with toy vs real guns used in crime? EVERYTHING. Why? The criminal is the seller of his “service”. If the seller, criminal, takes the greater burden to… Read more »


The arguments on both sides are interesting. That said, I suggest that we all reflect on the fact that we can’t know FOR SURE whether the balance of arguments on one side or the other ought to prevail. Instead, the real question we ought to evaluate is whether this discussion serves the mission. Should we PROMOTE this discussion in the public square? The answer ought to lie in getting voters who might not have thought much (not in any depth) about the role of guns in civilian hands. Real guns in criminals’ hands are a phenomena. Real guns in shop-keepers’… Read more »


Derrall Williamson you sir are an idiot!!! Its your type of reasoning that lets these POS CRIMINALS out early and allows them to terrorize neighborhoods. Fake gun real gun the intent is the same. So the the punishment should be the same. And the CRIMINIAL should expect the same potential consequences.


I have seen imitation guns that look so real you had to handle them to know they were not real. How is a victim or cop able to decide in 1 or 2 seconds under adverse conditions if that thing pointed at you is real of fake?


It doesn’t matter the age of the offender toy gun or not if they pull the gun on a Real American the Real American has to defend themselves is better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6

John Evans

If and when I am confronted with a weapon pointing at me, I am like the military. Ready, Fire, Aim!! Let GOD sort the insanely stupid out! If you can’t do the Eternity Time, Then don’t do the crime, MORON!! And if some of these mothers really cared about their children’s future, they would have them in church every Sunday and teach them some manners, morals, and right and wrong!! Get GOD IN YOUR LIFE, and this stuff will stop!!


Totally proper analogy because it is truth be told. I push my fingers into my eyes because it is the only thing that stops the pain of reading another story of another dumb nigger robbing a store and his idiot community going on march against police or the store chain when he raises a gun at the clerk or cop and gets shot. Reading and watching dumb shit such as this, hands up dont shoot (the idiot drug dealer with a gun). It’s time people wake up, bb gun or not, you shouldn’t rob a fkn store. Second, point it… Read more »

Casey Meester

I think Clark Griswald did to get into WallyWorld. ☺


Old Marine Using a real gun or a fake one does not matter. Under natural law the threat is the same and the man made laws should be the same or the man made law is Constitutionally and morally wrong. A threat is as real to the victim as it can get when looking down the barrel of a gun. Anyone using a gun to commit a crime must face the same threat from the law or the victim. Any threat must be looked at in the simplest point of view which is SURVIVAL, at the end of the threat.… Read more »

Heed the Call-up

I understand the point of view, but as many posters have stated, if it looks real, they should be punished the same. As the story stated, the victims still suffer the same, regardless.

The other issue is if criminals get to carry “fake” firearms, will the law-abiding citizens get to carry real firearms? And will they still be justified in shooting their assailant? That’s where things can get sticky, especially if the prosecutor tries to claim the victim was able to tell the difference, but still sent the criminal to his final judgment place.


Only one think to say about this sign – BS!!!

Marc DV,

It say’s in red the photo was doctored
for content . ( at least mine say’s it )


DV – still makes a point!

Missouri Born

The state of Iowa is proving that a gun is a tool like many have been saying after every mass shooting.

Derrall Williamson

There are different levels of crimes for the differences in circumstances. Different levels for Murder. Different levels of Manslaughter. So there is no reason to expect the same level of punishment for carrying a bb or pellet gun. As stated the level of risk for the victim is different, less likely to be killed or injured when using a toy gun. The level of risk for the victim increases substantially if a real gun is used. For one to believe that if you use a toy gun you should be charged and sentenced the same as real gun is totally… Read more »

Wild Bill

, Haaaaaaaa, haaaaaa, haas. Stop you are hurting my stomach. Your understanding of some unnamed state law and your conclusions are … all wrong.


Most of the time when LIBERALS run the roust . Add that to the statement.

Marc DV .

So The Crook Uses a Fake Gun !
Goes in to Rob a Store , The Clerk
Not Knowing the Gun is Fake .. Freaks out
Has a Heart Attack ! But doesn’t Die .
The Crook , Because it Was Not Real,
Gets Less Punishment than the Guy Who
Just Comes in Shoots the Clerk in the Leg
and Takes the Money . UNBIELIVABLE !


Yes, that is what goes on when the liberals run the roust.

Derrall Williamson

Are you serious? You couldn’t have possibably thought this comment through. Your right this is America and the reason this idea is asinine


No, it makes total sense unless you’re jamming your fingers into your eyes.