Howard County police are urging parents not to purchase realistic pellet or BB pistols for their children, after a 15-year-old Columbia youth was charged Saturday night with carrying a concealed BB pistol and a Bowie knife.
"We're extremely concerned that kids are carrying around these kind of guns," said Sgt. Steven Keller, a spokesman for the Howard County Police Department. "It was 9:30 at night when this happened, and the officer saw something that looked like a real gun.
"It could have had tragic consequences."
The incident began when a police officer investigated a building alarm in the 10600 block of Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia's Wilde Lake village.
The officer saw the youth behind the building and noticed the grip portion of a handgun sticking out from the youth's jacket.
The officer searched the youth and found a BB gun resembling a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, along with the knife.
The youth was charged as a juvenile with carrying concealed deadly weapons and released into the custody of a guardian.
The arrest was at least the sixth time this year that county police have found a youth carrying a BB gun that resembles a real weapon, Sergeant Keller said.
In some of the other incidents, police officers drew their service weapons before searching the youths because they had feared for their safety.
Sergeant Keller urged parents not to buy realistic BB or pellet guns for their children and warned youths that walking around with such weapons could get them killed.
"What if a youth is carrying one of those BB guns on the property of some homeowner who owns a gun?" he said. "The homeowner doesn't know it's real, and he might shoot if he fears for his safety."
Cases have been reported across the nation in which police officers have shot youths who were carrying "look-a-like" BB or pellet guns, Sergeant Keller said.
Although he doesn't recommend that parents purchase BB guns for their children, Sergeant Keller said that if a parent must buy one, it should be a rifle-style weapon.
"They should buy something that can't be taken around and carried and concealed," Sergeant Keller said. "My caution to the kids is that they're putting themselves at risk if they carry around something that looks like a gun."