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Officials say air guns not OK in city limits

Published: Monday, March 26, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – After a recent rash of incidents involving air guns in DeKalb, police are stressing the guns are not to be used within city limits.

DeKalb Police Lt. Gary Spangler said DeKalb Police have dealt with 10 reports involving BB or air guns in the past three months, including a string of shattered car windows. No arrests have been made.

Earlier this month, DeKalb and Northern Illinois University police dealt with an incident involving a man who shot his pregnant girlfriend in the breast with a BB gun during a domestic dispute. Spangler said she was not seriously injured.

Those who use BB or air guns to damage property such as windows tend to damage several at a time, Spangler said.

“We get these kind of calls in bunches, usually,” he said.

He believes this year’s mild weather could be a reason for the several air gun-related calls.

According to state statutes, the term “air rifle” includes any air gun, air pistol, spring gun, spring pistol, BB gun, paintball gun or pellet gun.

It’s illegal for those under 13 to purchase an air rifle. State statute also says those under 13 cannot possess an air rifle unless a child’s parent, guardian or adult instructor sells, gives or lends that child an air rifle.

Those under 13 cannot carry air rifles on public streets or land unless the rifle is unloaded, according to state statute. It’s illegal for anyone to discharge an air rifle from across a street, sidewalk, road, highway or any public place except a target range.

Spangler said it’s also illegal to shoot BB or air guns within city limits. Sycamore Police Lt. Cary Singer said the same is true for Sycamore.

Singer said Sycamore hasn’t had any BB or air gun issues in the past few years. DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said deputies don’t deal with many calls related to air guns.

NIU Police Sgt. Alan Smith said it’s against residence hall policies for students to have air guns in dorms. Because of events such as the Feb. 14, 2008, campus shooting – during which five students were killed and 21 injured when a former student opened fire in a classroom – Smith said police discourage students from having air guns on campus or displaying them outside.

“We look at it from a standpoint of just keeping them off campus as much as possible,” he said.

Police tend to respond to calls of property damage caused by BB or air guns, Spangler said.

Air guns tend to be used to shoot at backyard animals or by children playing, Spangler said. Because they barely make noise, many people don’t notice they’re being used.

“A lot of people shoot these things in town. We know that,” Spangler said. “Unless we get called, there’s not much we can do about it.”

But the guns can do physical harm, he said. And seeing BB or air guns within city limits can be frightening for the public because the guns increasingly are made to look like actual firearms. Singer said he’s noticed this, too.

Spangler said police have received calls about a person with a gun walking down the street when the weapon is only an air gun.

Singer and Spangler said it can be challenging for police if they can’t immediately tell the difference between a firearm and air gun. During some robberies, offenders have pulled out BB guns that look like firearms, Spangler said.

“[The public sees] people carrying these guns, too, and they think that they’re real,” he said.

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