Eastern Iowa gun shop owner says it’s difficult to distinguish between real and fake guns

An armed suspect was shot by police in Waterloo on Wednesday. The gun turned out to be a BB gun.
Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:31 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - An Eastern Iowa gun shop owner said toy guns were too difficult to distinguish from real guns following a shooting in Waterloo early Wednesday morning.

Black Hawk County law enforcement said they received a call for a person with a rifle or shotgun near downtown Waterloo. A deputy for the sheriff’s office said when they arrived they found a man with a weapon. The man raised his weapon towards the deputy.

A Waterloo police officer shot the man twice. The firearm turned out to a BB gun.

“Just laying there, it looks like a pump-action shotgun,” said Ernie Traugh, owner of Cedar Valley Outfitters.

Traugh has been in business for nearly 25 years. He said it was difficult to determine a real firearm from a toy firearm even with years of experience.

“It would be great if there was some Superman vision that other human beings, or whoever was responding, could see if it was real or fake,” he said. “That just isn’t realistic.”

Traugh said people remove the orange tip from toy guns to make them look real. He also pointed to a gun recovered by a sheriff’s office in North Carolina that was painted to look like a Nerf gun.

“They want police to see that and have that moment of pause,” said Traugh.

This incident happened in the early hours of Wednesday when darkness could also make it difficult to distinguish between a real gun and BB gun, even with decades of experience.

“We could sit at home and take a 2 X 4 and make it into a realistic firearm,” he said. “We could paint it black, and at 12:45 AM we could tell someone to give us their money, and it would appear to be a real gun.”

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