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Dalhousie student held at gunpoint for playing with BB gun

Normally, BB guns have orange-tipped barrels to distinguish them from rifles (Bryn Karcha photo)

 

Police held a Dalhousie student at gunpoint on Sept. 27 for pointing a BB gun at his friends. Nick Rotta-Loria says police showed up to a party he was attending on Oxford Street and immediately threw him to the ground.

Rotta-Loria says he had been waving the BB gun around and pretending to threaten his friends with it, but never had any intention of firing it.

“I was just messing around when my friend grabbed my arm and I put the gun in my back pocket,” he says. “Then I turned around and saw two cops, both with their guns pointed right at me.”

This incident follows two others in September involving BB guns. A 12-year-old is facing charges after shooting a BB gun at a car in Cole Harbour, and three others are facing charges for shooting and injuring two pedestrians in Halifax’s North End.

BB guns, which are supposed to be used for bird hunting, can have serious effects if they’re misused. Constable Pierre Bourdages of the Halifax Regional Police explains, “They can easily maim and injure someone seriously. The velocity isn’t as fast as a bullet, but say someone gets shot in the eye, or gets shot at close range.”

After Rotta-Loria was thrown to the ground by police officers, he was brought to the officers’ police car.

“I was more terrified when the guns were being pointed at me than when they took me to the car. By the time I got to the car I thought I was going to get a ticket at least,” he says.

“They told me that I was stupid and that I could have gotten shot. They said, ‘What does it look like to us, someone holding something that looks like a gun?’”

Bourdages explains that often from a distance, BB guns can look identical to the real thing.

“When we get these calls that someone has a weapon that’s visible, you have to take caution to make sure people are safe,” he says. “Usually it involves arresting someone.”

Bourdages explains that if a BB gun is purposely being made to look like a real firearm—if its tucked into the waistband of someone’s pants, or if someone is pointing it at a person—then weapons charges are likely to follow.

But officers released Rotta-Loria shortly after they realized his BB gun was not a firearm.

“He took my name down, but then let me go,” explains Rotta-Loria. “He was really nice about it. I think they acted more than fairly.”

Rotta-Loria says he will never bring his BB gun to a party again.

 

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