Toy guns with such brand names as the P90 Assault Weapon, M11 Machine Gun and AK-47 Assault Rifle are getting people injured (and arrested in some cases) across the country, including Key Biscayne, as gel balls are being shot out of the air -soft toys.
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The Key Biscayne Police Department is investigating two incidents involving Orbeez air-soft guns that took place April 1 in the 500 block of Glenridge Road and April 2 within the Village Green Park.
During both incidents, the adolescent victims were approached and shot at by individuals with the air-soft guns that have become part of a “Tik-Tok Challenge” gone wrong. The victims suffered minor, albeit painful, injuries as the shooters fled.
“Kids will be kids, but getting them to understand that people can get hurt with these guns is important and that, this, obviously, is not a game,” Key Biscayne Police Chief Frank Sousa told Islander News Wednesday.
In an official release from his department on Tuesday, Sousa said his officers have seen an increase in the use of the toy guns.
“We remind our residents these weapons have the potential to seriously harm someone, and anyone caught shooting one could face criminal charges. The charges include assault, battery, and other potential offenses,” the release read.
The obvious injury from the gel beads, which expand when soaked, is welts on the skin, but getting struck in the eye is of urgent concern.
The two incidents on the island are being reviewed by Key Biscayne Police investigators. If anyone has information, contact the police department at 305-365-5555.
Orbeez guns are a product from Spin Master, a Toronto-based multinational toy and entertainment company marketing consumer products for children with a stock price (TOY.TO) of $43.10 as of Tuesday, April 5.
Spin Master, in a statement to NPR, said it is all about children’s safety. “Orbeez are designed for educational, creative and sensory play and are not intended to be used as projectiles or inserted in mechanisms,” the company said, indicating it only makes the air guns, not specifically “gel guns.”
But, according to the website OrbeetzGuns.com, it reads: “Your new Orbeez gun will allow you to enjoy hours of outdoor fun with friends and family. The Orbeez gun shoots gel balls that range from 6 to 8 mm in size. These Orbeez are non-toxic and safe for play.”
The air guns are designed and painted to resemble real functioning firearms.
A glance at three of the toys on the website, which range from $75 to $99 “on sale,” talks about “|hours of outdoor fun” and “safe for play,” with the Assault Weapon able to strike targets “more than 25” feet away,” and the AK-47 toy “perfect for taking out opponents from long distance.”
Incidents around the state
Several incidents in Florida regarding Orbeez shootings have grabbed recent headlines in the past month.
– On New Smyrna Beach, a 17-year-old New Smyrna Beach High School student faces a felony charge after deputies said he shot a school employee in the face near the faculty parking lot with an Orbeez gun, lodging one of the beads in the victim’s nose. The victim said she was not injured.
The student admitted to “horseplaying” and making a Snapchat video of the incident, and faces a charge of battery on a school employee.
– In Ocala, a 16-year-old faces two misdemeanor charges after police said he acted as the getaway driver for two attacks, in which victims were shot in the face, arm and chest. The teen faces two charges of simple battery.
– The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office in Daytona Beach reported Sean McMullen, 19, was arrested after shooting an Amazon delivery driver in Deltona with an Orbeez gun while driving his route. Investigators said McMullen also shot another adult and a 10-year-old child, who was hit in the face and chest.
McMullen faces charges of shooting into an occupied vehicle, child abuse and two counts of battery.
– In Clearwater, a 19-year-old Citrus County man was arrested and charged after police say he shot Orbeez at people. The suspect, Tommy Moore, told WFLA -TV he believes police went too far, pointing their guns at him and placing him and a juvenile friend inside a police cruiser.
“It’s a toy gun. You can buy it at Wal-Mart, you can buy it at 12 years old – it’s a toy,” Moore said. “And they are arresting you for playing with a toy. … I’m gonna kind of make this a big deal in court, and somewhat fight it. … It’s a toy. It says right on the box it’s a toy.”