A 16-year-old was shot by police in 1993 after using a replica gun to hold-up the Top Shop at Waverley.A former Launceston police officer who was involved in the fatal police shooting of a youth holding a replica pistol in 1993, said outlawing such toys could prevent a repeat of this tragedy.
Nanjing Night Net

The retired officer of 20 years’ experience was one of five called to an armed hold-up at the Top Shop at Waverley one night on August 12, 1993.

When he arrived, a 16-year-old suspect was standing in the middle of the Tasman Highway, holding a weapon and had been in stand-off with two officers for about 15 minutes.

“After a while, he lifted up the revolver which was aimed at both of these officers,” the police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

“One of them responded, warning him to drop his weapon. They were less than 20 feet away, both pointing their guns at each other.

“It was when the young guy lifted his gun up further at shoulder-level that he was shot and straightaway fell to the ground.

“We all ran up – two officers went to tend to him but the first thing I saw was the gun which was still easily in his reach.

“When I kicked the revolver away, it looked real and had a similar weight of an older police revolver when I kicked it.”

The injured youth died the next morning in the Launceston General Hospital from stomach wounds.

“At the station the next day, we were all gutted,” the police officer said.

“It was made much worse later on when we found out he was holding a fake gun.

“This guy knew it was a replica but as far as we were concerned, it was real.

“Shooting someone with a replica pistol is the last thing a copper would ever want to do.”

A coronial investigation into the incident concluded a year after the shooting.

Coroner Peter Wilson, expressed concern that replica pistols could reach the hand of immature and irresponsible people but made no recommendations on their use.

Any realistic toy guns found in Tasmanian homes could attract $6000, two years jail – or both – if the owner does not have a firearms licence for it.

This stipulation has been enshrined in Tasmania’s firearms act for the past 15 years.

Other states have only recently moved to do the same with Victoria last year imposing a maximum fine of up to $28,000 and two years jail for toy guns that could be mistaken for actual weapons.

A Tasmania Police spokeswoman told The Sunday Examiner there was no specific definition of an imitation firearm or toy in the state’s Firearms Act.

She said the guiding principle was if something substantially replicated a real firearm then it was subject to the Act’s provisions as if it were a real firearm.

“That includes the requirement to have a genuine reason for possessing a firearm and storage,” she said.

To possess an imitation firearm, the owner had to have a category H gun licence and be a member of an approved collection club or society.

The spokeswoman said the Police Commissioner could grant exemptions to licencing requirements in some circumstances, such as in theatre productions.

“The simple act of carrying a pistol without either constitutes an offence,” she said.

The police officer in this article did not want to be identified out of respect for the officer who fatally shot the youth.

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