GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – When police respond to a report of a person with a gun, they treat the weapon like it’s the real deal. But sometimes that weapon just looks a lot like a firearm. And that could carry dire consequences.

When police officers are sent out on a call involving a firearm, they respond, no questions asked. But from time to time the gun they are trying to locate, turns out to be what’s called a facsimile firearm.

“Officers assume that that is a real firearm, and they will respond accordingly,” said Commander Kevin Warych from the Green Bay Police Department.

And that’s exactly what happened last night on West Mason Street, when police responded with force to detain a man seen carrying a rifle that turned out to be a BB gun.

“There are a lot of facsimile firearms out there that look very authentic, look very real,” said Warych.

Many people own facsimile firearms, like BB or Airsoft guns. But it’s illegal to carry or display it in a way that appears threatening to another. And doing so can lead to tragic consequences, like in Florida where in 2015 an officer shot a 14-year-old who pointed this BB gun his way.

“I can’t say what a 14-year-old was thinking and why he would pull something that so closely resembled a handgun from his waist,” said Jacksonville Police Chief Tom Hackney.

Warych says tragedies like this can be avoided if all owners of these facsimile firearms use them properly.

“We really need to educate the community and parents need to have conversations with their children,”Warych said.

Because anytime an officer is told to respond to an incident involving a gun, they always assume it’s real until they know otherwise.

“It is impossible to call a timeout during these incidents – you can’t call a timeout,” Warych said.

In 2020 Green Bay Police issued four forfeitures to people using a facsimile firearm to “threaten or terrify another person.” The fine – nearly $700.