Need milk and a faux semi-automatic? Coquitlam convenience store has it all

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Need milk and a faux semi-automatic? Coquitlam convenience store has it all

It's certainly not what you'd find behind a counter at a Mac's or 7-11. But, visitors to the deli section in Dik's Market House in Coquitlam, B.C. can't miss the large glass display case beside the deli counter. It's the one crammed with knives, ammunition and what looks like a shelf of semi-automatic handguns – all of it below a sign warning that robbers will be shot.

The faux arsenal of fake guns seems out of place in the neighbourhood convenience store, but the display is legal and the store owner is unapologetic.

"If you are that fragile that you are afraid of a little [fake] gun ... Maybe you should seek some psychological help," said Alexi Khatchadourian. 

"They are very popular," said Khatchadourian who says he doesn't care if people take offense or fear misuse.

"[Guns] have been demonized. There has always been the occasional idiot who does something really stupid."

War play

The fake guns fire plastic 6-mm ammunition and are marketed with evocative names, like Killhouse.

The hyper-realistic fake weapons have grown in popularity since 2012 when laws restricting their import were relaxed.

They're particularly popular with participants of a sport called Airsoft, an activity similar to paintball that features mock shooting battles.

"It's a bunch of guys playing toy soldier," said Mike Smith of Badlands Paintball in Vancouver.

"The proverbial floodgates opened. You saw a big reactionary surge of people wanting something they couldn't have before," he said.

Airsoft play guns can legally be imported into Canada, pending restriction on some high-powered models.

Buyers must be 18, but parents can buy for their children.

Gangster chic

Glorifying guns is problematic given the number of gang-related shootings in B.C., said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Scotty Schumann, adding that he often sees young men brandishing guns on social media.

Last week, Surrey RCMP said they are seeing more of the guns in schools, including elementary schools.

"There is only one reason for that and it's to intimidate people," said Schumann.

Border officials see hundreds of faux guns imported into Canada.

​Air or BB guns for war play are classified as "uncontrolled firearms,"similar to pellet guns.

Some U.S. states stipulate fake guns need an orange tip so police can discern real firearms in a hostile situation.

But RCMP say it is too easy to colour real guns to look fake..

"You can buy a completely pink pistol," said Schumann.

Fake gun, real sentence

Anyone who commits an offence with a fake gun could be charged with the same crime as a person who uses a real gun.

Even possessing an imitation firearm can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in jail. 

"You can't be walking down the street and flashing it," said Schumann, warning that fake guns can evoke a real, and unanticipated reaction. 

"People need to know they run the risk of upsetting a lot of people when they have these things in public," he said.

Back at Dik's, anybody who misuses these guns by posing as a gangster or scaring people is called an  "idiot who gets what they deserve."

And those who fear faux guns?

"Grow up. This is called reality. This is the real world," said  Khatchadourian.