Police have their hands full with gel blasters: ‘Manage the risks to your children’ | NOW

In recent weeks, the police had to go out all over the country for incidents with so-called gel blasters. Passers-by often report seeing a weapon, as these fake weapons are sometimes indistinguishable from the real thing. What are the risks associated with these toy guns that allow you to fire gel balls at high speed?

There are no hard numbers on gel blaster incidents. The fake weapon is not (yet) a separate tick in the police database. But it is clear that the number of incidents is increasing.

From Groningen to Arnhem, from Utrecht to Heerlen and from Amersfoort to Breda, the police have in recent weeks received reports of young people walking around with the fake weapons and sometimes beating passers-by. In Rotterdam, agents had to go out three times in one night for gel blaster incidents.

The trend is related to the TikTok app, which frequently shows videos of young people walking around with blasters and shooting passers-by. This is not without danger. At the very least, a shot of gel balls on the skin leaves a burning, sore spot.

Passersby are injured in the eyes

In Rotterdam, a girl injured her eye when she was shot at a metro station. And in Goes, the police launched an assault investigation because a thirteen-year-old had to go to the doctor with his injuries as a result of an assault with a gel blaster.

It is not only children who are affected by the gel blasts. In Amsterdam, visitors to a gay bar were shot at with a fake weapon from a moving car. The gunman shouted “cancer gays” as he fired. A man was hit in the eye and had to be treated in hospital.

The police must take every report seriously

The police are anything but happy about the trend, says spokesperson Suzanne van de Graaf from the national force management. “It can lead to dangerous situations,” she explains. “For example, it can startle people in the car, or it can cause injuries if the fake weapon is fired at close range.”

But the biggest danger is that the police cannot properly assess whether it is a fake or a real weapon. “We take every report of someone walking down the street with a weapon very seriously,” explains Van de Graaf.

Warning shots have been fired several times in gel blaster incidents. “It can certainly happen that you are held at gunpoint by officers, and then it is closely monitored whether someone follows the instructions,” says the spokesman for the police management. “We can’t take any chances.”

Toy weapons are not prohibited in principle

Toy guns are not prohibited by law. But it can be a criminal offense to walk around with a toy gun on the street and threaten random passers-by. “It’s no problem at all if you want to shoot at home or in your garden with your gel blaster,” explains Van de Graaf. “But on public roads, you’re at odds, especially with a gel blaster that’s indistinguishable from a real weapon. Anyone who shoots and hits someone can quickly be prosecuted for assault.”

Some gel blasters have a fluorescent color. In that case, the police can quickly see that it is a toy. But with dark-colored specimens, it is difficult – certainly from a distance – to assess how big the threat is.

Webshop bol.com decided to stop selling gel blasters due to the safety risk. And Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema is investigating whether the sale of the toy can be limited. A Rotterdam agent did NOS Youth News the call to ban them altogether.

‘Show your children the risks’

That is not the position of the national force management, emphasizes spokesman Van de Graaf. “We are not about legislation, so we are now primarily focusing on information and prevention.” For example, the police point out the risks of walking around with a gel blaster on TikTok.

“Children are often not aware of why it is dangerous to walk the streets with a fake weapon. So we try to explain that to them. And we also hope that parents take their responsibility and point out the risks and consequences to their children.”

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