Sterling Heights City Council approves pneumatic gun regulations

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 6, 2024


STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights officials recently made clear that they won’t go soft on people who abuse airsoft or other types of pneumatic guns.

During an April 16 meeting, the Sterling Heights City Council unanimously passed new regulations on pneumatic guns.

The council first discussed the issue at its April 2 meeting. Sterling Heights police Capt. Kenneth Pappas attested to issues with pneumatic guns in the community.

“We just had some complaints of the using of BB guns in the neighborhoods, children shooting at houses with the paintball guns,” he said. “And when school starts to let out, we get an influx of calls for the mischief of those type of weapons.”

According to the city, pneumatic guns use gas, air or a spring to launch projectiles, and thus the term encompasses BB, pellet, airsoft and paintball guns. The guns are normally toylike and nonlethal but can be dangerous if recklessly abused, particularly to property and animals, officials said.

Since 2015, Michigan state law gave municipal governments leeway to regulate them. City officials said other Michigan municipalities that regulate pneumatic guns include Birmingham and Grand Rapids.

During the April 2 meeting, Assistant City Attorney Nathan Petrusak outlined some of the proposed Sterling Heights regulations that have since passed. He said the new rules ban minors younger than 16 from having a pneumatic gun, though having adult supervision is an exception.

People also aren’t allowed to point, wave around or threaten someone with the device. Nor can they alter pneumatic guns to disguise them as genuine firearms, he explained.

“The obvious reasons for an ordinance like this is there’s very real public safety concerns related to pneumatic guns, obviously, because they appear similar in many respects to actual firearms,” Petrusak said.

Petrusak further described how the regulations affect using the device on one’s own property.

“That’s not to say that you cannot fire a pneumatic gun on that (your own) particular property,” he said. “You just have to take reasonable safeguards … to erect barriers that prevent the BB from leaving that property and going onto adjacent properties.”

Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski said her sons have loved airsoft guns, and she remembers the pellets getting in her vacuum cleaner.

“We had a lot of airsoft guns in my life, and I think my son still has a whole collection underneath his bed, the last one at the house. So, yes, it is fun for them,” she said, adding: “It is important, though, to make sure that they are regulated appropriately.”

Petrusak said juveniles under 16 who unlawfully possess a pneumatic gun would get a civil infraction and that teens between 16 and 18 who violate the ordinance would, in most cases, receive a misdemeanor.

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