WINTER GARDEN, Fla. - Winter Garden-based Black Aces Tactical posted on Facebook Sunday a picture of a highly customized 12-gauge, 10-round pump shotgun with its muzzle painted red.
Almost immediately, several Facebook users expressed concern.
"Airsoft with the orange tip? Getting kids shot since 2017," one comment read.
Most toy guns and some lower-velocity BB or pellet guns are manufactured and sold with orange-painted tips to make it obvious to law enforcement and anyone else that the gun isn't real.
"Orange barrel tips represent toys," another comment read. "I'm just not sure I like any firearm possibly representing a toy. I appreciate the good paint job."
"If something is intended to be pointed and fired at humans you don't intend to kill, it's probably not smart to make it aesthetically indiscernible from an actual, lethal weapon," said another. "At least, from a distance and in a split-second situation."
Viewers shared the post and comments with News 6.
The owner of Black Aces Tactical quickly clarified on Facebook that the shotgun is a single commissioned display-only showpiece sold to a dealer in New York.
Blace Aces owner Eric Lemoine told News 6 the shotgun muzzle was painted red upon request only to appear similar to the shark-nosed planes flown by the Flying Tigers in World War II.
The muzzle also features a white painted-on eye and a design that resembles teeth, similar to the Flying Tigers planes.
"If it were a black 12 gauge with an orange tip, I would be included (sic) to agree," Black Aces wrote on its Facebook page. "But being this is a complete show piece, it would seem appropriate to include the proper orange tip. Rising above that the customer spec'd out this weapon, and we are here to deliver what was ordered."
"We build what the customer asks for because he commissioned the build, and we leave parenting to the parents," Black Aces wrote.
Several people responded to that comment.
"It's not a parenting issue," read one comment. "It's just dumba--ery waiting to happen. It's just providing a few of the ingredients for a really bad headline. I think orange tip on any gun, themed or not, is universal for 'not an actual firearm.' Isn't that the whole point of the orange tip on a fake firearm? Something a real one would clearly never have? I understand meeting customer requests, but sometimes they have bad ideas. This was one. You guys still make cool shotguns. Carry on. Someday I'll have a few."
Kevin Beary, former Orange County sheriff and current News 6 law enforcement and security expert, said law enforcement officials should be concerned over any real gun with a red- or orange-painted tip.
"Gun painting is something that's an 'in' thing now and I know even some law enforcement has painted guns," Beary said. "But you have to be careful about painting orange and red tips on them because there's a federal law that was passed to try to protect people from getting hurt, a lot of times by the cops because they couldn't identify a gun without an orange tip."
"Case in point, I was working a midnight shift as a watch commander," continued Beary. "A deputy and I happened to get an alarm at a jewelry store on International Drive, 2 o'clock in the morning. Out of nowhere, this 15-year-old kid with an Uzi silly string gun that looked like a real weapon and comes out of the shadows. Fortunately he wasn't an idiot and listened to our commands and dropped the weapon."
Beary also recalled an incident at Milwee Middle School in Seminole County in 2006 when deputies shot a boy in the bathroom who was holding a pellet gun. Investigators said the orange tip of the gun had been purposely painted black. The boy later died.
"Well, that's why I think any airsoft weapon or paintballing weapon, whether you like it or not, needs an orange tip," Beary said. "That's a law enforcement officer's worst nightmare."
Several people on Facebook defended Black Aces.
"Anyone can go out, buy orange spray paint, and do a quick job to the muzzle/muzzle device on their gun," said another comment. "Should we start regulating orange spray paint? To buy orange spray paint the government must inspect your property to ensure you have no guns. Sounds stupid right?"
Lemoine said he would never mass produce the weapon and would never manufacture an all-black weapon with an orange or red tip.
Black Aces does not have a storefront. The Central Florida manufacturer sells mostly to licensed dealers and rarely to the public, Lemoine said.
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