Police Alerted After High School Student Found With Unloaded Airsoft Gun At School

"At no time were students in any danger," Principal Barbara Britton said in an email to parents Thursday morning.


A Daniel Hand High School student brought an unloaded Airsoft gun to school Thursday morning, Principal Barbara Britton said in an email message to parents. She said police were notified and that "at no time were any students in danger."

Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice, who was alerted to the incident early Thursday morning, said he could not provide detail about the specific incident since "it is now a police matter." But he gave credit to school administrators and students for handling the incident quickly and appropriately.

"The reaction was swift due to the culture of the building," he said. "Thanks to the students and staff it was dealt with quickly." Scarice said, due to the way the incident was handled by students and staff, there was no need to put the school into lockdown, because students were never in danger.

"We're all about teaching and learning," he said. "But safety of our schools is always foremost. That is the highest priority."

An Airsoft gun is a hobby/toy gun designed to look like a real gun that can shoot BBs or pellets, according to the Hobbytron website:

For those who are new to airsoft, these guns shoot 6mm round pellets commonly known as "BBs." They travel at speeds much lower than real bullets and although a bit painful when hit by one of these pellets, they cannot kill someone nor cause heavy-bleeding injuries unlike real guns. Even though airsoft is considered a toy gun, safety precautions should still be taken into account when playing with these replicas ... most airsoft are the exact copies of the actual guns. Some manufacturers even use real mold of the originals in order to create the look, feel and even weight of their real-steel counterpart. Automatic Electric Guns can only cause welts. It is still painful however when the BB pellets hit the skin, since they travel at high speeds. That is why during "skirmishes," protective gears must be worn to avoid serious injuries, especially around the eyes. 

The Hobbytron site also says there are three types of Airsoft guns, including Automatic Electric Guns, gas-powered, and spring powered. Britton's email message did not specify the type of Airsoft gun brought to school.

Britton said in the email message that "the incident was handled per our code of conduct."

The high school Code of Conduct says:

All students, staff, and visitors, even those who may have a legal permit to carry a weapon, are strictly prohibited from possessing, conveying, using or storing weapons or look-alike weapons on school property, at school-sponsored events, in or around school-provided transportation. (See also Dangerous Instrument, Deadly Weapon, and Firearm.) Reference Section I.O. in the Behavior / Infraction Charts.

Under Section I.O. in the Behavior / Infraction Charts it says:

*Possession of Weapon, Deadly Weapon, Dangerous Instrument, Firearm or Facsimile or Replica of Firearm:

1st and Subsequent Offenses:

  • 10 days out-of-school suspension under the supervision of
    his / her parent or guardian, pending expulsion hearing
  • parent or guardian notification
  • superintendent notification
  • excluded from all co-curricular and extracurricular activities
    concurrent with suspension
  • mandatory expulsion, with administrative recommendation
    to the Board of Education for 30-180 school days
  • attend alternative educational program per Board policy and
    the expulsion requirement
  • excluded from all co-curricular and extracurricular activities
    concurrent with expulsion and may be further excluded from any or all co-curricular and extracurricular activities beyond the academic expulsion period per action of Board of Education
  • police referral

The Code of Conduct also defines "firearm" as

Firearm: As defined in 18 U.S.C. 921, means (1) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to, or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (2) the frame or receiver of any such weapons; (3) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer or (4) any destructive device. For purposes of this definition “destructive device” means any explosive, incendiary, or poisonous gas device, including a bomb, a grenade, a rocket having a propellant charge of more than 4 ounces, a missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than 1⁄4 ounce, a mine, or any other similar device;. or any weapon that will, or may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by explosive or other propellant, and which has a barrel with a bore of more than 1⁄2 inch in diameter. The term “destructive device” also includes any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device or any device from which a destructive device may be readily assembled. A “destructive device” does not include: an antique firearm, or any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon. (See also Dangerous Instrument, Deadly Weapon, and Weapon.)
Reference Section I.O. in the Behavior / Infraction Charts.

Here is the full text of Britton's message about the incident:

Dear Parent/Guardians:

 This morning it came to our attention that a student in school was in possession of an unloaded Airsoft gun.

 At no time were any students in danger. The police were notified and the incident was handled per our Code of Conduct.


Barbara Britton


At other schools, Airsoft guns also creating issues

Students have been found bringing Airsoft guns to other schools around the country, likewise prompting reactions from officials.

In Ridgefield, CT, a student was arrested last month, after bringing an Airsoft-like weapon to school, without the trademark orange tip that identifies it as a toy gun, according to Ridgefield Patch:

On Thursday, September 27 at 2:30 pm, Ridgefield Police saw “what appeared to be a shotgun” emerge from the passenger side of a vehicle travelling within the Ridgefield High School parking lot, police reports state.

Police pulled over the vehicle and found that the gun was “an Airsoft-type weapon without an orange tip,” police said. The passenger who had allegedly brandished the gun was a 17 year-old male; he was brought to police headquarters and charged with breach of peace and brandishing a facsimile fire arm, according to police.

The youth was given juvenile summons to appear in court and was released to his parents.

Airsoft guns typically fire plastic BBs and are usually powered by battery or C02. Depending on their design, Airsoft guns can appear clearly toy-like with see-through plastic or may appear convincingly realistic. In accordance with federal law, all toy guns are required to be sold with orange tips, although these tips are sometimes removed after-market.

There have been other similar incidents nationwide:

  • In Spokane, WA, two students brought Airsoft guns to schools and were "emergency expelled." 
  • In San Clemente, CA, a student who brought an Airsoft gun to a bus stop was disciplined after he pointed the gun at another boy.
  • In Milford, NH, an elementary school student brought an Airsoft gun to school. 
  • In Vancouver, BC, a school was locked down after a student was spotted waving a gun around, which ended up being an Airsoft gun.
  • In Bellevue, WA, a 10-year-old boy brought an Airsoft gun to school.


This story was edited on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 to include information about the police arresting and charging the student.

Pem McNerney (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 05:19 PM
As someone who struggled with writing this headline, and whether to send out a breaking news alert on the story, I see your point too. I don't know what Barbara's thinking was on this. I have not had a chance to talk with her and chances are she would tell me she couldn't discuss specifics, given that it's a police matter. That's their basic answer on anything that goes to the police. I could ask "was the sky blue and the grass green on the day this happened?" And they would say "I can't comment on specifics, because it's a police matter." =) Having said that ... context is everything here. Yes, it is considered a hobbyist's gun, but if we call it a "toy" gun, are we minimizing the fact that it is designed to look like a replica and can cause pain and physical damage? A squirt gun is a toy gun, as are BB guns. So would that have created more questions than it answered? At any rate, I agree that characterizing it correctly is of the utmost importance. I do credit school officials with getting the information out quickly, so that parents will have context when their kids get home from school today. My experience with hs kids is that they often listen to about 1/4 to half of what is being said by adults in their lives, for the most part. So, thanks to school officials, parents will have information on the other 3/4 to half of currently available info by the time kids get off the bus saying "there was a gun at school!"
Matt October 18, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Mike, Nothing you just said is true. It is not an automatic arrest, therefore no cuffs or cells. That isn't the expulsion policy. There was no deadly weapon. And they did indeed follow their procedures to the letter. Nobody should be fired for anything because everyone did everything right. Maybe that's what you think the policy and procedure should but it isn't and I think the article made it all pretty clear. I have absolutely no problem with the procedure and policy. I'm merely pointing out that her notification was way too vague and would cause many parents to panic unnecessarily.
Wilson October 18, 2012 at 08:55 PM
So my kids can get a full year of the best in methamphetamine's and newest in terrorizing weaponry at DHHS but can't get a full year of math and science. The principal tried to down play a best kept secret. Ask any student at DHHS and they will tell you they are not surprised. Ask the students on the bus this morning that observed the alleged air-soft gunman take the weapon out and click the firing mechanism. Ask them about observing drug sales in the classroom and they will speak frankly. It is only the administration and superintendent that can hid behind the phrase "No Comment" "it is now a police matter." They students have to live with this reality. I would like to hear from our elected board of education members on what they are doing to protect my students.
Pem McNerney (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Drug sales in the classroom? That should be brought to the attention of the police, school officials, and the school board.
CCL October 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Where's my comment was it taken down??
Pem McNerney (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM
CCL, it was taken down because it contained an unsubstantiated allegation against someone who likely could be easily identified, given today's events. You are welcome to make general comments or observations, but unsubstantiated allegations of illegal activity are not welcome.
Pem McNerney (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 10:52 PM
I'm turning comment moderation on, so there may be some delay before you comments appear.
Matt October 18, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Kids have been buying and using drugs in school forever. That is nothing new. It is nothing new in DHHS. And it is nothing new in any other school anywhere else. I'm not saying that makes it ok, just that this shouldn't be a shocking revelation. The reason it has been going on forever is that the kids doing it are not stupid when it comes to hiding it. Teachers and administrators can not punish kids for something they don't see. They do in the bathrooms, under desks, in the parking lots, etc. They're not standing in the hallway or in front of the chalk board counting bills and pills. A few times a year, someone slips up and gets caught. I really don't think it is being ignored because I've seen plenty of people get caught. If you want to eliminate this, than every student will need to have their pockets and bags searched upon entry to the building. Clearly, this is neither practical or reasonable. Nor would anyone's parents ever approve. Nor is there staff to do it. So lets just be smart and realize it isn't likely to change. (And they'll just do it somewhere else anyway, so it would accomplish nothing) The first person responsible for keeping your kid off drugs is YOU. Their parents. Not the teachers. Not the administrators. Not the BoE. Not the police. So if you're saying "Oh my god, someone might have drugs near my child at some point, they're in danger", then you need to do a little more parenting and stop expecting everyone else to do it for you.
Mike Atkins October 18, 2012 at 11:42 PM
The air soft gun is characterized as a dangerous weapon. Having a dangerous weapon in school is a felony. Matt and Lou don't brush this off. This kid should have been arrested and brought to jail. He/she should be expelled for a year. If those rules are not followed thaen Mrs. Britton and Mr. Zittoun should lose thier jobs. Period. It is not a funny matter.
Joan October 18, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Unfortunately the BOE policy reads that it is mandatory expulsion even for a facsimilie. If this is a first offense, and there was no direct threat, the state law says that the BOE should not expel the student or a year. However, our BOE policy does not reflect that change in the law, which is more than 4 years old. It is time for the BOE to correct thier policy. It has been brought to thier attnetion several times and no aciton has taken place. My understanding is that students have been expelled in that time and most have been given tutoring at high expense to us taxpayers.
CCL October 19, 2012 at 02:00 AM
"CCL, it was taken down because it contained an unsubstantiated allegation against someone who likely could be easily identified, given today's events. You are welcome to make general comments or observations, but unsubstantiated allegations of illegal activity are not welcome." So you are censoring? Geez I thought we had free speech in this country? I didn't use any foul language & did any other reader flag my comment as inappropriate? It's not an unsubstantiated allegation when many students have said they know of it to be true & saw it. You are a hypocrite. I saw all the backlash you got from that story about the mentally ill guy on Sandalwood a little while back. I guess if it's YOU causing the slandering of people, while identifying them by their actual name no less, then it's ok. Oh and you allowed my comment about the women I know in town that illegally participated in the gifting tables. Get real! I dare you to have the balls to let this comment be posted. Otherwise you should reconsider the line of work you are in!
tjo992 October 19, 2012 at 05:22 AM
What Mike automatically thought about a "deadly weapon" just proves that Matt thought... Additionally I believe that a years expultion is way too strict so the kid made a mistake suspend him and let him make up for his actions with an expultion that will permenently scar his future
Pem McNerney (Editor) October 19, 2012 at 09:44 AM
Thanks for flagging the comment about "women you know in town." I'll check it out.
Anon October 19, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Oh for the love of God, leave the school board out of it! They are already too involved in things they shouldn't be (student matters).
Joan October 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM
TJO- you are so right, but it is the policy that needs to change The DHHS adminstration and BOE hides behind this policy claiming they have no choice. The intent of the current state law is to give some leeway when there is not threat and it is not a pattern of behavior. The state recognizes that children need to be in thier school whenever possible and that sometimes kids do stupid things.
Joan October 19, 2012 at 12:54 PM
I wonder what prompted the admin to make this statement? Similiar things have happened before
Mike Atkins October 19, 2012 at 01:30 PM
@tjo992 Rules are rules, and MPS has strict guidlines that require a 1 year expulsion for weapons in school, period. Yes the kid made a mistake, but a dumb mistake. He/she will have a year to think about it, unfortunatley.
ted Aub October 19, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Weapon of any type , not acceptable in an educational facility or for that matter in a public setting . A misinterpertation could result in an untimely injury or a loss of life . This is a black and white issue ! Set standards for the community , so that people can send their children to school , and people can be in the community without a pemeditated fear of an incident . Better yet arm your boards , commissions , and community leaders with your wishes and then allow them to do their job.
Joan October 19, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Research shows and state law mandates that we should educate children in thier natural setting whenever possible. Otherwise we are creating bigger problems for society. If this child has a pattern of behavior or threatened anyone, then that is different. If this is a first ime, the legal side is unlikely to have the consequences the district will impose. My wish is that the admin and BOE use common sense, punish those who are a real danger. While this child needs appropriate discipline an automatic year out of school is in no ones best interest.
ANONYMOUS October 19, 2012 at 09:28 PM
it is nothing new whatsoever i am a student at DHHS and there are many kids i keep in mind when i think about this topic and they,re are not hard to get in school not much is done about it but then again there isn,t much you can do about it
tjo992 October 20, 2012 at 06:40 AM
Joan can you tell me the first letter of your last name as that would be funny if your the Joan I'm thinking of and Ted saying its black and white is plain wrong this is obviously a multifaceted situation to give a punishment just off of paper and standards isn't right most of the time different things need to be considered the fact that it's unloaded is huge because there is no intent to harm there yet according to the rules this child is getting the same school punishment as a kid that brings in a loaded .45 pistol or for that matter a rocket launcher things look great on paper and may satisfy a board of directors but life and organizations can't be run like that that's why the "real world" has coast with a jury
tjo992 October 20, 2012 at 06:41 AM
Srry about the long post had a lot to say lol
Jim Williams October 20, 2012 at 09:38 AM
In my opinion, The Madison Police or other competent outside law enforcement entity need to immediately interview this Matt person due to his recent posting which contained apparent specific inside information and knowledge of drug trafficking in the Madison school system. He claims that the illegal drug trade at DHHS is common knowledge to him and details how it's being done. That is very disturbing. Law enforcement needs to find out what first hand knowledge or involvement Matt has to make such shocking claims. It may be something as simple as Matt having witnessed crimes in progress such as illegal drug sales and use in the Madison School system and not taking any responsibility to report it to anyone. If he's not part of the solution, he's part of the problem. Posted on Patch @ 0911 PM, October 28, 2012. "Kids have been buying and using drugs in school forever. That is nothing new. It is nothing new in DHHS. They do in the bathrooms, under desks, in the parking lots, etc." Who did Matt ever report this to?
ted Aub October 20, 2012 at 01:16 PM
tjo992 , If you were a police officer and were confronted with an individule with a firearm that looked authentic , how could you assume that the situation would not escalate from that point and endanger life and limb .It is obvious that this symbolizes some power or retribution factor for the weapon carrier , because weapons are not and never have been part of the school corriculum . While the community is responsible for making up its rules and regulations , the community court is no place to try this and any case of similar nature . Methodology must change or we will see as a society a continuation of such incidents .
Matt October 20, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Jim, do you ever ever plan on posting a comment that makes sense?
Jim Williams October 21, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Matt. You are not only claiming that drug trafficking is occurring within the local Daniel Hand High School but also how it is being done. No, this was no common knowledge as you state. You are the only one making such detailed claims. To say such alarming things, you must know who is doing it. Hope you or an acquaintance are not involved as that may account for your other posts about not wanting the local police to step up public safety enforcement. You are the one who needs to step up to the plate and do the right thing by reporting what you know about this drug use and sales to the police for investigation. If you have seen something or heard something drug related, name your sources to the police. If you had done so earlier, who knows, maybe at least some student drug related tragedies could have been avoided, R.I.P. Jordan Kinscherf. If you are just making this stuff up for attention, please stop it.
Matt October 21, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Apparently the answer my question, if you plan to ever post a comment that makes sense, is "no". Your blabber, especially about past tragedies, is not worthy of anyone's further response. Especially mine. Crawl back under whatever bridge you came out from under.
Charles October 21, 2012 at 07:50 PM
@Jim, you sound like a loon. Do you really think that high scool kids don't use drugs? Are you living in the 1950's?
tjo992 October 21, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Can someone shut this guy up he is a troll he's posting this on every article pem should ban him
Jim Williams October 22, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Matt & anyone else out there, PLEASE acknowledge that you will report your local drug trafficking information inside our town's High School. PLEASE do the right thing and get a financial award as appreciation if you want too. Call the Connecticut Narcotics Trafficking Hotline, Phone: (800) 443-7847. Offered in cooperation with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and your local police. Seeks information about illegal drug trafficking, including marijuana growing, in Connecticut. Both state and federal authorities can pay a reward (a percentage of the value of forfeited property)... or DEA direct (203) 579-5591 or New England Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association drug tip hotline (888) 263-6362. Any of these contacts will direct your information to the best proper agency for a drug trafficking investigation with enforcement action. You'll feel good about yourself for standing up and doing the right thing.


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