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Man jailed for making and shooting airguns with metal parts from company workshop

SINGAPORE: After coming across a Nerf toy gun at a mall, a man became curious about how it worked and embarked on a quest to make his own airgun that could fire steel ball bearings. 

After studying airgun-making tutorials on YouTube and running multiple tests shooting from his Jurong West flat, the sheet-metal worker made three airguns with discarded scrap metal from his company's workshop. His shots damaged the windows of nine neighbours.

Lee Keng Hee, 64, was jailed for 18 weeks and fined S$2,000 on Wednesday (Dec 16). He pleaded guilty to one count of manufacturing an airgun under the Arms and Explosives Act and another charge of committing a rash act by shooting ball bearings with the gun. Two other charges were considered in sentencing.

The court heard that Lee came across a toy gun at a mall in 2017 and bought it to study its firing mechanism. He tried to reverse-engineer its mechanism and make his own airgun, but was unsuccessful. 

He decided to make his own from scratch and was determined to make one that was more powerful than the Nerf guns. After settling on making an airgun made of metal that could fire steel ball bearings, Lee began studying airgun-making tutorials on YouTube.

He used discarded scrap metal from his company's workshop and assembled the components ranging from the air chamber to the barrel to form the airguns.

Lee encountered difficulties constructing his first airgun in late 2017, and began making the second one incorporating the use of a bicycle air-pump valve. He completed both guns in mid-2018 and tested them in his home by shooting ball bearings at a cardboard box.

He further conducted test shots with the second gun at the trees planted about 10m to 15m from his block, positioning himself at his living room window.

READ: Man who hit bridal cars with metal ball bearings while shooting at pigeons gets jail

When the second gun spoiled with use, Lee began manufacturing a third airgun, which he hoped to be more powerful and consistent than its predecessors. He took about three months to make this gun, with a bigger air chamber, and tested it first with a cardboard box in his flat.

He later used the trees as target practice and moved on to shooting at other Housing Board blocks to determine the range of this third airgun.

Between September 2018 and April 2019, Lee used his airguns to shoot metal ball bearings from his eighth-floor flat towards neighbouring blocks on at least nine occasions.

Nine of his neighbours had damaged windows as a result of Lee's shooting. On the night of Apr 3 last year, one of them called the police about a crack in his bedroom window.

READ: Ex-auxiliary police officer jailed for culling crows with shotgun without safety officer present

Lee was arrested after extensive investigations of the surrounding blocks, and his home-made airguns and component parts seized.

An assessment found that ball bearings shot from one of Lee's guns could cause non-lethal injuries if aimed at a person, and could crack window glass.

A HIGH DEGREE OF PERSISTENCE

Deputy Public Prosecutor Regina Lim asked for at least four months and six weeks' jail and a fine, saying the airguns Lee manufactured were inherently dangerous, with extensive firing ranges and significant firing power.

He also displayed "a high degree of persistence in manufacturing his airgun", taking 10 months to make the three weapons. In total, he shot at least 200 6mm ball bearings while manufacturing the arms.

Lee also shot his airsoft gun nine times towards occupied residential blocks and damaged the windows of nine flats, costing owners about S$2,000 to repair.

Defence lawyer Favian Kang asked instead for "a short imprisonment term and a small fine", saying that his client had voluntarily made restitution, selling off his late mother's jewellery to do so.

He also cooperated with the police and assisted them with sketches and inquiries, said the lawyer. Lee is the sole breadwinner of the family and resigned from his job before the hearing, he added.

For manufacturing an airsoft gun, Lee could have been jailed for up to three years and fined up to S$10,000. 

Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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