Someone could be killed if people continue being reckless with toy guns, a Marlborough policeman says.
Police prevention manager Senior Sergeant Peter Payne said when police received a report of someone with a gun, they had to treat it as a real firearm.
His comments follow an incident when a 17-year-old youth began running round the checkout area of The Warehouse with a toy knife on November 28.
The youth, George Korohine Ra Marlow, of Omaka, appeared in the Blenheim District Court on December 17 and admitted a charge of disorderly behaviour.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Mark Harris said Marlow was in the car park, pointing a toy gun at friends, when police arrived.
Defence lawyer Kent Arnott said Marlow understood he had been "incredibly naive" to pretend toy weapons were real.
Marlow was given a six-month suspended sentence.
Mr Payne said the incident was "extremely dangerous" and could have been much worse.
When police received a report of someone with a gun, they had to treat it as a real firearm for the safety of the public and police.
In some cases the armed offenders squad had been called out to deal with people who it later turned out were carrying replica guns, he said.
"If you look back in the last few years around the country, these things have just about led to people being shot.
"The reality is that if people are going to run around with replica firearms, pointing them at people, they are posing an extreme risk to themselves because we will take it seriously."
The situation was made worse because many fake guns closely resembled real guns.
Police would take a hard line on anyone arrested for pointing a fake gun at people, Mr Payne said.
"We will take a tough line because these incidents are becoming more and more common. People think it's a joke because it's a toy, but the fact is you're putting people in danger."