ST. PAUL - The Ramsey County Attorney and several area schools are stepping up efforts to warn parents and students about so-called "Nerf Wars."
"People flying down alleys, running and jumping in cars, no one is buckled, they've got to 'be ready to go'," said Grant Vernon, a University of Minnesota senior who organized Nerf Wars tournaments for Highland Park High School in St. Paul several years ago.
Grant says the spring tournaments often featured 16 teams of five players, competing over the course of several weeks outside of school for hundreds of dollars in prizes. Though Grant says their rules didn't advocate for anything that broke the law, he says competition often pushed classmates to take big risks.
“You come into school, and you'd hear, ‘Oh yeah, someone just about got into an accident,'" Grant said. "I was thankful and honestly somewhat surprised that nothing really bad happened in my four years of high school, at my high school."
That wasn't the case for Armstrong High School last spring, two students participating in a Nerf War started chasing each other down a road when one of them crashed into another vehicle, seriously injuring two innocent people.
The year prior two Lakeville teens involved in a Nerf War died in a pickup crash.
"I definitely felt for those kids in the community but it doesn't surprise me, no. Not one bit," Grant said.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi sent out letters to area schools this week in hopes of increasing awareness of the dangers of Nerf Wars to parents and students.
"I'm sure it can be fun in certain contexts. It just has to be done, I think, responsibly," Choi said.
Even if they stay away from vehicles, Choi says there can be unintended consequences.
"I don't want to be in the situation of having to determine whether or not a person's use of force in their home because they killed an intruder, but who happened to be someone playing Nerf Wars," Choi said.
Grant says a similar situation put his friend in jeopardy.
"He was outside of a house, just with a Nerf gun, but kind of hiding behind a car and cops got a call that there was someone trying to break into cars and has a gun," Grant said. "That led to the cop drawing his gun on him. 'It is just a game, it's not worth risking your life for or risking another person's life."