Bill proposed to regulate toy guns’ appearance

State lawmakers will introduce a bill regulating toy guns so that they don’t look too much like the real thing, in reaction to a Santa Rosa boy’s fatal shooting by a police officer last month.

Real rifle and toy rifleThis “Imitation Firearm Safety Act” would define what an imitation firearm is and what they must look like to differentiate real guns from fake guns. For now, state law doesn’t include paintball, airsoft and bb guns in its legal definition of imitation weapons.

“Currently these copycat toys are manufactured to be virtually indistinguishable from real firearms,” state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said in a news release. “Because the use of lethal force against a person carrying an imitation firearm is a significant threat to public safety, toys must look like toys and not lethal weapons.”

Andy LopezAndy Lopez, 13, was shot dead Oct. 22 in Santa Rosa by a sheriff’s deputy who believed the airsoft gun Lopez carried was a real AK-47-type rifle.

Evans is co-authoring the bill with state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. In reaction to a similar shooting in Los Angeles, De Leon carried a bill in 2011, SB 798, that would have required all BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be painted a bright color.

“This will give police an opportunity to easily identify toy guns for what they really are and avoid these types of tragedies,” De Leon said in Friday’s news release. “Toy gun replicas do not belong on the streets. They endanger children, teens and law enforcement. We can easily protect everyone involved with this simple solution. My strongest hope is that we can enact legislation this time so that no more families are forced to suffer the terrible grief the Lopez family has suffered today.”

A 1990 Department of Justice study found that there are more than 200 incidents per year in which imitation guns are mistaken for real firearms, the lawmakers said.

Levine called Lopez’ death “unfathomable, gut wrenching, and tragic.”

“When a child is playing with a toy gun, there must be no doubt that the toy is not a real gun,” he said. “Consequently, we need a law that fully protects our families from tragedies like this. I am proud to co-author this important legislation.”

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed De Leon’s SB 1315 to let cities within the County of Los Angeles enact local ordinances more restrictive than state law regulating the manufacture, sale, possession, or use of any BB device, toy gun, or replica of a firearm that substantially similar to existing firearms.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Legalgrounds

    I am usually against new laws, but this one seems to make a bit of sense. I will say the first level of responsibility with this tragic event resides with the adult who purchased the replica gun for this teenager. So this law really protects kids against stupid adults who would buy these guns for kids in the first place.

    I am not sure how this tragedy could have been avoided with a colored tip to the gun. It makes no sense to ask officers to make split second decisions like this, and have to look at the end of the barrel of the gun pointed at them. Even had this gun had a bright colored tip, I still think it could have happened. Nothing can account for incidents that happen at night, or in low light, that would obscure the color of the barrel.

    We need adults with better common sense.

  • J dubb

    Funny how its the toy guns fault this kid got shot and not the trigger happy police officer. How about pass a bill that states police officers need to learn how to wound and not kill? What a ridiculous piece of legislation. Funny how when a mad man steps on a school campus with a gun and starts shooting his very real gun its not the guns that are held responsible for the shooting its the person holding the gun. But when an officer shoots a child because he was holding a toy suddenly the gun is at fault. Let me try and wrap my head around this; real guns that can actually take lives should have no regulation but toy guns that can’t do diddly squat should??? WTF?

  • JohnW

    Good law. Better yet, don’t buy toy guns for kids.

    As a young boy in Western Kansas farm country, I played cowboy games with my friends at the local fair grounds, where we proudly brandished our fake pearl handled Fanner 50 six shooter cap guns — now a collectors item. Had lots of fun. But wouldn’t buy them for kids these days, especially not semi-automatic lookalikes.

  • RRSenileColumnist

    Dude, you’ve led an interesting life. Post more autobio stuff.

  • Elwood

    “How about pass a bill that states police officers need to learn how to wound and not kill?”

    You are an idiot.

  • JohnW

    Why not? They shoot guns out of hands in Hollywood all the time.

  • JohnW

    Not much interesting about life in Goodland, Kansas, where the skyscrapers are grain elevators. That’s why the 50th h.s. reunion is a “destination reunion” in Branson, MO. But they did win the state basketball championship one year.

  • Elwood

    John, you’re describing pretty much all of Kansas. Happiness IS Kansas in your rear view mirror.

  • JohnW

    Not really, Elwood. Eastern Kansas has Kansas City and the University towns of Lawrence and Manhattan. K.C. is not SF or Seattle. But it is a great place to live. And they have Alex Smith! And talk about affordable housing, wow!

    Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado and most of Nebraska are the Great Plains with nothing but small towns. But I have no complaints about my experience spending my key boyhood years in small farm town. The stories I could tell — but I won’t at the risk of bringing on another auto-bio dude jab from RRSenileColumnist.

  • Elwood

    Au contraire, John. I was born and raised in KCK, attended KU and visited Manhattan. Kansas, windshield, etc.

  • JohnW

    KCK? Ugh! That’s the part you have to pass through to get from the burbs of OP to the real KC. KU. Not exactly Cal, but pretty good. You’d like it back there now that Sam Brownback is governor.