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Boxer wants tougher federal toy-gun standards

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer wants the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to take a page from California and enact new requirements that toy guns be marked so that they can’t be mistaken for real firearms.

This is a real handgun“The death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland last month is just the most recent example of what can happen when a police officer mistakes a play weapon for a real firearm,” Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to commission Chairman Elliot Kaye on Wednesday. “The Commission plays a critical role in protecting the public from possible injury or death associated with toys.”

A police officer shot Rice to death Nov. 22, about two seconds after arriving in a park where the boy had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband. The orange safety tip that is supposed to identify the toy as fake might’ve been removed.

Boxer wants the commission to review the Imitation Firearm Safety Act – a new California law that will require all toy guns sold in the state to be painted a bright color – and adopt provisions of it to strengthen current national toy-gun standards.

California’s new law, inspired by 2013’s fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Rosa, requires that pellet guns have not only the orange ring on the barrel as required by federal law, but also fluorescent color on the trigger guard and elsewhere.

“We don’t need another child’s death to remind us that we need to change the current laws regulating imitation firearms,” Boxer wrote. “Any modifications you can make to the existing toy gun standards that will help ensure that law enforcement officers are able to distinguish fake guns from real firearms are much appreciated.”

Critics of the California law have noted many real firearms (like the one pictured above) can have fluorescent-colored parts as well.

Read the full text of Boxer’s letter, after the jump…
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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.