In a state that too often enacts or attempts to pass inane anti-gun and anti-hunter laws — like microstamping every bullet — the California Legislature is a step closer to passing a gun law that actually makes sense and may save lives.
The state Senate on Tuesday approved a law that would require toy guns, airsoft guns, BB guns and pellet guns to be manufactured to look starkly different from real guns. The legislation suggests that the guns be painted in bright neon colors or translucent so they aren't mistaken for a real firearm.
Police say that's what led to the death in October of a 13-year-old Santa Rosa, Calif., boy. A sheriff's deputy said he mistook the boy's airsoft rifle for a real AK-47 and shot him. Such shootings are all too common, both in California and elsewhere. Those fake guns can look remarkably real, built to scale with scopes, banana clips and dull black or camouflage finishes.
An actor was shot at a Halloween party near Los Angeles in 2000 because he pointed a replica gun at a police officer. That should have convinced people of the dangers of carrying realistic toy guns, but instead the deaths have mounted. A reveler in Chico, Calif., this past Halloween was fortunate the same thing didn't happen to him.
There was an incident at high school two years ago where two students brought replica guns to a school dance, prompting a lockdown and nearly getting themselves shot by police over an unthinking prank. Just before that, a 15-year-old boy was shot in his school hallway in Texas because he refused to drop what looked like a Glock handgun. In 2010, a teenager was shot by the Los Angeles Police Department when officers mistook his airsoft gun for a handgun. The list goes on.
A study commissioned by the Department of Justice found there are more than 200 incidents per year in which imitation guns are mistaken for real firearms.
The worst part about the toy guns is that guns aren't toys. Young people are taught that in hunter's education classes. They are told never to point a gun — even a toy gun — at anything unless they intend to kill it. The act of pulling the trigger is something you cannot take back. They are told that BB guns are the same as shotguns.
It's baffling why some parents allow their kids to run around the neighborhood with airsoft guns, “shooting” one another. What fun. Airsoft gun manufacturers are going for the “cool” factor with their realistic replicas, and the kids probably feel they're older by carrying one around. But allowing teenagers to walk on the streets with what look like pistols and rifles is just a recipe for a much more realistic response than the kids imagine.
The law, SB199, was written by Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa. It requires that guns be manufactured to look different from real firearms. There's nothing stopping unwise people from then painting them to look like real firearms. There's also nothing in the legislation that would ban airsoft guns or BB guns, though that hysteria is being whipped up in some circles, as frequently happens with any gun legislation.
But keep in mind, this isn't gun legislation. It's toy legislation that might keep people from getting shot.