Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill that requires toy guns to be visually distinguishable from real weapons. Senate Bill 199 was co-authored by state Sen. Noreen Evans, whose district includes the neighborhood near Santa Rosa where 13-year-old Andy Lopez was fatally shot seven times by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy on Oct. 22, 2013.
Deputy Erick Gelhaus believed the Airsoft pellet gun Lopez was carrying as he walked near Moorland and West Robles avenues was an AK-47 assault rifle. Gelhaus opened fire when the barrel of the pellet gun rose as the teen turned toward the patrol car. Gelhaus was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch in July determined Gelhaus should not face criminal charges and he returned to patrol duties the following month.
The bill requires replica guns to be distinguished from real weapons by painting the entire exterior in bright colors or having florescent strips on their salient parts. “A toy should look like a toy and not a lethal weapon,” Evans said. “Currently these copycat toys are manufactured to be virtually indistinguishable from real firearms. Toys should not get a child killed,” Evans said in a statement.
State Senate President Pro Tempore-elect Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, authored the bill, also named the Imitation Firearms Safety Act. “Imitation guns have caused far too many tragedies,” de Leon said in a statement. “The deaths of children as a result of toy guns should be a wakeup call to Airsoft manufacturers.
Now with the Governor’s signature of SB 199, replica guns must be distinguished from real firearms so our communities and police officers are not placed in unnecessarily dangerous situations,” he said. Toy guns such as Airsoft and BB guns are not currently in California’s definition of imitation weapons. Critics of the Senate bill have said criminals could paint real guns to resemble the toy replicas to defeat the measure’s purpose. The bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
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