Even BB guns are now in the crosshairs of gun control activists in state legislatures.
A bill in California’s state Senate would require BB guns to be painted a bright color. Meanwhile, a bill in Maine’s state legislature would make it a crime for a child to bring a BB gun or a toy gun that looks like a real weapon to school. And in New Jersey, state law does not distinguish between real guns and BB guns in what should be regulated.
All BB guns, replica guns and toy guns sold in California will be painted bright colors if State Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck get their way. At Beck’s request, de Leon has introduced Senate Bill 199 which de Leon says would make it easy for police to tell real guns from fakes.
“When officers must make split-second decisions on whether or not to use deadly force, these replica firearms can trigger tragic consequences,” de Leon told The Los Angeles Times. “By making toy guns more obvious to law enforcement we can help families avoid the terrible grief of losing a child.”
Critics say the bill could have unintended consequences, because gang members and others who are dangerous simply would paint their real guns bright colors – thereby making a real gun appeal to be a fake gun.
Tragic Shooting Prompts BB Gun Regulation
De Leon’s bill was prompted by the tragic shooting of Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California, last year. A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed Lopez, 13, after mistaking a BB gun the teenager was carrying for an AK47.
“There are so many kids running around with these things that it is almost inevitable there will be additional shootings in the future,” Dan Reeves, de Leon’s chief of staff, told The Times after the incident.
This is the second time de Leon has tried to regulate BB guns. He introduced similar legislation after another shooting incident in 2011.
The California State Senate passed SB 199 in a 23-8 vote on Jan. 28. The bill will still have to pass the state assembly, and be signed by Governor Jerry Brown to become law. Brown has not taken a public position on the bill.
Brown, a Democrat, has a history of vetoing some gun control legislation. In October Brown vetoed seven gun control laws, including Senate Bill 374 which would have banned all semiautomatic rifles in California. At the same time Brown did sign several pieces of gun control legislation, including a ban on lead ammunition.
California Incident Inspires Anti-BB Gun Law in Maine
In Maine, state Senator Dawn Hill (D-Cape Neddick) to introduce a bill that would make it illegal for students to bring BB guns and gun replicas to school. Students who violated the law would face up to six months in jail. The proposed legislation is already drawing stiff criticism form gun rights activists and civil libertarians.
The law could send innocent kids to jail and give children a criminal record for the rest of their lives, Oami Amarasingham of the American Civil Liberties Union told the legislature.
“For a young person who made one mistake in her youth, these serious consequences could prevent her from becoming a contributing member of society,” Amarasingham said.
The Maine law was partially inspired by an incident in which Rachel Horning of the Kittery Police Department found a BB gun in a student’s car outside a local high school. Horning said the student had mental health issues and was planning to use the weapon to threaten another student.