Air guns in California will soon be required to display multiple, specific, fluorescent markings under a new bill that now awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. Controversy surrounds this bill as state legislators, businesses, organizations and citizens dispute the bill’s effects on police and citizen safety and economic impacts on both private business and state income.
The accidental shooting death of Santa Rosa teen Andy Lopez, has been cited by Democrat legislators as the catalyst in the creation of Senate Bill 199. SB199 is a new piece of California Legislation that would require specific types of airsoft guns to display “fluorescent coloration over the entire trigger guard and a fluorescent adhesive band on the airsoft gun prior to sale to a customer, as specified.” This law comes in addition to, and some say in direct contrast to, federal law. Federal law currently requires a blaze orange ring on the barrel according to bill analysis documents.
In October of 2013, a Sheriff’s Deputy mistakenly shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez. Santa Rosa Police reported the deputies as mistaking the toy for an actual AK-47 and asked Lopez twice to put it down. Lopez reportedly had his back to two deputies before turning and aiming a toy rifle at the officers. Police say the deputies feared for their lives and one then opened fire, according to KTVU News and legislative documents.
In a 23-12 party-line vote, Democrats approving and Republicans dissenting, the measure passed and now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk to be signed into law. The bill is set to take effect on January 1, 2016.
One argument in opposition to the bill came from APS Limited and stated two main concerns. The first was the growing trend of brightly colored real firearms on the market, thus, “By painting airsoft devices in neon colors, we would be giving law enforcement and the general public a false sense of security.”
APS’s secondly stated that California serves as the primary distribution and retail center for airsoft and similar recreational products. APS thus concludes, “Mandating that airsoft devices be brightly colored would essentially kill the market in the state, causing the loss of jobs and economic activity statewide.“
The Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association support the bill and assert that a difficulty in distinguishing BB guns from real firearms would be eased through applying color to BB guns, as mandated in this bill. The LAAPOA also referenced the death of the Santa Rosa teen mentioned above, saying, “this tragedy is neither new nor uncommon.“
Another opposition to the legislation given is the simple fact that criminals could paint real firearms with the required BB gun markings. This would give the illusion that their real guns are not real and put law enforcement officers at greater risk.
Legislators who have previously served as law enforcement officers sat on both sides of this bill according to legislator comments reported by the Sacramento Bee.
The Bee reported comments from one of them, Republican Senator from Palmdale and former Los Angeles Police Officer Steve Knight, “painted guns would be enough to confuse police officers for crucial seconds while they decide whether to shoot.“
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Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters