California Bill Would Paint Toy Guns to Reduce Police Errors

Friday, 22 Nov 2013 05:16 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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The shooting of a California teenager a month ago by a police officer who mistook the boy's toy gun for a real one spurred state lawmakers to reintroduce legislation Friday to require fake guns to be painted in bright colors to distinguish them from deadly firearms, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The Oct. 22 death of Andy Lopez, 13, of Santa Rosa, who was carrying a replica of an AK-47 rifle when he was shot, might have been prevented if Sonoma County sheriff deputies could have determined the gun was not a real assault weapon, lawmakers said.

"When officers must make split-second decisions on whether or not to use deadly force, these replica firearms can trigger tragic consequences," said state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who tried to pass a similar bill in 2011 after another tragic police shooting of a teenager with a toy gun.

"By making toy guns more obvious to law enforcement we can help families avoid the terrible grief of losing a child," de Leon said.

Lopez was walking to a friend's house to return the toy weapon when a deputy sheriff spotted the eighth-grader's plastic BB gun, thought it was an assault rifle, and fatally shot him.

Lopez's death spurred demonstrations around the state.

In a separate incident in 2010, Los Angeles police officers shot Rohayent Gomez, 13, who was playing with a replica gun with friends in a park. He was shot in the chest and paralyzed. A jury awarded him $24 million.

Another sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said, "Currently, these copycat toys are manufactured to be virtually indistinguishable from real firearms. 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."

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