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Lawmakers seek to ban imitation toy firearms

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POSTED November 24, 2013 8:18 p.m.

SANTA ROSA  (AP) — California lawmakers want to ban the manufacture and sale of imitation firearms like the one a 13-year-old boy was carrying when he was fatally shot by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy last month.

Legislation announced Friday would require BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be translucent or brightly colored so they’re not mistaken for real firearms, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

State and local officials announced the new legislative effort one month after a deputy shot and killed Andy Lopez. Deputy Erick Gelhaus reportedly mistook the boy’s BB gun for a real assault rifle.

On Friday, dozens of protesters marched from Santa Rosa City Hall to the Hall of Justice, chanting slogans and carrying signs urging District Attorney Jill Ravitch to charge Gelhaus with murder, the newspaper reported.

California law already bars imitation firearms like the one Lopez carried from being displayed in public unless the weapon meets color guidelines

The bill announced Friday is co-authored by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles. It’s also sponsored by state Assembly members Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, and Mariko Yamada, D-Davis.

“A toy should look like a toy. It should not look like a lethal weapon,” Evans said.

State lawmakers plan to introduce the proposal in January when the new legislative session begins.

In 2011, de León introduced similar legislation after police shot and paralyzed a 13-year-old Los Angeles boy carrying a BB gun modeled after a real handgun.

But that bill stalled in committee after running into resistance from gun manufacturers and the gun lobby, which likened the restrictions to a ban. Critics argued the proposal could motivate criminals to paint their firearms to look like imitations.

De León called the teen’s death a “watershed moment” for the country. He said the legislation would allow “law enforcement to make rational, wise, split-second decisions when they are in that type of situation.”

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