Imitation firearms like the one a 13-year-old boy was carrying when he was shot and killed last month by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy could no longer be made or sold in California under legislation announced Friday in Santa Rosa.
The bill would require BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be brightly colored or translucent so that they are not mistaken for the real thing.
"A toy should look like a toy. It should not look like a lethal weapon," Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said.
A contingent of state and local officials gathered Friday at Courthouse Square to announce the legislation, which lawmakers plan to introduce in January at the start of the legislative session.
The event was held on the one-month anniversary of Andy Lopez's death. The teen was shot and killed Oct. 22 by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy, reportedly after the deputy mistook Lopez's BB-style gun for an authentic assault rifle.
State law already prohibits imitation firearms like the one the teen carried from being displayed in public unless the weapon meets color guidelines. Federal statutes also require that weapons that expel plastic pellets, such as airsoft guns, be equipped with orange tips.
The legislation announced Friday would take it a step further by requiring that all BB, pellet and airsoft guns made and sold in California be colored a certain way. Paintball guns would be exempted.
Evans is jointly authoring the bill with state Sen. Kevin de Le?, D-Los Angeles, who introduced a similar bill in 2011 after police shot and paralyzed a 13-year-old Los Angeles boy carrying a BB gun modeled after a real handgun.
That bill stalled in committee amid resistance from gun manufacturers and the gun lobby, which likened the restrictions to a ban.
The two Democratic lawmakers are hoping to find new momentum for the legislation in the aftermath of Lopez's death, which de Le? called a "watershed moment not just for Sonoma County," but for the state and "entire nation."
He said the legislation is not "anti-gun or anti-Second Amendment," but "pro-children, pro-teenager and an instrument, if you will, for law enforcement to make rational, wise, split-second decisions when they are in that type of situation."
Evans said the outcome "has to be different. This is common sense."
Representatives for the California Rifle and Pistol Association and the National Rifle Association did not return messages Friday seeking comment. Both groups opposed de Le?'s 2011 bill, which critics argued could motivate criminals to paint their firearms to look like imitations, and thus heighten the danger for the public and law enforcement.
De Le?, however, said Charlie Beck, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, told him that in 37 years in law enforcement, Beck had never encountered a case of someone painting a firearm to look like a toy.
Beck did not return a message seeking comment Friday.
Los Angeles is in the process of drafting an ordinance to restrict BB guns and similar weapons. The effort is made possible by a bill de Le? introduced in 2012 and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Another argument against making BB and similar guns entirely one color is that kids won't want to play with them and that retailers will struggle to sell them.
De Le? acknowledged in a meeting with The Press Democrat's editorial board Friday that kids don't want to be carrying around guns that are colored "bright pink or orange."