Tighter legislation announced on imitation firearms

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."

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