In keeping with a holiday tradition, the California Public Interest Research Group released its 26th annual report Tuesday on the most dangerous toys on the market.
This year's "Trouble in Toyland" survey found play things with high levels of toxic substances including a toddler toy — the "Captain America Soft Shield" — reportedly containing 29 times the legal limit of lead. The CalPIRG survey provides a valuable consumer service as parents consider their holiday purchases.
State Sens. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, and Kevin de Le?, D-Los Angeles, are in the process of providing another.
On Friday, the legislators announced they will be introducing legislation in January that would require BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be brightly colored or translucent so that they are not mistaken for the real deal.
No one needs be reminded that if such a law had been in place, 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa might still be alive. On Oct. 22, Andy was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy who believed that the replica AK-47 he was carrying was the real thing.
Under legislation Evans and de Le? are proposing, replica guns that fire a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, would be required to be painted a bright color.
"A toy should look like a toy," Evans noted. "It should not look like a lethal weapon."
It's hard to argue otherwise. But make no mistake — plenty will. This bill faces an uphill battle, just as it did the first time it was introduced.
De Le? authored similar legislation two years ago after a shooting in Los Angeles in which a police officer fired at a teenager holding a pellet gun that looked exactly like a Beretta 92F handgun. The youth survived but was left paralyzed.
Unfortunately, de Le?'s bill eventually died in the Assembly Public Safety Committee under opposition from the California Rifle and Pistol Association, the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers. This legislation deserves a better fate this time.
The safety benefits of this bill for children and parents should be obvious. But this would also benefit police officers who, as de Le? noted in a meeting with The Press Democrat Editorial Board on Friday, must "distinguish in a nanosecond" between a real gun and an imitation one while on duty. "It's the difference between a life nearly lost and a death or someone being paralyzed for life," he said.
Evans told the Editorial Board that she has heard from a number of constituents telling her about similar close calls they have experienced with law enforcement. One Department of Justice study showed there are roughly 200 cases a year in California where imitation guns are mistaken for real firearms. That's nothing to toy with.
California can't afford to have the Legislature make the same mistake twice. This bill needs to be approved and signed into law by the governor — before this kind of tragedy strikes again.