After debating whether it would protect harmless civilians or confuse police officers, the California Assembly on Tuesday narrowly passed legislation requiring toy guns to be brightly colored.
The 41-34 vote came after the legislation fell short on two previous attempts. The bill now returns to the Senate for a final vote before potentially heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Supporters of Senate Bill 199, by Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, cited incidents in which police officers shot down young Californians wielding realistic-looking toy guns. Clearly marking those imitation weapons would prevent such split-second decisions, they said.
“Horrific things happen when a toy gun is confused with the real thing,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. “This bill can prevent that tragedy.”
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But critics argued it would backfire by hamstringing law enforcement officers who must be prepared to act decisively. Several recounted anecdotes of people taking advantage of a current law requiring toy guns to have orange rings on the barrel by painting real, deadly guns with such rings so the weapons look like toys.
Echoing Republicans who issued that warning was Assemblyman John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, until recently the Assembly’s leader.
“When we ask law enforcement to go out and patrol our streets, to give them a false sense that the color of the weapon is an indicator of whether or not the weapon could kill them really puts them in an untenable situation,” Pérez said.