LIVERMORE (KPIX 5) — Guns with bright colors and cute characters. It’s prompting one Bay Area police department to sound the alarm about firearms deliberately made to look like toys, putting children and police officers at risk.
Despite all the attempts to make toys look like toys, nothing’s being done to make real guns look real. And we’ve seen the tragic results when police confuse a toy for real weapon.
In 2013, a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez after mistaking a toy gun the boy was carrying for an AK-47. Last year in Cleveland, a 12-year-old boy went to a neighborhood playground with friends carrying a fake gun and waved it around. Tamir Rice was shot by police who mistakenly believed it was a real gun.
Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation to stop this confusion by requiring toy guns to look like toys.
“(It’s) absolutely unbelievable,” Livermore police education officer Traci Rebiejo. “When you start searching through the internet and start looking at these websites that sell guns that look like something my daughter would be playing with right now.”
You can go to a number of websites and find all sorts of colorful, customized real guns that any one would easily assume are toys.
Although desirable to law-abiding gun enthusiasts, they pose a potential problem to the public and police, especially as gun assaults on cops are up 55 percent over last year.
“The whole intent there is to have either law enforcement or their victims relax and assume it’s a toy firearm when in reality it’s the real weapon,” Goard said.
And then there are the fake guns that have been modified. Goard shows one example of Nerf gun turned into a shotgun that shoots real life shotgun rounds.
Currently there’s no legislation that keeps real-looking guns looking real, according to Sean Kirkendall with the gun violence prevention group the Brady campaign.
“There hasn’t been a tragedy or enough tragedies from this to get the attention it requires,” Kirkendall. “It’s a reasonable thing to expect — real guns aren’t allowed to look like toys.”
For now, police officers say they have only one option.
“Any gun, no matter what it is, we’re just going to have to assume it’s real,” Rebiejo said.
Livermore police are also concerned that children who are allowed to play with toy guns aren’t being taught correctly. If they are ever confronted by an officer or person of authority, they should drop the gun. Don’t try to show it to them to explain it’s a toy — just drop it, Rebiejo said.