Officials push to regulate sale of toy and imitation guns

East Orange officials, the Essex County sheriff and Sen. Bob Menendez delivered a simple message about the realistic appearance of fake guns.

“According to The Washington Post’s Police Shooting Database, 153 people have died at the hands of police while holding air, BB, and other imitation and toy guns since 2015,” Menendez said.

Among them was Trenton resident Jason Williams in a fatal police-involved shooting when he threatened suicide with a real looking BB gun.

Years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission called on the industry to only make fakes that easily look like fakes, distinguishable by bright colors or an orange tip — a tip that gets removed or painted over. Lawmakers now have written the commission and commerce department.

“To request that they immediately begin developing stricter regulations for air guns, BB guns, imitations and toy guns. Each of these models should have clear and visually distinct markings that signal to police officers, parents and children that they are not real firearms,” Menendez said.

Five years ago in Cleveland, an officer killed Tamir Rice who was holding a toy gun. It sparked a national debate and led to East Orange and other towns banning stores from selling toy guns that look real. The mayor says the compliance is so high in East Orange there’s not much need for heavy enforcement.

“Toy guns that can be mistaken for real firearms have no place in our community. The threat of danger is too real and not one that we are willing to risk,” said East Orange Mayor Ted Green.

East Orange Police have confiscated toy guns from real criminal incidents over the years. Police are often asked how they can tell a gun is a toy, and more importantly, how could you tell if you’re on the wrong side of one.

“Even if a shot was fired from here, it was a BB shot, we don’t know that until we’re responding. So as the officer’s responding, the adrenaline is flowing, they’re on the way to the situation. They get there, they see something just as this gun,” said East Orange Police Chief Phyllis Bindi. “It is extremely, extremely dangerous.”

The senator says if the Consumer Product Safety Commission does not revise regulations for the making of look-alike guns it will have to say why.

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