Legislation to prohibit the sale of toy guns that resemble real firearms was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee. The bill was sponsored by Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver and Assembly Democrats Gordon M. Johnson and Mila Jasey.
“Unfortunately, when a law enforcement officer is called to a scene and has to make a split-second decision, it can be difficult to differentiate between a real weapon and an imitation,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “If the officer is wrong in assuming that a toy is a real weapon, it can result in tragedy for a child at play. If the officer hesitates, believing that a real weapon is a toy, it can result in tragedy for the officer. By putting restrictions on the sale of replica weapons, we can get to the root of this disturbing problem.”
The bill (A-119) prohibits the sale of toy guns and imitation firearms that appear to be genuine firearms. An “imitation firearm” is defined in New Jersey’s firearm statutes as an object or device that is reasonably capable of being mistaken for a firearm. The bill defines “toy gun” as a facsimile or reproduction of a firearm that is marketed as a children’s toy and is substantially similar in appearance, size, and shape to a genuine firearm.
This bill prohibits the sale of a toy gun or imitation firearm unless it meets certain specifications. Under the bill, a toy gun or imitation firearm is required to: 1) be a color other than black, blue, silver, or aluminum; 2) be marked with a non-removable orange stripe that is at least one inch in width and runs the entire length of each side of the gun’s barrel; and 3) have a barrel that is at least one inch in diameter and closed at a distance of at least one-half inch from the barrel’s front end with the same material of which the toy gun or imitation firearm is made.
The bill provides that a toy gun or imitation firearm that does not meet these standards is required to meet the federal standards for the appearance and configuration of toy guns and imitation firearms. Under federal law, it is unlawful to manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive a toy gun or imitation firearm unless it has one of the following characteristics:
· a blaze orange or orange color permanently affixed to the muzzle end of the barrel as an integral part of the entire device and recessed no more than six millimeters from the muzzle end of the barrel;
· a blaze orange or orange color permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel, covering the circumference of the barrel from the muzzle end for a depth of at least six millimeters;
· is entirely constructed of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the device’s complete contents; or
· the entire exterior surface of the device is colored in white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple, either singly or as the predominant color in combination with other colors in any pattern.
The bill exempts theatrical firearms which are used in movie and film productions.
The bill establishes penalties for violations at a maximum of $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
“When the lives of New Jersey residents are at stake, safety always has to be the top priority,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), a former Bergen County sheriff. “The lives lost sadly haven’t convinced retailers to stop selling look-alikes in their stores, but hopefully the notion of having to pay a fine that far exceeds what these imitation guns are even worth will be a deterrent.”
“As a mother and a grandmother, I shudder to think that a child can be playing one moment and dead the next simply because an officer was unable to determine whether a gun was real or a toy,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Looking at the spate of recent shooting deaths of young people who have died tragically, it’s imperative to take steps to make it immediately obvious that a toy gun is a toy.”
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.