Blumenthal proposes law targeting facsimile firearms

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Without changes to the way toy and imitation guns are manufactured, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., says child’s play presents real dangers to public safety.

Blumenthal last week introduced his “Imitation Firearms Safety Act,” which would require the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to develop a permanent, colorful change to the barrel of any imitation gun, including paintball guns and BB guns, although what that change looks like would vary based on the type of imitation gun.

A 1988 federal law requires that all toy guns have a bright orange plug, but Blumenthal demonstrated at a Friday press conference how it could be easily removed with pliers, or painted .

“What needs to be done that my legislation would do is to have a much larger, clearly colored marker so that the barrel is unmistakably identifiable as a lookalike or toy and therefore cannot be removed,” Blumenthal said Friday in a phone interview.

Blumenthal said a toy gun should be easily distinguishable to anyone in a dark alley, so as not to cause alarm or to have any injurious or deadly consequences.

Officials with the New Haven Police Department believe that a measure like Blumenthal’s would make their jobs easier and could make the public safer.

“Its very simple for us: we don’t have that many of these incidents, but there are too many nationwide,” said New Haven police spokeman Officer David Hartman.

Across the nation in the last two years, police have killed 86 people who were carrying toy guns, Blumenthal’s office reported.

“We do make arrests of people who have held up convenience stores and so and so forth using fake guns and using BB guns and replica firearms of any sort. We’ve had store clerks shoot and kill people who pointed weapons at them. What if it’s a toy gun and the store clerk lawfully uses deadly force?” Hartman said. “It’s ridiculous toy guns are out there to look like real guns.”

Last year, standing beside members of the NHPS, Blumenthal demonstrated how similar a lethal firearm and a paintball gun look at first glance, calling on paintball gun manufacturers to “do the right thing on their own” and cease the sale of any replica firearms.

In the meantime, Blumenthal has changed his ask from the manufactuers of replica guns to consumers, about one month before the December holidays.

“What’s important here is parents demonstrating responsibility by stopping any purchases of these guns right away until either the gun manufacturers change their practices to make it safer voluntarily, or for my law to be adopted,” he said. “Until imitation guns are made safer, parents should stop buying them.”

Blumenthal said he does not currently have any cosponsors on his bill, but he’s hoping it will pick up support in Congress.