Last September, quietly and without comment, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed Senate Bill 199 into law. The measure, which had virtually no support from the airsoft community or larger gun rights lobby in general, will have an effect on how California airsoft and milsim manufactures and participants have to mark their guns starting next week.
"Imitation guns have caused far too many tragedies. The deaths of children as a result of toy guns should be a wakeup call for airsoft manufacturers," state Sen. Kevin de Leon, the bill's author, said in a released statement following the signing at the time. "Now with the Governor's signature of SB 199, replica guns must be distinguished from real firearms so our communities and police officers are not placed in unnecessarily dangerous situations."
Introduced in 2013, SB199 at first was an anti-airsoft, anti-airgun bill (oddly with almost no mention of paintball guns) drifted through the legislature for almost eighteen months before gaining enough traction to pass. It originally mandated that airsoft devices sold or made in California be either transparent (clear) or brightly colored to resemble toys or super-soaker style water guns.
(Airsoft guns are already marked in accordance with federal law. California's new SB199 bill will take those markings to a whole new level in the Golden State now that it is law)
After an 18-month struggle through the state legislature that saw most of the anti-airgun language stripped away, and the requirements on manufacturers largely lifted, SB199 passed the state Assembly by 46-34 on Aug. 26, 2014 and the state Senate by a 23-12 margin just days after.
The bill changed from its original format to just require a 2 centimeter colored adhesive stripe on 2 out of 3 of the following locations: stock, mag well, hand guard, or pistol grip. In news, mainstream news articles on the bill's signing in September, consistently refers to airsoft as "toy guns," further trivializing both the sport and the industry, adding literal insult to legislative injury.
This is something that the airsoft community has been opposed to in both act and deed for years.
"SB-199, as it is worded today, is asking the public to treat replica guns as if they are toys," noted the No on SB199 social media page when the bill was signed. "The hundreds of millions of Airsoft replicas and Air guns, should be treated as replica firearms, not toys. Because 0.000000001% of the users decides to violate existing law, doesn't mean we need to take away all existing law that had been regulating the sport for over 150 years successfully."
The California Police Chiefs Association did not take an official position on the bill, but is generally supportive of it, said Rudy Escalante, chair of the association's firearms committee as noted by Capital Public Radio.
"In the situation where a child has an imitation firearm, this may help the officer asses that situation," said Escalante, chief in the city of Capitola. "Imitation guns don't belong in the streets where they endanger children and teens as well as law enforcement officers."
With that in mind, be sure to first remain a model airsofter and second, stay involved in your legislative process.
If you live in California and have any personal insight into SB199, feel free to drop it below.