In Sonoma County, California, 13 year old Andy Lopez was on his way to a friend's house when he was confronted by a squad car. Two officers got out of the car, took cover behind the doors and ordered Lopez to put down the weapon twice. As the teen was turning around, one police officer fired multiple rounds. Police contend that Lopez was uncooperative, but others counter that they did not give him adequate time to respond to their commands. Witnesses have gone on record in saying that the police fired multiple rounds into the child as he was lying on the ground. Autopsy results showed 7 total gunshots two the body, with two fatal shots found in the right side of the chest and hip.
Since the airsoft did not have an orange tip at the end of the barrel, the gun looked like the real thing from a distance. If you compare the airsoft gun at the scene with a real AK-47, the distinction between the two is obvious to the trained eye. Needless to say, the community is an uproar. The parents plan to sue the department, and members of the community believe the police acted too fast in using deadly force. With fears of terrorism and mass shootings, the public and police officers are more skittish than ever before, and it is unhealthy in a society founded on the notion of freedom. Despite media hype, terrorist acts and mass shootings are statistically very low and unlikely to happen to most people.
This is just one of many instances where police resort to deadly force rather than taking the time to defuse a situation, especially since the teen did not point the weapon at them. This incident has also shined a light on airsoft weapons and whether or not they should be displayed in public.
The regulation of airsoft weapons of any kind varies by county and state, but there are more restrictions that make it harder for BB enthusiasts to display their weapons out in the open. It can especially a problem for kids wanting to have some innocent fun in the neighborhood.
One such law is Municipal Code 10.56 of Petaluma County, California, which was passed on November 18, 2013. The code bans the display and discharge of all firearms within city limits, including BBs and airsoft guns.
What the Law Says
Mayor David Glass is favorable of the legislation, saying: "Any laws we have that make a police officer's job easier, I'm in favor of," Petaluma 360 reports.
But there is a problem with this line of thinking. For one thing, 10.56 leaves too much discretion at the hands of police officers, and the law could only spur more victims of police misfiring down the line. Also, the rights of citizens should not be restricted to make things easier on the state. The language of the bill is far too broad in targeting projectiles of all kinds, including "firecracker or explosive of similar nature, rifle, air rifle, airgun, BB gun or pellet gun or any instrument of any kind."
Any persons found in violation will face a fine of up to $500 and six month jail sentence. The exceptions are the firing on a shooting range or self-defense purposes only.
The main problem is the "possession" clause of the code, which is a blatant violation of the second amendment. It is not as radical as San Francisco's Prop H, which altogether banned gun ownership of any kind, and the law forced citizens to surrender any guns to the San Francisco Police Department. Prop H was eventually struck down as unconstitutional by the Superior Court. But the language of 10.56 is so wide it will only punish airsoft owners with no ill intent. Under the bill, shooting airsoft weapons of any kind would be illegal, and this law would make it an infraction if airsoft owners discharged the weapon in their own backyards.
One of the reasons why this ordinance came about is because neighbors kept complaining about kids shooting BBs and airsofts in the neighborhood, but this is another problem since citizens do not have the right to infringe on another person's rights solely because they disapprove of airsoft guns.
As long as airsoft owners are not breaking the law or harming others, they should be free to carry these weapons wherever they go.
What happened to Andy Lopez highlights not only excessive force by police, but the rampant fear that spawns knee-jerk reactions from neighbors and law environment officials.