Following last weekend's tragic and controversial shooting death by local police of a 12-year-old youth armed with a defaced airsoft pistol, lawmakers in Ohio are calling for California-style regulation to mandate replica guns be marked in bright colors and fluorescent strips.
California's bad bill
This move mirrors legislation that sailed through the California legislature, SB199, earlier this year. Sponsored by well-known gun grabber Sen. Kevin "Ghost Gun" De Leon, the bill called to brightly mark airsoft guns in excess to the federally required orange muzzle cap. Although there are several pellet guns that look similar to real firearms, as well as paintball guns that are similar, it was only airsoft that is being targeted in the California legislation. The bill was 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, but is still unpopular with West Coast airsofters.
California's bill passed the legislature and was signed without comment by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) despite grassroots opposition from milsim and airsoft groups in the state as well as the NRA.
The Ohio move
After 12-year old Tamir Rice died in the hospital following a very brief and one-sided shootout with Cleveland police, uninformed members of the public started to blame not the police, not the youth, not the parents or society, but the gun: a $20 spring-loaded 1911 airsoft replica.
Then, within hours of the incident, Ohio state Democratic legislator Alicia Reece advised she would propose SB199-like legislation to the state House, saying, "If changing a color or adding a strip is going to save a human life, save a community or a city or state from losing a human life then I think the price is worth it."
The real problem
One key problem in the terrible accident with Rice that is often overlooked is the fact his airsoft gun had the federally-required orange muzzle marking removed. It is not clear who removed it or when, only that it wasn't there when recovered by police.
"Coloring the front end of air soft, BB guns or other air weapons bright colors does not prevent anybody from either painting over or taping over them and once again they appear to be real weapons," Robert Sacco the president of the Ohio Rifle and Pistol Association told WLWT.
Further, many feel it is a societal issue at the heart of the problem that, likewise, will not be fixed by a strip of florescent tape or paint.
Gabe Stitzel, with the Minnesota Airsoft Association, told media that airsoft guns need to be handled with care by teenagers, and parents should get involved.
"Airsoft guns aren't toys. They really shouldn't be treated like that. They should be treated with the same respect as a real firearm," he said.
Should the bill reach the floor of the Ohio legislature, which is Republican controlled, opposition by strong gun rights groups in the state may help derail it.
If not, Buckeye state airsofters could be saddled with their own version of SB199.
A domino effect?
After that, with two states down, there could soon be 48 more to go in the effort to marginalize and criminalize law-abiding milsim and airsoft hobbyists. Don't laugh, it could very well happen.
Earlier this month the Philadelphia City Council, in a nearly unanimous vote, decided to outlaw the sale, possession, or use of "realistic looking toy guns" to include BB guns and airsoft. Sell an airsoft gun in Philly-get a $3,000 fine.
We aren't kidding.
Gun control groups such as the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence champions SB199 and similar laws saying, "In addition to the danger posed by child misuse, these weapons also make it difficult for law enforcement to know if they are dealing with a toy or a real weapon when making split-second decisions in the field."
What do you think? Is more regulation or legislation the solution to the problem or should parents, airsofters, and the community work for more effective ways to make sure incidents like this don't happen in the future? Leave your comments below.