"In a situation where someone is defending themselves against a perceived threat, the determination as to whether a gun is real or fake needs to be made within a split second," says a Philadelphia area state representative who is backing a move to add more markings to a number of hobby, airsoft, and toy guns.
(Philly Police image via wiki)
The measure introduced would ban the manufacture, sale or importation into the state of any such gun that did not meet the new guidelines under penalty of a $1,000 fine per gun, per incident. The sponsor of the proposal argues that it is needed to help save lives.
"Our police force has a tough enough job without having to worry about encountering someone with a toy gun and making the wrong decision in only a second's time," said state Rep. Angel Cruz, D-Phila., in a statement earlier this summer. "There should be no need for the loss of life over a misunderstanding, and I hope my fellow legislators will agree and help turn this legislation into law."
Cruz contends the Philadelphia Police has shot 16 people between 2007-2013 while carrying imitation or replica guns without offering any sort of citation to that comment.
Airsoft Society conducted a few google searches and the only incident we can find in the state of a man killed with an airsoft gun was that of a possibly suicidal individual shot by state troopers last year in the Butler area on the other side of the state from Philadelphia.
We did find a story in February of this year in Philly area of a robber armed with a toy gun who was killed by a victim armed with a real .38, but the police only came in after the gunplay.
Further, a DOJ report on the Philadelphia PD's more than 400 officer involved shootings between 2007-2013 (the same period noted by Cruz) only mentions 6 individuals with toy guns shot by officers (Table 6, page 31, re-posted below) not the 16 as claimed by Cruz.
(Of the 59 "unarmed" people involved in PPD shootings from 2007-2013, 6 had fake/toy guns, though Rep. Cruz contends it's 16)
Nevertheless, Cruz says, "In a situation where someone is defending themselves against a perceived threat, the determination as to whether a gun is real or fake needs to be made within a split second. Unfortunately, with how lifelike toy guns have become, that decision is not easily made and can have life-altering consequences for both parties."
His bill, HB 1545, has six co-sponsors and would impart significant changes under state law to how replica and toy guns are marked.
First: "The entire exterior surface of the toy or imitation firearm is colored 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."
Next: "The toy or imitation firearm is constructed entirely of transparent or translucent materials which permits unmistakable observation of the toy or imitation firearm's complete contents."
Further, the bill reiterates the current orange tip requirements and marking regulations already current. There are exemptions for prop guns used in television programs or theatrical or motion picture presentations.
While the term "toy or imitation firearm" is defined as any that is any device or object made of plastic, wood, metal or any other material which substantially duplicates or can be perceived to be an actual firearm, air rifle, pellet gun or B-B gun, its wording is ambiguous when it comes to airsoft as there are no clear cut exemptions -- leading it to the courts and state AG to figure out if it is applicable.
The bill was introduced in late September and is currently in the state Judiciary Committee.
If you live in Pennsylvania and are concerned about this, you may want to make sure the language is clear on HB1545 should it make it to law.