New York Not Playing Around with Toy Gun Law

Discussion
Jul 29, 2009

By George Anderson

The argument is that guns do not kill but the people holding
them sometimes do. When it comes to toy guns, the people holding them aren’t
going to be doing any killing but that doesn’t mean they won’t get shot
in a case of mistaken weapon identity.

Concern over innocent people – mostly kids but also some adults –
getting shot by mistake while holding toy guns has been a big issue in
New York since 1994 when a 13-year-old boy, Nicholas Heyward, living in
the Gowanus Houses public housing projects in
Brooklyn was shot when a police officer mistook the toy gun he was playing
with as the real thing. An orange cap that showed the gun was a toy was
broken off while Nicholas played cops and robbers with friends in the building.

New York has developed one of the toughest laws in the nation to eliminate
the sale of authentic looking toy guns in the state. But even with the publicity
around the issue and enforcement by state, many stores have continued to
sell toy guns that could pass under the right conditions as real firearms.

Recently, the state investigated retail stores and more than 100 locations
were found to be in violation of the ban on realistic looking
toy guns. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the retailers telling
them to remove the toys in question or face legal action. Big
Lots, Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Gander Mountain were among the retailers
identified as having received the cease-and-desist letter from Mr. Cuomo’s
office.

According to an Associated Press report, a number of prominent
retail chains including CVS, Kmart, The Sports Authority, Walgreens and Wal-Mart
Stores have been fined in the past for violating New York’s law. The biggest
fine handed down to date came against Party City, which paid a penalty of $500,000
last year.

“Realistic toy guns are a tragedy waiting to happen,” Mr.
Cuomo said in a press release. “Every day, these imitation weapons put
the lives of both law enforcement and civilians at risk. This is a public
safety matter, plain and simple, and we will not permit these companies
to profit by making our streets more dangerous.”

Federal law also prohibits the sale of imitation firearms
unless they have a bright orange plug in the barrel of the toy gun. New
York’s law goes beyond the federal restrictions.

Discussion Questions:
Are you in agreement with laws that prohibit the sale of toy guns that
resemble the real thing? Is a bright orange plug in a toy gun’s barrel
enough or are more changes needed to avoid the type of confusion that
could lead to tragedy?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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13 Comments on "New York Not Playing Around with Toy Gun Law"


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David Zahn
Guest
11 years 9 months ago
Very interestingly, in a “previous employment life” I worked for a company that sold hand-held scanners to retailers for use at checkstands, in-aisle, backroom, and warehouse applications. At the time, the default shell of the product was either one of two colors, a black or a tan color, and was chosen to match the other computer parts or peripherals that the retailer currently had. A major retailer refused to purchase any product UNLESS the color was changed to a wild neon, striped, or other color from the crayon box just because they feared that should their stores ever be held up, they did not want their employees to be holding a scanner and have it be mistaken for a firearm. The only way they would purchase was if the scanner CLEARLY could not be mistaken for a gun. Toys are for play and imagination and having a toy resemble the real thing so closely as to be mistaken for it invites dangerous outcomes. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the idea of a “gun” even… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 9 months ago

Anything that might be misidentified as a gun by police in a tense situation magnetizes danger. As for orange plugs in the barrel, criminals can camouflage their guns similarly.

As the nation grows and becomes less like Mayberry so do many things that have to be reconsidered.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

1. Unless this becomes a national law, the likelihood of success is slim.

2. Government can not and should not take all of the risk out of living.

3. Two things will happen with orange plugs. One, bad guys will paint the tips of their guns orange and two, kids will take the orange plugs out to make their gun be more realistic.

4. Next step will be to ban all toys that even resemble a gun since in a tense situation, something that simply looks like a gun may be presumed to be a gun.

5. Next step after that will be banning the playing of cops and robbers since someone needs to play the robber and that sets a bad example.

Where does it stop?

Sid Raisch
Guest
Sid Raisch
11 years 9 months ago
In April of 2002 my wife was going through airport security (and you can tell where this is going and you’re right) and was called aside as all the bells and whistles went off and security people came from everywhere. Turns out that a toy gun that was given our son several years prior had been stashed in the bottom of her camera case. This was the first time she had ventured out after 9/11 and the first time with that camera case. I clearly remember stopping my son while he was attempting to remove the orange ring from the end of the gun while we were driving in the car. I was still concerned that a passerby might not notice the color of the end of the gun barrel through the tinted windows on the car, at dusk, etc. and would become alarmed. The scanning equipment at the airport security station can not distinguish the color of the end of the gun barrel. Kids use bananas and sticks for guns and it is not… Read more »
John Fermann
Guest
John Fermann
11 years 9 months ago

The world is a different place from when I grew up. We had cap guns that looked like a gun but no one that I knew used them in a robbery attempt. The toy guns today are even more realistic and the news shows guns used in robberies that look just like the toy guns.

I heard this morning of a 10 year old that used a toy gun to attempt to hold up another child and steal a scooter. I agree with the law. If it said pink guns were OK I am sure there would be some real pink guns produced or repainted so taking all look-alike toy guns off the market would be good.

If kids needed to play with a gun there are plenty of options that are not real look alikes. Any life saved (kids or cops) is worth it.

austin avery
Guest
austin avery
11 years 9 months ago

There are genuine concerns for toy guns that replicate the real thing. However, consider for a moment what is next. A BB gun is considered a toy. It looks real. Is it to be banned as well? If we start down the road of “banning” things that look like the real thing, then we become precariously close to “banning” the real thing. That would then set us into a direct conflict with the constitution.

Just something to consider.

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Pretend for a moment you’re a cop (assuming you believe society needs cops), with a kid pointing what looks like a real gun at you. You’ve got a split-second potentially life or death situation. What do you do? Will you be second-guessed? Will you kill someone when trying for a non-lethal shot? Will you be dead? Come on, give the cops a break, their job is hard enough. I see no risk in this creating a slippery slope whereby real guns will be banned. And yes, I’m a gun owner.

Dennis Serbu
Guest
Dennis Serbu
11 years 9 months ago

The hysteria is over anecdotal incidence. The rare and unusual circumstances, while tragic does not justify the need to ban anything. The unintended consequence of all this political correctness and fear of the unknown is the undisputed fact that we have created yet one more prohibited item that will attract curiosity and misuse by juveniles. Why not teach them proper respect for firearms? Replica or not, this could be a teaching moment that could lead to greater safety and less ignorance.

I can tell you with great certainly, my lower backside extremities were converted to a red hue if I ever pointed a cap gun, BB Gun, etc at anyone in the house. I was also taught to respect firearms, toy or not, for the potential that they carried. It would have never occurred to me to point it at an adult or policeman, even in play. To us all guns were real and there were consequences for misuse.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

One accidental shooting in 15 years…hmmm. I would guess that there were others, and of course there’s always the POSSIBILITY of it; not to mention a “split-second decision” mistake involving a stick, a pointed finger or even someone jumping up and yelling “boo!” I think the only real solution is a Federal law banning anyone under the age of 18–no, let’s make it 21 or even 25–appearing outside of their house unless accompanied by an adult…hey, it would “save lives,” right?

James Tenser
Guest
11 years 9 months ago

Mr. Cuomo seems to have a virtuous intent, and his current enforcement efforts in NY State may have the effect of heightening awareness of the risks posed by toy weapons.

However, as long as realistic fake guns remain available anywhere, a NY cop will never be completely certain about the toy aimed in his or her direction. Unfortunately, even real handguns come in candy-colored “ladies'” versions these days, adding a frightening layer of doubt for our law enforcement professionals.

No doubt, good cops lose sleep at the prospect of mistakenly firing on an innocent child, even when the action is “by the book.” Parents would do well to keep realistic gun replicas out of their kids hands.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
11 years 9 months ago

This is about more than a single accident. Check this out.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
11 years 9 months ago

OK, I give up, what looks like a real gun at 4:00AM in very low light conditions. See my point, toy guns do not cause problems. Cops do not cause problems. Problems are caused by people doing things they should not do. Often these problems recur at certain locations or in certain neighborhoods. Just put up signs in these areas saying that a cop can’t read a serial number at 15 feet and if it even faintly looks like a gun you are probably going to get shot. We always think we can legislate stupidity out of our lives, but we can’t.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
11 years 9 months ago

Authentic-looking toy guns are obviously a serious issue. On the consumer and law enforcement side, I doubt whether an orange plug is enough to differentiate real from fake. And while the NY regs are more stringent than the Fed’s, I’m concerned that any toy gun–regardless of markings, colors, etc.–could be perceived as a real gun in a tense situation.

On the merchant and manufacturer side, my concern is that companies operating across various states must comply with both federal regs and differing state regs. A better solution would be to have uniform regs to eliminate any confusion. Or, companies could adopt the most stringent of all the regs so their products are in compliance across the board.

All that said and in light of the dollar amount of the fines and the potential danger to consumers, it may be better if merchants simply give up selling such “toys.” And I have no concerns about that.

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