California police shooting exposes impotence of 'toy gun control' laws

On November 23, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article entitled "In wake of Cleveland boy's shooting death, Ohio lawmaker to introduce legislation requiring that BB guns, air guns be brightly colored," in which the author discussed legislation that is being promoted by Rep. Alicia Reece (D - Cincinnati), requiring all BB guns, air rifles and airsoft guns sold in Ohio to be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips.

Reece admittedly modeled her legislation after a recently-passed California law. The California bill came in response to 2013 incident in which a Santa Rosa boy was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff's deputy who believed the boy's toy gun was an assault rifle. The toy gun's orange tip had been removed.

As we have pointed out multiple times (see here and here and here and here), such legislation will not solve the problems law enforcement officers face when confronted by a person with a gun. And a shooting that occurred just this week in San Francisco (yes, in California, the state with the 'toy gun control' law that Rep. Reece wants to bring to Ohio) offers the latest proof that passing such laws cannot stop these incidents from occurring.

According to the Bay Area's NBC affiliate, officers shot a man multiple times in the parking lot of the Mission District police station last weekend after he displayed erratic behavior and appeared to challenge the officers with what turned out to be an airsoft gun.

Around 5:20 p.m., police noticed a man who was inside the police station parking lot, located at Valencia and 17th streets, said Officer Albie Esparza. Esparza said the parking lot is restricted and is not open to the public.

Three police sergeants approached the man and asked him to leave, Esparza said. He began to walk away but stopped before reaching the parking lot entrance at Valencia Street and turned to confront the officers.

Still facing the sergeants, Esparza said the man began to back away while also reaching his hands into his waistband, revealing the butt of a gun.

"The sergeants saw the butt of the weapon as he pulls it out and brandishes it at the sergeants," Esparza said.

Two of the sergeants fired their weapon at the man, striking him multiple times, he said.

New Yorkers have more than a decade of experience with just how impotent these 'toy gun control' laws are at stopping such incidents. As was pointed out in a recent Columbus Dispatch editorial subtitled " Changing the look of toys won’t make police officer’s job easier, New York City passed a similar law in 1999 that required such guns to be brightly colored, entirely transparent or translucent. From the article:

In April 2000, two Brooklyn teenagers used toy guns wrapped in black tape to attempt a robbery. They died after being shot by undercover officers.

In August 2002, a Brooklyn man holding a toy gun was shot and killed by police.

In January 2003, a 17-year-old in Manhattan was shot dead by police after putting a BB gun to the head of an undercover detective dressed as a delivery man.

What is it about gun control extremists like Alicia Reece and the majority of the California legislature that they can't learn from other states' failed experiments?

As so many journalists have in recent weeks and months, NBC failed to use the correct terminology to distinguish the type of gun used in this latest incident, referring to the very real airsoft gun as a "fake." After the writer of the Toledo Blade made similar errors in an article, ironically entitled "Toys, deadly weapons difficult to distinguish," I wrote a letter to the editor seeking to help them sort it all out. It took nearly a month, but the Blade finally published the letter.

Spelling out gun differences

The first paragraph of your Nov. 30 article “Toys, deadly weapons difficult to distinguish; Regulations weighed after recent shootings” refers to airsoft and pellet guns as “firearms.” These guns are also presumably the “toys” referred in the headline.

They are neither firearms nor toys, but they most certainly are guns. A firearm is a gun that uses the action of an explosive force — gunpowder.

An airsoft gun, pellet gun, or BB gun uses the action of compressed air or a spring. A toy is a plaything.

The more people refer to the guns in the second category as “fake,” “not real,” “toys,” or “replicas,” the more they contribute to the problem. These are guns, and they need to be treated as such.

The media can help correct this misunderstanding and help educate the public by differentiating among types of guns in all articles in which one of the types is mentioned.

Instead of “the homeowner used a gun to fend off a home invasion,” the proper statement would be “the homeowner used a firearm to fend off a home invasion.” Likewise, instead of saying “police shot a boy holding a replica gun,” the proper statement would be “police shot a boy holding a BB gun.”


Archbold, Ohio

Editor’s note: The writer is secretary of the Buckeye Firearms Association and vice chairman of the association’s political action committee.

While I'd like to think that writers at the Blade might take this advice to heart, I won't hold my breath.

Likewise, I fully expect Rep. Reece to reintroduce her 'toy gun control' bill, which was introduced during - and died at the end of - the lame duck session. In the wake of these many incidents, does Rep. Reece honestly think police can afford to be any less concerned when the gun pointed at them is brightly colored, or when it has a few strips of florescent tape on it?

The real answer to the problems seen in two incidents in Ohio recently is education, a point made quite well in this recent article at

Rule #1: “When a cop tells you ‘drop the gun’ — you drop the gun, immediately.”
Rule #2: “When a cop asks to see your hands — make like a goal post and spread your fingers.”

That goes for ANY gun - whether it's red, brown, yellow black or white, whether it's a firearm, an airsoft gun or a BB/pellet gun, or even a true non-firing replica/toy. Because police can't be asked to judge based on the color of a gun any more than they should judge a person based on the color of their skin.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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