We’ve covered the story of Andy Lopez, the teenager gunned down by a Sonoma County deputy while holding an airsoft toy.

After this and similar events, California lawmakers now want to “do something,” and so two state senators are introducing a bill mandating that toy guns must come in bright colors.

State Sen. Kevin De Leon and State Sen. Noreen Evans are reintroducing the “Imitation Firearms Safety Act,” in an effort to prevent further tragedies from happening.

“As the world and the global community prepare for Thanksgiving holiday, there will be one empty chair at the Lopez household,” De Leon said at a press briefing in Santa Rosa on Friday.

The bill would require imitation firearms, such as paintball, Airsoft and BB guns, to be painted in bright colors.

“It will better describe what an imitation firearm is and what it must look like if it’s going to be sold to our children,” said Evans, who was also at the event.

De Leon says he expects still opposition from the “gun lobby” and toy manufacturers, and he’s probably right… but no for the reason he thinks.

De Leon is a politician, and being a politician, his immediate response to any issue is, “there ought to be a law.” It’s simply a classic application of the “when you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” philosophy. It’s classic inside-the-cliched-box thinking. In this instance, De Leon thinks passing a law mandating bright colors for toy guns is a solution to the problem.

Fine. Which colors would he prefer? Cerakote’s Smith & Wesson RedPrison Pink, and Corvette Yellow are nicely done. Duracoat’s Bloomberg Collection comes in Bronx Rose, Brooklyn Blue, Manhattan Red, Queens, Green, and Staten Island Orange.

Did I mention that these are just a sample of firearms coatings that can be had in a limitless palette of colors?

De Leon and Evans doesn’t seem to grasp is that real firearms can come in a much wider array of colors, patterns, and themes than toy firearms. By mandating toy guns come in bright colors, he’s actually making them look like customized real firearms. Of course, the color game is is a red herring anyway, that in no way addresses the real problem.

And what is the real problem? Let’s return again to the Lopez killing.

According to the autopsy, Andy Lopez was shot as he tried to turn, shot in the back, and shot in the butt while he was face-down, head away from the officer. As stated before, his “realistic” AK-patterned airsoft rifle had the barrel and front sight assembly torn completely off the toy… a fact the deputy might have realized if he wasn’t so quick on the trigger (and he’d been quick on the trigger before, once shooting himself in the leg).

Realistic antique cap guns that look and sound like real firearms have been around for 100 years or more…

Kilgore "Warrior" cast-iron cap pistol, circa 1926.
Kilgore “Warrior” cast-iron cap pistol, circa 1926.

…but law enforcement officers shooting children carrying toy guns repeatedly and frequently is a relatively recent problem. this strongly suggests that the actual issue is the relatively recent changes in law enforcement culture and training.

Officer training today seems to have shifted away from being a “peace officer” and “public servant.”  Today, we see a much more militarized and aggressive mindset emphasizing the importance of the officer doing “whatever it takes” to come home at the end of his or her shift.

It doesn’t matter what color or shape toys are, or if toys exist at all, when police training and equipment has adopted such an aggressive posture towards interactions with citizens, which is being reciprocated with a guarded, if not fearful feeling towards interaction with police. This is unsustainable as a law enforcement model.

For the sake of both law enforcement officers and the citizenry they serve, it is this failing interaction model that must change, not the color of toys.

(Hello Kitty Kel-Tec image from Kitty Hell)