New Jersey Assembly passes bill to regulate toy guns

Lawmakers in the New Jersey Assembly have passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of toy guns that look too realistic.

The Observer reported the legislation was passed Thursday on a 57-16 vote and will now head to the New Jersey Senate for consideration.

As currently written, the bill would require that toy guns no longer be colored black, blue, silver or aluminum. The toy firearms would also have to be marked with an orange strip along each side of the toy’s barrel and must have barrels of at least 1 inch in diameter.

The bill was inspired by the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot by police in 2014 while playing with a BB gun in a park. The police officer reportedly mistook the toy gun for a real firearm.

“The death of Tamir Rice was a tragic wake-up that realistic looking toy guns can prove just as great of a threat as a real one,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, a co-sponsor of the bill. “For the sake of children in all of our communities, we need to eliminate any ambiguities that could threaten their safety.”

Supporters of the bill say the added regulations on toy guns will help law enforcement better distinguish between them and the real thing and could save lives in the process.

“Unfortunately, when a law enforcement officer is called to a scene and has to make a split-second decision, it can be difficult to differentiate between a real weapon and an imitation,” co-sponsor Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, D-Essex/Passaic, said in a statement. “If the officer is wrong in assuming that a toy is a real weapon, it can result in tragedy for a child at play. If the officer hesitates, believing that a real weapon is a toy, it can result in tragedy for the officer. By putting restrictions on the sale of replica weapons, we can get to the root of this disturbing problem.”

If passed in the Senate, it remains unclear if Gov. Chris Christie would sign the bill, as he has been reluctant in the past to sign legislation relating to gun control.