Three Democratic senators sent a letter to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Department of Commerce urging them to adopt new regulations requiring toy and replica guns to look markedly different from their real-life counterparts. The inquiry follows a story by The Trace detailing the gun industry’s practice of cutting lucrative licensing deals with toymakers to produce replica firearms that are virtually indistinguishable from real ones.
Manufacturers cut lucrative licensing deals that allow toy companies to make replicas of their products. Since 2015, police have killed more than 150 people who were holding look-alike weapons.
“It is past due time for Commerce to revise its regulations concerning toy guns and imitation guns and for the CPSC to strengthen regulations concerning non-powder guns,” states the letter, signed by Senators Robert Menendez, Richard Blumenthal, and Edward Markey. “To that end, we ask the Department and the CPSC to adopt stricter specific mandatory regulations for such products.”
The Trace found that gun companies allow toy companies to use their branding to create hyper-realistic replica firearms. It’s not unusual for a replica weapon to share the same markings, weight, and materials as the real thing. The realistic nature of these toys make it difficult for police to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. In 2014, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy, was fatally shot by police when he was holding what police thought was a .45-caliber pistol. Investigators later found that the gun in question was an airsoft toy modeled on the Colt 1911 handgun.
Incidents like Rice’s fatal shooting are not uncommon. The Trace’s analysis of a Washington Post database of police shootings found that 153 people have been shot by officers while wielding toy guns since 2015.
Currently, there are very few regulations regarding the appearance of airsoft guns. Federal law requires airsoft guns to have a bright orange tip, but the part can easily be removed.
Read the full letter here: