Starting today, toy guns sold across New York must meet the same strict criteria as in New York City, which requires them to be brightly colored or clear. The goal of a new state law that takes effect Monday is to prevent people from using imitation firearms that could be perceived as real.
“Restricting these realistic-looking devices will ensure misleading and potentially dangerous devices are off our streets, keeping kids, law enforcement and all New Yorkers safe,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a press release when she signed the bill into law in August.
Toy firearms now must be either clear, white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink or bright purple. They also need to be marked with the manufacturer’s name and laser pointers cannot be attached.
Individuals or companies that make or sell imitation weapons that don’t meet those requirements can be forced by the courts to stop. They can also be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.
The new rules update an existing statute that bans black, blue, silver and aluminum toy guns and also requires them to have an orange stripe on each side of the barrel.
Both research and past cases show that it can be difficult for people to distinguish between real and fake firearms. A 2018 Emory University survey of hundreds of children and caregivers found that a majority of kids couldn’t tell the difference when shown photos of real and toy guns.
Bill language for New York’s law also noted that real-looking fake guns have led to at least 63 shootings in the state since 1994 — at least eight of them fatal. Nationwide, at least 271 people have been shot and killed by police while carrying a toy weapon since 2015, according to the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database.
This past summer, off-duty New York City corrections officer Dion Middleton shot and killed 18-year-old Raymond Chaluisant, who was allegedly playing with a toy gun. Middleton, a firearms instructor at the Department of Corrections training academy, thought it was real, his union said at the time. He faces murder and manslaughter charges.
After the shooting, the New York Police Department posted a public service announcement on Twitter letting people know that toy rifles that shoot gel beads, like the one found at the scene, are also illegal in the city and would be confiscated if found.
The new toy gun requirements are the latest move from state lawmakers to try to prevent gun violence by taking on the industries selling firearms — both real and fake. New York recently joined a list of just a few states where it is now legal to sue gunmakers and sellers that endanger residents’ health and safety. Both the state and New York City have also sued companies that sell so-called ghost guns, which people can build at home without registering the weapon with a serial number.