SACRAMENTO — Legislation aimed at ridding California of toy guns that look like the real thing and imposing a three-month jail term for brandishing a replica firearm cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
The author, Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), said California would become a safer place if the state eliminated toy guns that often so closely resemble real firearms that police officers cannot distinguish the difference.
He noted that in recent months two San Francisco children with look-alike toy guns have been shot by police who feared for their lives. The bill was inspired by Los Angeles television personality David Horowitz, who was held hostage on the air by a man brandishing a replica pistol.
But Sen. H. L. Richardson (R-Glendora), always one of the Legislature's most outspoken opponents of gun control proposals, denounced the measure as a "slick attack on the concept of gun ownership." He protested that the measure sought to deny toy guns to children who might later want to be trained in the proper use of real guns.
The bill, which originally called for prison sentences for violations of its provisions, was heavily amended in an effort to appease opponents. Some backed off, but others, including the politically influential National Rifle Assn., did not.
One NRA representative was joined in an unsuccessful plea by air gun advocates to exempt BB guns from the bill.
Under the measure, approved 6 to 2 and sent to the Appropriations Committee, it would be against the law to sell, manufacture or distribute a "realistic replica" of a firearm. Offenders would be subject to a $10,000 civil fine.
In addition, to "brandish" a replica firearm would result in a mandatory three-month jail term. Currently, it is a misdemeanor to do so, but a jail term is not mandatory.
The bill also would make it punishable by an automatic six-month term to brandish a real firearm, an increase of three months over current law. The penalty for brandishing a gun against a police officer would be increased from six months to a nine-month sentence.