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State committee in favor of colored BB guns

SACRAMENTO — Imitation firearms like the one a 13-year-old boy was carrying when he was shot to death in October by a Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy could no longer be made or sold in California under legislation that advanced Tuesday in the state Senate.

SB 199 would require BB, pellet and airsoft guns to be brightly colored or translucent so that they are not mistaken for the real thing.

“By passing this bill, we improve public safety. It’s that easy,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch testified at Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate’s Public Safety Committee.

Andy Lopez was shot and killed Oct. 22 after the deputy reportedly mistook Lopez’s BB-style gun for an authentic assault rifle.

State law prohibits imitation firearms such as the one the teen carried from being displayed in public unless the weapon meets color guidelines. Federal statutes also require that weapons that expel plastic pellets, such as airsoft guns, be equipped with orange tips.

SB 199, co-authored by Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, would take it a step further by requiring that all BB, pellet and airsoft guns made and sold in California be colored a certain way. Paintball guns would be exempted.

Evans testified Tuesday that Lopez’s death was a “preventable incident.”

“This young man would be alive today if this law was the law of the state of California,” she said.

State Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, also spoke in favor of the bill, which advanced on a 4-1 vote over the opposition of the gun lobby, which successfully killed similar legislation in the past.

Ed Worley, the National Rifle Association’s spokesman in California, described SB 199 as “overly broad.”

Outside the hearing, Worley presented the bill as a de-facto ban on BB guns because “what boy wants a bright blue Daisy rifle?"

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