You Can Have My Toy Gun When You Pry it Out of My Cold Dead 13-Year-Old Fingers

Toy Gun 1985

According to the 1985 Sun Sentinel story, the toy gun in the photo belonged to 28-year-old Maria Ocana, who “was waving the gun near an outdoor cafe and pointed the weapon straight at Officer David Herring, 23.” When she disobeyed multiple orders to drop the gun, Herring shot her. An acquaintance of Ocana insisted “she was not well in the head.”

On March 3, 1983, a 5-year-old boy holding a plastic T.J.Hooker revolver was shot and killed by the LAPD. On June 4, 1986, a Washington, D.C. mother was shot and killed when she pointed a cap gun at an armed stranger. In early 1987, a 19-year-old holding a Laser Tag gun was shot and killed by police in California. The list goes on.

Then, on August 19, 1987, a man named Gary Stollman walked onto the set of an on-air KNBC news report, pointed a gun at reporter David Horowitz, and made him read a rambling, incoherent statement about a UFO-CIA conspiracy. The gun turned out to be a BB gun. Here’s the footage.

Horowitz, a consumer advocate who had started campaigning against the sale of realistic looking weapons before the incident, led the effort to ban replica weapons statewide in 1988. The ban was passed, but steamrolled shortly thereafter by a 1989 federal law requiring only that “some part of toy guns… be made of bright orange plastic.” Senator Bob Dole snuck the language into a last minute energy bill.

Skip to December of 2010, when a Los Angeles police officer shot and paralyzed a 13-year-old boy who was playing with a pellet gun at twilight. The gun had an orange tip, but the cop didn’t see it in the dark. Last year, an 8th grader in Texas pointed a pellet gun at officers in his middle  school hallway and was shot and killed. The gun strongly resembled a real revolver and did not have any orange markings. (The 1989 law exempts BB guns and pellet guns.)

California state Senator Kevin de Leon sponsored a bill after the Texas shooting that “would have required that any BB or pellet gun sold in California be manufactured only with transparent bodies or in certain neon colors.” Under the usual rabid pressure from the NRA, Democrats in the Assembly killed it.

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