New York News Connection

December 17, 2015Available files: mp3 wav jpg

Retailers Agree to Halt Sales of Authentic-Looking Toy Guns In NY

Nia Hamm

ALBANY, N.Y. - Thirty online retailers will stop selling realistic-looking toy guns to New Yorkers as part of a settlement with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office.

Officials say the toys violate state law requiring toy guns to be brightly colored or have colored striping. The look-alikes have drawn scrutiny following incidents such as the Cleveland killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was holding a toy gun when shot by police.

Retired Deputy Sheriff Gary Pudup, western coordinator with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, says this is a step forward for both child safety and law enforcement.

"Sometimes just the presence of something that looks like a weapon skews people's perceptions," says Pudup. "If you remember in that case, there were even citizens that were calling 911 believing that Rice was 20 years old as opposed to being 12 years old. At least in New York it has to be brightly colored."

Pudup says many police departments could also use better training to more clearly identify threatening situations. Officials say retailers sold the toy guns through Amazon, which was part of a previous settlement with Walmart and other retailers accused of allowing New Yorkers to buy illegal imitation firearms.

Al Kaufman, senior vice president of the Toy Industry Association, says some of New York's toy-gun laws conflict with federal regulations. Because constitutionally, Congress has expressed a clear intent to pre-empt, meaning federal law supersedes state law when the two conflict. He says the use of state law in this investigation may have been an over-reach in some of the cases.

"The federal requirements pre-empt any state or local requirements," says Kaufman. "If there are items out there that don't comply with the federal requirements, then certainly we would applaud the attorney general for enforcing those requirements. On the other hand, if he's going beyond those federal requirements, the regulations very specifically state that they're pre-empted."

Kaufman says any guns in question that meet federal requirements should not be the subject of any action by the attorney general. The retailers covered in this settlement sold more than 6,000 of the illegal toy guns in New York. They'll pay more than $27,000 in fines.