By SHANNON YOUNG, Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Some Connecticut lawmakers and police chiefs are seeking support for legislation that would make it illegal to alter fake or toy guns to make them look real.
Rep. Diana Urban of North Stonington and Sen. Terry Gerratana of New Britain joined police chiefs and others to discuss the proposed bill Thursday.
The bill, which is still being written, would penalize people who deface imitation firearms to resemble real guns, such as intentionally removing an orange marking that’s required on fake guns. The offense would be a misdemeanor. The bill also would ban firearm look-alikes, paintball guns and BB guns on school grounds.
Current federal law requires that manufacturers of toy and imitation firearms place an orange plug in the product’s barrel. This plug serves as a safety marker to differentiate between real and fake guns.
Despite this requirement, instructions on how to remove or obscure this plug can easily be found online. If removed or colored over, some fake firearms look identical to real guns.
At a news conference Thursday, police officers displayed examples of the altered toy guns to demonstrate how they can be easily confused for real firearms. South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed challenged reporters to try to discern between a real and fake weapon.
“What’s a police officer supposed to do? Say, `Oh, it’s a just kid, I’m not going to worry about it?”’ he asked.
Stonington Police Captain Jerry Desmond said removing or defacing the orange plug on fake guns can place both police officers responding to an incident and individuals carrying the object in danger.
“You can see where something like this can end in a tragedy when it’s nobody’s intent to do anything wrong,” he said.
Committee Vice Chair Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield, said she was surprised to see how real some toy guns look. Fawcett expressed concern that Connecticut parents are unaware of these realistic toy guns. She supports the ban.
Scott Wilson Sr., the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League Inc., however, said the proposed bill goes too far. Not every person who alters a fake gun does it with the intent of committing a crime, he said. Those who do commit crimes with the altered guns should be punished, he said.
The proposed legislation is in response to a December incident at Stonington High School, where police responded to a report that a 15-year-old had brandished an altered toy gun on school grounds. Stonington Police Chief J. Darren Stewart would not give specific details on the incident.
Similar legislation is being considered in Michigan this year.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)