It's four years away, but Bill Jordan had every intention of buying his 4-year-old son a Red Ryder BB gun for his eighth birthday. But that gift wish may end soon if the Red Ryder goes from its unmistakable wood stock to a bright pink.
California Senate Bill 798 has made it over two hurdles — a Public Safety Committee vote in March and a vote last week by state senators — and now heads to the Assembly, where it will be scrutinized and argued.
The bill, if approved, would require all imitation guns to be painted a bright yellow, blue, pink or orange or made translucent.
The bill was proposed by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and inspired after a boy was shot in Los Angeles in December, after police mistook his BB gun for a deadly firearm.
While opinions in Sacramento differ, so do those locally. Supporters of SB 798 say it's a way of saving lives. Gun enthusiasts say the law goes too far.
"I had a Red Ryder when I was 8 years old and I want my son to have the same," said Jordan, as he left the Visalia Walmart where he'd looked for oil for his gun. "It's not right; it's not the way it's supposed to be. A gun is supposed to look like a gun."
Dwight Chaddock, vice president of the Southern Tulare County Sportsman's Association, says it's an attack on the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment and those who lawfully own and use guns.
He has five children and several grandchildren. Each of his children had a BB gun by the time they were 7 or 8, he says. He's purchased a Red Ryder for all but two of his grandchildren.
"This is just another way bleeding-heart liberals are screwing up America," he said. "Guns aren't supposed to be bright orange. A bright-colored gun doesn't prepare kids for what a real gun will do."
Law enforcement says the bill may help them do their job better. Tulare police Sgt. Darron Altermatt says he's been confronted several times by a suspect holding a BB or pellet gun. He's had to make a quick decision whether the gun was real. He's always guessed right. But a bright pink or translucent gun would have made it easier, he said.
"Some of these airsoft guns look pretty realistic. It can be hard to tell," he said. "Anything to make things safer for law enforcement and the people on the street is a benefit."
Chaddock begs to differ.
"Anyone stupid enough to use a BB gun to hold up a store and then confront police deserves what he gets," he said. "I don't know if you get dumber."
Paul Garsta, who manages ACE Guns in Tulare, said he also agrees the bill is a good idea, but gun education is key to keeping people safe. He says BB guns, pellet guns and airsoft guns educate children.
"These kids learn that these guns, just like real guns, will penetrate flesh," he said. "They learn that if it can kill a bird, it can kill other things, and learn from that."
The law wouldn't change guns that were made or purchased before the law was passed.
Democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.-Ronald Reagan
4 years 49 weeks ago, 10:29 AM