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Toy weapons won't look like real ones under California bill

By Joaquin Palomino

(Reuters) - The California State Senate gave final legislative approval on Thursday to a bill that would require certain replica guns to be painted bright colors or made transparent to prevent police from confusing toy guns for real weapons.

The bill, which passed the Democratic-led chamber by 22-12, was introduced by Democratic state Senator Kevin De Leon after Sonoma County Sheriff's deputies fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez Cruz in October after mistaking an imitation pellet rifle for the real thing.

The bill now requires the signature of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

"A toy should look like a toy, and a toy should not get a child killed," said Democratic Senator Noreen Evans, who co-authored the legislation.

The bill would require BB guns that fire pellets with a diameter of 6 to 8 millimeters to be painted bright colors or have prominent fluorescent strips attached, making them look less authentic.

A similar bill failed to pass in 2011 because of resistance from gun manufacturers, but proponents say public opinion is now on their side.

The bill has the support of Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, as well as law enforcement officials in Sonoma County.

"Any effort to clearly mark imitation firearms to avoid the type of tragedy that rocked Sonoma County has my support," said the county's district attorney, Jill Ravitch, referring to the accidental killing of Lopez Cruz.

The bill narrowly passed the Democratic-controlled State Assembly earlier this week. A bloc of Republicans and Democrats opposed it, saying toy guns were already painted bright colors, and that the law would make it easier for criminals to conceal weapons by painting them.

"If I’m a gang member and I have a real 9 millimeter and I paint it pink, could that could cause a police officer to hesitate?" said Republican state Senator Steve Knight, who opposed the bill.

"When you hesitate, you can get cops killed."

(Reporting by Joaquin Palomin in San Francisco; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Peter Cooney)

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