NRA Prevented Law That Could Have Saved 13-Year-Old From Police Shooting

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CREDIT: Guns for kids promoted at an NRA conference.

California police fatally shot 13-year-old Andy Lopez, because they mistook a BB gun for an assault rifle. In 2011, the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers blocked the bill that could have prevented the tragedy.

State Senator Kevin de León’s bill from two years ago may have prevented the police confusion, by requiring the guns to be brightly colored and noticeably distinguishable. Media Matters points out that the NRA-ILA had campaigned actively against the bill, alerting its members and lobbying state legislators in opposition. The NRA promoted claims that the bill would ban all air guns or would preempt federal law (even though similar measures have been upheld by court). After the bill’s defeat, the NRA celebrated and lauded itself for stopping “the imitation BB gun ban.”

As a result, Lopez was carrying a near-exact copy of an AK-47, instead of a brightly colored model. The most obvious difference between the model he carried and an actual assault rifle is usually an orange plug that federal law requires for airsoft rifles, but the orange tip was missing when police found Lopez. Otherwise the two models looked starkingly similar, even shown side-by-side.

Since Lopez’s death, de León wants to revisit the bill again. But even making the guns look more like toys won’t address the danger they pose to children, because 21,000 children are injured annually from air guns.