- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

An Annapolis lawmaker wants to enact a law that would ban most toy guns in the city and fine parents whose children are caught playing with the toys outdoors.

Alderwoman Cynthia A. Carter, Democrat, said the law would ban all toy guns except for clear, brightly colored plastic guns. Mrs. Carter said the law also would give prosecutors more leverage against defendants who use toy guns to hold up banks or other establishments.

“If someone commits a felony with one, they will not only be charged with the crime but also with using a toy gun,” said Mrs. Carter, who has been a member on the Annapolis City Council since 1997.

Mrs. Carter said she doesn’t know how much of a fine she will propose. She said she hopes her legislation, which she plans to introduce next month, will set a precedent for other cities to follow. Four of the nine city council members have come out in support of Mrs. Carter’s proposal.

“Anything that can be done to deglamorize guns is a plus,” said Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, Democrat.The mayor said she would withhold further comment until the bill has been introduced and a public hearing is held.

Yesterday, officials with the Annapolis Police Department said if such a law is enacted they would not pull officers off their regular beats to catch children playing with water pistols and cap guns in schoolyards or on neighborhood streets.

“We wouldn’t do that,” said Officer Hal Dalton, a spokesman for the city police department.

Mrs. Carter decided to draft her proposal after a 7-year-old boy in April used a silver toy revolver and announced to several employees at a Hollywood Video store in Annapolis that he would hold up the store. The plastic orange tip typically found on the muzzles of toy guns had been removed, preventing two store employees from realizing it was fake.

“Children have got to be alerted that this is a dangerous thing,” Mrs. Carter said. “Guns are not a toy, no matter how you look at it.”

Mrs. Carter’s legislation is based on a similar New York City proposal, which bans anyone from selling or possessing a “toy or imitation firearm” that can be mistaken for a real weapon. The ban excludes brightly colored or clear plastic guns. Police, however, could impose a $50 fine if the toy gun is altered to look like a real weapon.

New York City police would enforce the law only if a child causes a disruption in public with a toy gun. But Lupe Todd, a spokeswoman for the New York City Council, said she does not expect officers to seek out children playing with toy guns.

Mrs. Carter said she wants the toy companies to take more responsibility when creating guns.

“Toy companies think that they can put the little reflective tip on the end and they will be OK,” Mrs. Carter said. “But it is not enough.”

Shannon Eis, spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association, said the group already complies with national standards that regulate the production of realistic toy weapons. “Toy guns are just a small component of the violent medium that kids nowadays are exposed to,” she said.

Mrs. Eis said the association will comply with Annapolis regulations if they are approved and will try to appease parents who think the toys are a serious contributing factor to violence. “I don’t agree that it is,” she said.

Karalyn Mulligan, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Maryland, said there is always a concern about children’s safety when it comes to guns. But she said the idea of restricting toy guns deserves further investigation.

Mrs. Carter is known for her efforts on toy guns. In 2000, Mrs. Carter organized a toy-gun buyback that yielded 12 toy guns.

Mrs. Carter said she anticipates full support from all council members. The council is made up of two Republicans and seven Democrats. She speculates that her greatest obstacle will be fathers, who she believes encourage their sons to play with guns and take them to target practice.

Despite her stance on toy guns, Mrs. Carter said she supports her son, Richard Perry, 38, who is an avid hunter and a member of the National Rifle Association. “He is a grown man. That was his decision,” she said.

Mrs. Carter said she would eventually like to see a ban imposed on the possession of all real-looking toy guns. “Anything that looks like or resembles a weapon of any kind or was altered to look like, even the cigarette lighters, they are not going to be acceptable,” she said.

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