California to Set Stricter Regulations of Toy Gun Design

A Sonoma County Sheriff's Office photo shows a replica of an assault weapon that 13-year-old Andy Lopez was carrying when he was shot by a Sonoma County deputy in Santa Rosa, California, on October 22, 2013. California Governor Jerry Brown signed a gun measure into law in the wake of Lopez's death. It goes into effect Friday. Sonoma County Sheriff's office/Handout/Reuters

In the wake of multiple fatalities involving people holding BB or pellet guns, lawmakers around the U.S. have pushed for stricter regulations on the design of nonlethal guns.

California on Friday will enact a law that requires toy guns to be visually distinguishable from real weapons. The toys' entire exterior surface will have to be painted white or another bright color, or florescent strips will have to be visible on some parts.

In 2015, U.S. police officers killed at least 28 people who were holding BB or pellet guns, according to an investigation by The Guardian.

In 2014, Tamir Rice was shot in Cleveland even though a 911 caller twice reiterated to the dispatcher that the gun was likely fake and described the 12-year-old as "probably a juvenile." Prosecutors handling the case decided this week not to press criminal charges against rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann because they determined it was "indisputable" that Rice was drawing the pistol from his waistband when he was shot. Instead, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty called on toy manufacturers to stop making what appear to be real firearms. Prosecutors said Rice's toy gun was missing the orange cap on the tip of the barrel that would have marked it as a toy.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed the California gun measure in September 2014, after the fatal police-involved shooting of Andy Lopez. The 13-year-old boy was carrying a plastic toy gun that resembled an AK-47 assault rifle in Sonoma County when a sheriff's deputy fired at him seven times in October 2013. Similar to Loehmann in Cleveland, Deputy Erick Gelhaus didn't face criminal charges for his action.

The California gun measure was co-authored by a state senator whose district includes the neighborhood where Lopez was shot. Critics of the bill say criminals could paint real guns to resemble the toy replicas and thus get around the purpose of the measure.

Also on Friday, California will become the first state to allow family members or authorities to ask a judge to temporarily suspend or remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a significant threat to public safety. Democrats proposed the bill in response to a deadly 2014 rampage in which six people were fatally shot near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before the rampage, the shooter had posted several hateful videos to the Internet that showed his rage against women for rejecting him.

The Golden State also will adopt a measure requiring residents with concealed-carry licenses to obtain written permission from school officials before carrying firearms or ammunition onto the grounds of K-12 schools or university campuses.

California this year again enacted the strongest gun laws of all 50 states, according to the annual scorecard published each December by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

At the federal level, President Barack Obama is expected next week to unveil executive actions on gun control as part of his attempt to assert himself on the issue at the beginning of his final year in office. The actions are expected to include mandating stricter rules for reporting lost or stolen firearms and requiring an expanded number of small-scale gun sellers to be licensed and, as a result, conduct gun background checks.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Obama administration was close to finalizing a proposal to expand background checks to all gun sales, including at shows and via the Internet. The plan would close the so-called gun show loophole. Under current federal law, interested buyers can purchase firearms online or at shows without first passing a background check.

The report came as Americans marked the three-year anniversary of the December 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and just days after the December 2 fatal shooting at a social services center in San Bernardino, California.

Obama also has repeatedly called on Congress to close a loophole in federal law that allows terrorist suspects on the government's "no-fly" list to purchase guns legally.

Clarification: Rice was shot in November 2014. The Guardian's report focused on shootings in 2015.