All toy guns need to look like toys

Next time you’re at a sporting goods store, take a moment to check out the airsoft guns available for purchase.
Jan 30, 2014

Airsoft guns aren’t quite BB guns, but they're not a toy, either. They shoot a hard plastic BB, powered either by spring action or CO2.

Manufactures have gone to great lengths to make these guns look like real firearms, from handguns to assault rifles. Kids love them because they can affordably obtain a gun that looks like the real thing, yet they can safely shoot them in their backyard —at targets, critters, or even each other — when wearing proper safety equipment.

Visually, about the only thing that sets airsoft guns apart from a real thing is a blaze-orange piece of plastic affixed to the end of the barrel.

Federal law requires that these airsoft guns and other realistic-looking toy guns feature a blaze-orange marking, at least 6 millimeters in length, permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel. The same law does not make it illegal to remove or alter that orange tip, meaning those who buy these guns and wish for a more realistic look can paint that orange tip, cover it with tape or simply remove it.

That law also doesn’t apply to BB pistols, which are equally realistic looking, though nearly as harmless. 

A few weeks ago, a Grand Rapids police officer shot and critically wounded a young man who threatened officers with what turned out to be a BB gun. The officers said the BB gun was extremely realistic looking.

This raises the question: Why don’t lawmakers require orange tips on BB guns made to look like real handguns? And why aren’t there any consequences for those who remove or alter the orange tip on those toy and recreational guns that require them?

We would urge lawmakers to take a careful look at this situation.

Police officers put themselves at great risk when responding to calls involving violent acts, and we don’t blame them for taking extreme action when they see a suspect flashing around a gun.

We owe it to our police force to make it easier for officers to know what they’re facing when they’re in the field. Airsoft guns and BB pistols, and even BB rifles crafted to look like actual firearms, should all include an orange marker at the end of the barrel.

Otherwise, we’re bound to have more tragic instances where an individual is shot, and possibly killed, for flaunting a relatively harmless air-powered gun.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



The pellet and BB guns don't because they can still be a dangerous weapon. My CO2 pellet pistol will kill squirrels and crows so I am pretty sure it can do some damage to a person. I play air soft and every gun I own was bought with an orange tip on it. People remove them or paint over them and as far as I am concerned they take that risk of getting shot. Don't raise a gun to a cop and you don't have to worry about getting shot.


Sure, is not the 50,s anymore when every kid on the block owned a cowboy holster and 6 shooters, now the kid would be arrested and parents taken to court for buying the kids assault weapons


Toy guns are nice, but real guns are better. "Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children [as young as 8].

Newer initiatives by other organizations go further, seeking to introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns while invoking the same rationale of those older, more traditional programs: that firearms can teach “life skills” like responsibility, ethics and citizenship".

Let's push a campaign that attracts our youth to the lessons of personal responsibility and marksmanship with AR-15's. What kid would want a toy gun when they can have the same experience with a real one?

Barry Soetoro

"Toy guns are nice, but real guns are better"

For once I agree with you.

Former Grandhavenite

At first I thought it was satire when I heard about the NRA initiative to encourage more blind and visually impaired people to get involved in shooting- but nope, you can barely make fun of the NRA anymore because it's just become such an over-the-top parody of itself.


The NRA will do anything - and I do mean anything - to make money for their bosses, the gun manufacturers. Many on this forum have talked about buying more guns in the last few years; I think they should have invested their money in gun stocks instead!

Barry Soetoro

...and Ramen noodles.


I agree with you former grand havenite, Any person less than "normal" should not have any fun. Visually impaired people are dangerous to us normal people who can see............

Former Grandhavenite

It's important to let disabled people participate as much as possible in the activities that others enjoy. Personally though I'd draw the line at putting a deadly weapon into the hands of someone who's physically incapable of having any idea where it's pointing. I think I'll let you be the one standing at the range near the blind guy firing a gun.


So youth should not be able to participate in shooting sports?


Of course they should. But when you can not market cigarettes or alcohol to minors, you can't drive a car until you're 16, you can't have a drink until you're 21, but it's ok for the NRA to conduct a $26 million marketing campaign targeting youth as young as 8 years old ("junior" shooters) to shoot Bushmaster AR-15's, a military rifle, for target sport is, frankly, sick, and an erosion of society.

But it does open up a new market for semi-automatics, since the market for hunting rifles and hand guns has been decreasing for the last 20 years or so.

Former Grandhavenite

It's interesting to see how toy guns have changed over time. The Magnavox Odyssey (oldschool video game system from the 70's) had an extremely realistic looking full size rifle for use in games, complete with an optional sniper scope. You could even get good looking flash suppressors, silencers, etc. By the time the Nintendo Zapper came out in the 80's they'd started making them gray and white colors that wouldn't typically be used in real guns, but at least it let you maintain some level of dignity and street cred, or at least as much street cred as a gun game aficionado can muster. In the late 80's I believe they revised the Zapper again to a ridiculous looking orange color scheme for safety's sake. Hunting those electronic ducks somehow just wasn't as satisfying. As anyone who's played Duck Hunt will tell you, shooting the dog doesn't do any good and he'll keep laughing at you regardless of the color of your gun.

Seriously though, they need to drill the understanding into kids at a young age that waving a realistic looking toy gun around is not going to end well. I can only imagine how terrible the cops must feel who've shot kids wielding toys. They can't really blame themselves, but I can imagine that it's a horrible decision to have to make in a fraction of a second. Do you end someone's life on the spot, or risk your own? Guess wrong and you'd have a kid's death on your conscience for the rest of your life, or guess really wrong and end up dead as the perp shoots you because you assumed it was just a toy.

Tri-cities realist

Do the laws contain a penalty for painting the tip of a real gun orange? My guess is that most in law enforcement treat all guns the same, to put your life in danger and simply trust an orange tip seems foolish. Point any type of gun at any person, especially law enforcement, and you will get an education on consequences.


Praise the Lord, pass the amo and get out of my way

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