Orange passes ordinance regulating sale of toy guns

ORANGE, NJ — On Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Orange City Council unanimously approved on second reading Ordinance No. 5-2016 to regulate the sale of realistic-looking toy guns in the city.

The new ordinance amends and supplements Chapter 150 of the Municipal Code, called “Peace and Good Order,“ and creates new chapters regulating the sale of toy guns.

The ordinance was sponsored by City Council President April Gaunt-Butler, although she was absent from the meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2, and did not vote on it.

The vote was 6-0, with City Council Vice President Elroy Corbitt presiding.
Prior to the vote, a public hearing was held, with East Orange City Council Chairman and 3rd Ward Councilman Ted Green among the elected officials from Orange’s “sister city” that were invited to speak about the resolution banning the sale of realistic-looking toy guns to school-age children in the neighboring municipality.

Green brought a poster with images of real guns and realistic-looking toy guns on it to illustrate his point about the difficulties law enforcement and others have discerning the real thing from toys. He said the ability of police officers to differentiate a real firearm from a counterfeit can mean the difference between life and death in real-world situations, such as the tragic shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland on Nov. 22, 2014.

Green said he doesn’t want anything similar to happen in Orange or East Orange, so he sponsored Ordinance No. 41-2015 last year, which asks stores and merchants in East Orange not to sell realistic-looking toy guns to school-age children. The East Orange Council majority voted to approve Ordinance No. 41-2015 on second reading on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015.

On Friday, Jan. 1, at the annual Reorganization Meeting, Green thanked Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver for introducing a similar legislation in Trenton for the rest of New Jersey.

“Every year, there are many instances reported of fatalities occurring, especially of our children, because of mistaking toy guns for the real thing,” Green said on Tuesday, Feb. 2. “Each day, approximately seven children and young adults under the age of 19 die from gun violence. This is equivalent to one child dying every three hours and 18 minutes.”

Green said statistics also show that crimes are committed with weapons that appear to be real throughout the country. He said this has resulted in death and injury to law-abiding merchants and innocent bystanders alike, another reason more needs to be done to curb the sale of realistic-looking toy guns to children.

“All of these crimes can be prevented or avoided by the adoption of ordinances throughout this country, similar to what we have adopted recently in East Orange,” Green said. “Surprisingly, most states do not have such legislation either eliminating or restricting the sale of toy guns that can be mistaken for real ones. There are federal standards that deal with the cosmetic restrictions on certain toy guns, but they do not deal with the sale of said guns.”

Green wasn’t the only East Orange City Council member at the Orange City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Second Ward Councilman Romal Bullock and 4th Ward Councilman Casim Gomez were also present.

“I think it’s just about continuing the progress,” Bullock said on Tuesday, Feb. 2. “The city of East Orange has low crime, relative to what is expected in urban communities, but is it really as low as it could be? At the end of the day, if this particular ordinance, especially if it’s adopted in other towns, can help prevent a tragedy, then it’s what we need to do.”

Bullock said low crime rates and statistics don’t mean anything in the face of the Tamir Rice tragedy.

“It doesn’t matter how low the crime rate is to the people that it happened to,” Bullock said. “It underscores why it’s important for us to be in Orange tonight. Cleveland, where that took place, is a much bigger city. The distance from one end of East Orange to the opposite end of Orange is probably one section of Cleveland. So how many more municipalities need to pass ordinances like this before we can feel safe? It’s about our kids being put at risk.”