New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sent cease-and-desist letters to retailers including Walmart, Amazon and Sears for allegedly using the internet to sell prohibited, excessively realistic-looking toy guns to state residents.
The AG's office, as part of the ongoing investigation, said it also discovered a Kmart in suburban Rochester, New York, that was selling illegal toy guns. (Kmart is owned by Sears.) The office announced its findings in a statement Thursday morning, adding that it also sent a cease-and-desist letter to ToyArsenal.com.
Retailers, as per New York state law, aren't allowed to sell imitation guns in "realistic colors," like black, silver or aluminum, unless they have a non-removable one-inch-wide orange stripe running down each side of the barrel. The idea behind the rule is to ensure residents can distinguish toy guns from the real thing. While toy sellers have largely complied in brick-and-mortar stores, others have allegedly taken to the web to ship prohibited toy guns to New York residents in clear violation of state law, the AG's office said. And in Kmart's case, the rule has allegedly been flouted in a physical store.
Walmart was already investigated by the AG's office for selling prohibited toy guns in stores, and ordered by a court from selling any more in the state, the office said. New York has been working for years to eradicate sales of toy guns that could be confused for actual firearms.
"Some of the toy guns discovered during the investigation are advertised as 'realistic looking' and 'full size," the AG's office said. Without the orange striping, "these imitation assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols closely resemble dangerous weapons, and could be easily mistaken for real weapons by law enforcement and civilians alike."
The AG's announcement comes on the heels of a national outcry over the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, by a Cleveland police officer. A caller told dispatchers the boy was playing with a gun that's "probably fake, but it's scaring the shit out of me." The white officer responding to the call shot Rice just seconds after confronting the boy. Rice was holding a toy pellet gun, investigators later found.
The AG's office says that in New York, since 1997, at least four people have been killed and one child seriously injured because of law enforcement officers mistaking toy guns for real guns.
"When toy guns are mistaken for real guns, there can be tragic consequences," Schneiderman said. "New York State law is clear: retailers cannot put children and law enforcement at risk by selling toy guns that are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing."
Walmart has responded with the following statement:
“Once this matter was brought to our attention we placed a shipping block on our website to prevent the mentioned items from being sent to the state of New York. We’re also confident that measures are in place to prevent these items from being sold at our New York stores.”
Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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