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New York’s Painted Gun Problem

April 16, 2010

Back in 1999, New York City passed a law requiring all toy guns sold be painted a bright flourescent color so police wouldn’t mistake them for real guns and shoot kids possessing them.  Then in 2006, demonstrating the power of unintended consequences, New York found itself in the odd position of having to ban paint that might make real guns look like the flourescent toys that they “couldn’t be mistaken” for.

Now, aside from the obvious lesson that silly laws beget silly results, I had to wonder, were there REALLY a bunch of criminals maliciously making their weapons look harmless so they could commit crimes with them with impunity?  It seems to me that most gun crimes are committed by people who want their guns to inspire terror and make the perpetrators feel more masculine – how do you do that with a hot pink glock accessorized with “hello Kitty*” on the handle?  It seems much more likely that the pro gun paint side is correct that the paint is going to “law enforcement and the military, who either want to camouflage their
guns or make them more visible in low-light situations” and to women shooters who “like to accessorize”.  If, indeed, there are people who want to disguise their guns, it’s most likely potential victims who need the protection and live as much in fear of the police leaving them helpless as they do thugs waiting to abuse them once he is disarmed.

Of course, since most gun violence in New York City come from people who get their guns outside the city, the ordinance has done nothing to reduce crime.  And the leading provider of gun customization kits just used the law as a way to get free publicity by creating a new “Bloomberg” line of paints with colors named after New York Boroughs.

I suspect they sell pretty well.

Hat tip – Bruce Schneier.

*okay, it’s an AK – my point still stands.

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