Monroe County Retailer Recalls Toy Guns

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with a Monroe County retailer that will provide refunds for consumers who purchased toy guns lacking safety markings required by state law.

Arlene's Costumes and its owners, Arlene Stephens and Donna White, agreed to provide refunds to any consumers who purchased toy guns between March 2002 and October 2003.

"Aggressive enforcement of the state toy gun law is critically important in protecting our residents and law enforcement officials from tragedy," Spitzer said.

On October 24, 2003, the Empire State Consumer Association filed a complaint with Spitzer's office alleging that Arlene's Costumes was selling realistic toy guns. State law bans realistic colors, such as black, blue or silver and requires that toy guns have non-removable orange stripes along both sides of the barrel.

Spitzer's office immediately commenced an investigation because Halloween is a time when individuals may be more inclined to buy and carry toy guns. The following day, investigators determined that certain toy guns for sale in the stores of Arlene's Costumes did, in fact, lack safety features and thereby violated the law.

In response, the Rochester-based costume and toy retailer immediately agreed to pull all toy guns from the shelves of its main store and five temporary locations in area malls.

It is estimated that as many as 160 toy guns had been sold in the past 19 months at Arlene's Costumes.

In settling the case, Arlene's Costumes also agreed to:

  • Begin a recall program in which consumers who file complaint forms with the Attorney General's office by mid-February 2004 will be eligible for full refunds;

  • Notify the public of the recall by placing newspaper advertisements for three days in the local paper; and

  • Pay $3,000 in civil penalties and costs.

Realistic toy guns have been prohibited in New York State for the past fifteen years. Improperly marked guns have lead to tragic consequences. In four separate incidents in New York State alone since 1997, four individuals have been killed and one child seriously wounded when law enforcement officers mistook toy guns for real ones.

The case against Arlene's Costumes is the latest in a series of efforts by Spitzer's office to remove unsafe toy guns from retailers' shelves. In the past three years, enforcement actions have been commenced against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Rite-Aid Pharmacies, four "Dollar" stores in Westchester County, and eight Manhattan stores.

Individuals seeking refunds for toy guns purchased at Arlene's Costumes and consumers interested in reporting the sale of unsafe toys are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Bruce and Senior Investigator Christopher Holland of the Rochester Regional Office.


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