Spitzer And Fields Announce Lawsuits Against Three Retailers For Selling Fake Guns

State Attorney General Spitzer was joined by Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields to announce that he has sued three Manhattan stores, one of which is a major retail chain, for selling toy guns in violation of New York State law. Under state law, plastic, wood or metal imitation guns must have a non-removable orange stripe to clearly distinguish them from real weapons.

"Our children and our communities are at risk when illegal guns, which are indistinguishable from the real thing, are being sold," Spitzer said. "We are trying to make parents and kids aware of the dangers these fake guns present, especially when a police officer may believe his life is in danger."

The Attorney General noted the recent tragedy in California when a man with a toy gun at a Halloween party was shot and killed by the police after they thought he was carrying a real weapon.

The Attorney General's Harlem regional office conducted a joint investigation with the Borough President of 100 local stores and drug stores throughout the borough. Approximately 12 stores sold fake guns to the public, including children, in violation of General Business Law (GBL) ?872 and New York City Administrative Code (Code) ?10.131 (g). The Attorney General said that additional lawsuits would be filed against other retailers.

Borough President Fields said: "Despite the fact that New York City's toy and imitation gun law has been in existence for more than a year, many merchants continue to sell realistic-looking toy guns and other items that resemble real guns. I am very pleased to have been able to work with the Attorney General's Office to take the steps that ultimately led to the prosecution of these stores for selling realistic-looking toy guns. Too many children have been hurt and even killed for playing with these fake guns."

In 1999, BP Fields introduced legislation that was passed by the City Council and signed into law by the Mayor to strengthen New York City's toy and imitation gun laws. The Attorney General and the Borough President said that they would jointly develop educational materials to be distributed and posted in retail stores.

The OAG filed papers in State Supreme Court, New York County, against the following stores:

  • Duane Reade, 77 Seventh Avenue (3 guns purchased);
  • Dollar Choice, 1929 Third Avenue, (2 guns purchased); and
  • Felix Varieties Candy Store, 2035 First Avenue, (5 guns purchased).

Under Spitzer's civil suit, the stores are being sued for $1,000 for each gun that was sold to his investigators, as well as $500 for each gun sold under a Deceptive Practices statute, and $2,000 for costs.

William M. Casey, Chief Investigator of the OAG, who is a former Deputy Chief of the New York City Police Department and is extremely knowledgeable of firearms, demonstrated the difficulty of distinguishing the fake guns from real firearms. Chief Casey said, "These illegal guns are remarkably similar to real firearms and cannot be easily identified as toys. If a law enforcement officer or a civilian were confronted, especially at night or in adverse conditions, a perceived threat could result in death or serious physical injury to the person holding the fake gun."

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Roberto Lebron and Assistant Attorney General in Charge Lauren Raysor of the AG's Harlem Regional Office.