By Jim Hand
Just two weeks ago, it looked like a bill calling for safety measures for realistic-looking replica guns was headed for easy passage.
A joint Senate and House committee had voted to recommend approval, police officials were in favor and gun groups had not objected.
But this week, the bill was suddenly pulled from consideration and sent back to the Judiciary Committee for further study after the Gun Owners Action League and others complained about it.
The bill would require that replica guns have a bright orange stripe down the length of the barrel so police can easily identify them as fake.
One of the motivations behind the bill was the 2014 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland police officer when Rice was carrying a replica gun on the playground that the officer thought was real.
Twelve other states already have the orange stripe requirement.
State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said the measure was pulled because there were problems with the way it was written.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said the bill was well-intentioned but could create more problems than it solves.
He said he believes the orange stripe requirement could endanger the lives of police officers if they hestitate for a moment trying to look for the stripe when someone pulls a gun on them.
Criminals could also paint orange stripes on real guns, he said.
Dooley also said people with replica guns being shot by police is not a widespread problem that needs to be addressed.
“This is legislation in search of a problem,” he said.
Supporters of the bill said criminals can already paint orange stripes on real guns, with or without the law. They also said fake gun problems go beyond police shootings, because replicas are often used in the commission of robberies and other crimes.
State Rep. Paul Heroux, D-Attleboro, said he still thinks the bill will pass, but the Judiciary Committee will make sure the bill does not conflict with federal laws.
Former Plainville Police Chief Ned Merrick testified in favor of the bill at a legislative hearing, as did Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.
Boston has gone as far as banning replica guns in public places, but the state bill does not go that far.
The Gun Owners Action League, or GOAL, which did not testify at the hearing, sent a letter to lawmakers opposing the bill before its scheduled vote, helping to sidetrack the measure.