NEWARK -- They're simple, plastic toys, but they could be very dangerous, or even deadly, in the wrong situation or setting. That's what an activist and families in Newark are saying about toy guns that are designed to look realistic.
Some residents of Newark, a city that's no stranger to violent crime, told PIX11 News that their streets are the sorts of places where toy guns, particularly ones that can be altered to look even more real, have no place.
"A police officer could make a mistake," said Newark activist Donna Jackson. She said officers could erroneously think that a child holding a toy gun is using it to shoot someone.
Jackson said that she was made aware of the issue by some local parents and grandparents who brought her fake firearms -- toys -- purchased at corner stores in New Jersey's largest city for as little as $1.99, by children in their homes.
While Jackson demonstrated how lifelike one gun was, with its cocking mechanism and realistic looking ammo magazine, some people walking by were clearly nervous.
"Oh God," said one passerby.
"Oh God, you're right," said Jackson, adding, "It can be faked to look real."
In fact, where the interview took place, on a block on South Orange Avenue known for drug sales and violence, almost everyone walking by did a double-take, including Magdissa Plessy. She said that she was familiar with how some young people color in the orange plastic barrels of toy guns, which are required by federal law to differentiate them from the real thing, in order to make the toy more authentic looking.
"The guys will polish it black to make it look real," Plessy told PIX11 News. "[Toy guns] should not be sold, period."
Another encounter during Jackson's demonstration of the fake weapon underscored just how appealing it can be, and how dangerous that could become.
Seeing Jackson holding the toy gun, a 4-year-old who walked by said, "I like that," repeatedly. His mother, Frances Martinez, said it's why she'd welcome a ban on the toys' sales.
"You can't even be safe outside without your kid being shot at," Martinez told PIX11 News.
We went into the South Orange Supermarket to let them know about the community's complaints.
"If [the city tells] us to take them down, we'll take them down," said the manager, who would only give his first name, Jordan.
The city may indeed prompt the retailers to take action. Jackson said that she and other activists will petition the city council, on Wednesday of next week, to adopt a citywide ban on the sales of toy guns. It would be similar, she said, to other toy gun sales bans in other parts of New Jersey.