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2 N.Y. counties weigh ban on painted guns

Newsday

Owning or selling brightly colored guns may soon be illegal in Nassau County because the painted weapons could pass as toys, police and county officials said Wednesday.

Officials in neighboring Suffolk County are considering a similar ban.

The proposal in Nassau County was spurred by a Wisconsin company’s introduction last week of a line of bright gun paints called the “Bloomberg Collection,” which taunts New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s 2006 ban of colored guns in New York City, said Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey.

Along with County Executive Thomas Suozzi and Legislator Joseph Scannell, Mulvey said he intended to support Bloomberg by outlawing the possession of painted guns in Nassau County, even if they were legally purchased and licensed elsewhere.

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Shaking his head during a news conference Wednesday, Mulvey picked up a Luger pistol that had been spray-painted lemon yellow.

If the bill passes, “I will not license any deceptively colored guns in the county,” he said.

In addition to denying permits to anyone with a painted gun, the legislation would give current owners 30 days to restore their guns to standard colors, and violators would face a penalty likely to be a $1,000 fee or up to a year in jail, Mulvey said.

He estimated that six to 10 painted guns have previously been licensed by the county.

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Suozzi called the issue beyond the scope of the pro- or anti-gun-control debate.

“Police officers are as concerned about gun control and gun safety as anyone else,” Suozzi said. “It’s inhuman that anyone could think of making a profit off of this.”

Steve Lauer, owner of the Lauer Custom Weaponry based in Chippewa Falls, Wis., said that he sells a few Bloomberg Collection kits every day and that most of his gun-painting products are sold to police officers and members of the military hoping to have high-visibility weapons.

Referring to Mayor Bloomberg, Lauer said, “He’s on a mission to destroy anybody that’s fairly visible in the firearms industry. And we’re extremely visible.”

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Bloomberg said in a statement, “Police officers have a hard enough job as it is without having to worry about whether a person with a pink gun is carrying a toy or a deadly weapon. Putting our officers in that position is beneath any self-respecting business owner -- and make no mistake, it could lead to terrible tragedies.”

In Suffolk County, the details of the legislation have not been finalized, said Dan Aug, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Levy.

“Any time our police officers are put in danger, it’s a grave concern,” Levy said in a statement Wednesday.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said that there had not been any incidents in the county involving painted guns but that it was “definitely an officer safety issue.”

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Det. Tom Willdigg, president of the Nassau County Detectives Assn., said the bill could save officers’ lives and the union would support a state ban on painted guns.

The Nassau bill would take at least a month to finalize, Suozzi said.

Joseph Green, a supervisory special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ New York field division, said the issue wasn’t new. He said he recalled seeing painted guns in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

“It’s been around for many, many years that criminals would try to paint their guns to disguise them to look like toys,” he said.

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