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Ice Cream Trucks Selling Toy Guns

Why are ice cream truck vendors selling toy guns to kids, and how realistic do they really look? Full Focus reporter Heather Hill explores the dangers and the move by law enforcement and the City Coun

When parents send their children to the ice cream truck for a snack, they might be surprised at what the kids bring back.  Full Focus reporter Heather Hill has a story about a dangerous toy from this unlikely source. 

In early February, a teenager was shot and killed by San Diego Police who thought he had a firearm. But what he really had, turned out to be a toy gun.  Now city government and law enforcement are cracking down on one place kids can buy realistic-looking replicas – ice cream vendors.

Joe Florentino: These are, with the exception of two of them, these are all air soft weapons that we've recovered off our campuses.

Weapons like these are all sold on ice cream trucks, says San Diego City Schools Police Sergeant, Joe Florentino. They can be as cheap as five or ten dollars, and local kids are buying. Then the guns show up at schools, and some are even used to commit crimes. The problem is that they look so real.

Florentino: This is actually my backup weapon I carry on duty. And as you can see, as the real firearm gets unloaded, the slide cycles. I have no magazine in it right now. But you can look at this 9mm pistol. This is an air soft weapon. And this air soft weapon here, the magazine will drop out just like a real firearm where you load the pellets and the slide cycles.

James Filley is a Detective Sergeant with the San Diego Police Department. He says the accessible toys put officers in a very difficult and dangerous position.

James Filley: Depending on the time of day and the lighting conditions, you literally cannot tell whether a fake gun is fake or real, and that's where in a patrol officer's situation, we have to make a split second decision about how to deal with that perceived threat.

That's why a city council committee is considering an ordinance that would ban mobile street vendors from selling anything but food or candy. There's an existing law in place, but this revision is designed to make it clear that any violation would be a criminal misdemeanor.

Tony Young, City Councilmember: It's good for the police department and also the school police to understand this law and clarify it for them because it was somewhat nebulous. They didn't know how far they could go and what types of things they could actually monitor and dis-allow from a police perspective on an ice cream truck. So, now they know.

Sergeant Florentino from the school district says manufacturers put bright orange tips on toy guns to show they're not real. But he says kids color over the orange with a black marker or paint, making the toy versions virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

Detective Sergeant Filley  said it basically comes down to profit. The vendors are making money off of the toys, so they continue to sell them. And councilman Tony Young says there have even been reports of vendors selling tobacco products from their trucks.