Exhibit / August 9, 2017
Toy guns have existed in the United States for nearly 150 years, becoming a niche market in the ’30s and ’40s following the popularity of Hollywood gangster pictures and The Lone Ranger serial. After the U.S. entered World War II, the market became an industry, and sophisticated new designs proliferated until the late 1960’s, when sales of military toys of all kinds—including Hasbro’s G.I. Joe action figures—plummeted because of the backlash against the Vietnam War. The lull would continue until tough-talking Ronald Reagan, himself a star in several gun-slinging Westerns during his acting career, became the 40th President of the United States in 1981.
Toy guns and military-themed toys (G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero debuted in 1982) saw a massive resurgence, and freedom-fighting “action heroes” like John Rambo, John McClane, and Mack Bolan ruled the decade. LJN was one of many toy companies to capitalize on the hawkish national zeitgeist, its Entertech line of “motorized waterguns” launching in 1985. (LJN was coming off a successful run of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons action figures.) The catalog mimics a real gun catalog (“The M-16 is the standard weapon seen everywhere by everyone…”), and the pause between the last two words of the TV commercial‘s cadence-like slogan—“The look! The feel! The sound, so real! Entertech!”—is filled with the sound of machine-gun fire.
The problem for LJN and others was that police officers across America were accidentally killing people, many of them children, wielding realistic-looking toy weapons. On March 3, 1983, a 5-year-old boy holding a plastic T.J.Hooker revolver was shot and killed by the Los Angeles Police Department. On July 7, 1985, a mentally ill 28-year-old Miami mother was shot and killed when she pointed a .38 revolver replica at police. In early 1987, when toy guns made $106 million, a 19-year-old holding a Laser Tag gun was shot and killed by police in California.
Shortly after the release of Entertech’s 1987 line, LJN rebranded its “realistically styled” weapons as fluorescent “blasters,” and in 1989, a federal law was passed requiring orange tips to be affixed to the muzzles of toy guns. BB guns and pellet guns were exempted from the measure, however, due to pressure from the NRA that continues to this day. In 2015-2016, 86 people were killed by police because they were holding or pointing a realistic-looking toy gun. 69 of those toy weapons were BB or pellet guns.