Mexico cracks down on toy guns

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CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- At a busy market in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Edgar Alonso shows off one of the most popular holiday toys a small plastic version of an AK47.

“It’s a toy, but it does look real,” said Alonso as he pulled the trigger and the gun made a rat-a-tat tat sound.

The fake AK47 is included in a combat toy set. The vendor sold 50 on Sunday, the Three Kings Day holiday, despite a toy gun ban.

Under Mexican law, only brightly colored transparent plastic guns are allowed because they cannot be confused with real weapons.

In Mexico City, three out of ten crimes are committed with fake guns, according to the Mayor who ordered thousands of toy weapons to be seized and destroyed.

Many in the border city of Juarez agree with the crackdown.

“I would never let a child use one of those toy guns,” said Daniel Garcia who carried his 7-month-old daughter.

His wife Sandra agreed. “It’s bad for our kids. They grow up learning how to be criminals. And that’s bad for our community.”

After years of coping with violent crime, many Ciudad Juarez residents worry the toys promote gun culture.

Some in Mexico want authorities to do more to enforce the toy gun law, including imposing fines or shutting down shops that sell realistic looking toy guns. But others believe parents should have the final say.

The U.S. has imposed limits on toy guns that look like the real thing. A federal law requires the toys to have a bright orange band at the tip of the barrel to distinguish them from real weapons.

In Mexico, where real gun control laws are among the toughest in the world, warring drug cartels have well-stocked arsenals, and some security experts say cracking down on toys will do little improve public safety.

Even so, many want to keep toy guns out of the hands of children.

As Hector Rodriguez walked past a toy shop with is 4-year-old nephew, he said, “They’re already exposed to enough violence.”