Cory Booker’s misleading claim that toy guns are more regulated than real gunsMay 13, 2019
“Most people don’t know that consumer product safety literally — one industry that’s been exempted is the gun lobby. So we have different regulations for toy guns and no regulations for the weapons on our streets that are killing so many people.”
— Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), interview on CNN, May 6, 2019
“In the US we have more federal regulation over toy guns than real ones”
— Booker, in a tweet, May 7
“Nowadays, there is more regulation over toy guns than real ones. While medicine, children’s toys, and any number of other consumer products are subject to regulation by the federal government, firearms are exempt. In other words, gun manufacturers have little incentive to make their products safer. Cory will work to close this loophole in federal oversight and allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure gun safety by making safety warnings and issuing recalls for faulty firearms.”
— Booker, in a Medium post, May 6
These are three examples of a catchy talking point from the 2020 presidential hopeful — that toy guns are subject to more regulation than real guns. The Medium post is rather specific: The Consumer Product Safety Commission, because of a “loophole,” does not assess the safety of guns. But in television interviews and tweets, that nuanced point gets turned into misleading shorthand — there is “more federal regulation” of toy guns, or there are “no regulations” for guns.
Booker’s point is not particularly original. Gun-control advocates have been calling for consumer safety oversight of guns for decades. But he veers off course when he compares regulatory oversight of guns and toy guns.
The website of the CPSC is clear. It oversees the safety of many products, but other agencies are in charge of certain products: “We have jurisdiction over thousands of types of consumer products, from coffee makers to toys to lawn mowers. Some types of products, however, are covered by other federal agencies. For example, cars, trucks and motorcycles are covered by the Department of Transportation; food, drugs and cosmetics are covered by the Food and Drug Administration; and alcohol, tobacco and firearms are within the jurisdiction of the Department of the Treasury.”
While the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is referenced here, a funny thing happens when you click the link that takes you to the page with a list of federal agencies with safety oversight of other products. Guns and ATF are not listed.
Booker’s staff says that’s the gap the senator is trying to highlight: No federal agency is charged with ensuring a safe design for guns. The Consumer Product Safety Commission Improvements Act of 1976 explicitly said the agency would not have this role: “The Consumer Product Safety Commission shall make no ruling or order that restricts the manufacture or sale of firearms, firearms ammunition, or components of firearms ammunition, including…