February 16, 1987 12:00 PM

They make telephones in the shape of Mickey Mouse. They stuff working phones inside cigar humidors and duck decoys. But until truck driver-turned-entrepreneur Tom Tizzard came along, no one thought to market a decorator phone in the lethal image of a handgun. And some folks—including the National Rifle Association, of which Tizzard is a member—wish he hadn’t.

Tizzard’s pistol-phone is a full-size, non-shooting replica of the Colt .45 military semiautomatic. It has an operating trigger but no firing pin, and inside the cartridge clip are the phone components. To use it you don’t point the barrel at yourself; you sort of hold the handle close to your ear. With business partner Frank Chen, 49, an importer in Studio City, Calif., Tizzard expects to bring 100,000 of these phones from Taiwan this year to sell from $155 (black plastic) to $239 (chrome finish).

“What we did, see, was to bring out this phone for gun owners,” says Tizzard, 59, a grandfather and longtime firearms fancier. He insists that his gun look-alike cannot be converted into a real weapon without exorbitant cost and effort, but his critics are hardly mollified. “I wonder what’s going to happen to him liability-wise when some child is playing with a gun phone and is shot by a cop who thinks the kid is armed?” asks Michael K. Beard, president of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. “I think it is disgraceful to put something like this on the market.” Even the gun-promoting NRA is wary. “We think perhaps it’s not the best idea,” says James J. Baker, NRA’s director of governmental affairs.

Tizzard, who lives in Covina, Calif., remains undeterred. He plans to bring out a pistol-shaped speaker phone for children for this year’s Christmas trade. That, he predicts expansively, will be the hottest item since Cabbage Patch dolls.

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