They're called toys, but BB guns can be lethal weapons.
Two boys, ages 12 and 14, were told to drop their weapons and handcuffed earlier this week in Massachusetts. The youths were allegedly firing at cars with BB guns. The police, however, couldn't distinguish between the boys' "toy" weapons and the real deal.
This potentially lethal confusion happens all the time.
Last January, an Oregon elementary school was placed on lockdown when an 11-year-old former student was cited for allegedly pointing a toy gun toward students and staff.
That "toy" gun was in fact an Airsoft-style gun, or BB gun, and although you have to be 18 to purchase one of these, there is no minimum age requirement to fire one.
Don't be fooled by the term "BB gun." They're not as cute as they were in the classic film "A Christmas Story." BB guns these days don't resemble anything from the 50s. In fact, they look more like real guns than ever. And they're way more dangerous than they used to be.
"Many of us remember having had BB guns and didn't associate them with serious injury and death," says Danielle Laraque, a physician and professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who is leading a study on the dangers of BB guns. But today, she says, "these non-powder guns are not toys. It is important to say that because they are marketed at times as toys and carried in department stores and toy stores."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these "toys" cause roughly 21,000 injuries annually.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends kids under 16 not use high-velocity BB guns or pellet guns. But when momlogic called a nationally recognized sporting goods store and asked if a BB gun was a good toy for a five-year-old, the clerk flatly responded, "Sure, but you're in charge if anything happens."
Here are some tips if your kid plays with BB guns:
• Non-powder guns, such as ball-bearing (BB) guns, pellet guns, air rifles, or paintball guns, can cause serious injuries to children and teens.
• Playing with toy guns could make it easier for your child to mistake a real gun for a toy.
• Pellet and BB guns are high-powered and can easily hurt your child. BB guns can also kill.
• Parents may underestimate the potential for injury from BB and pellet guns.
• Police officers may mistake a toy gun in your child's hand for a real gun.
• Make sure the firing sound is not too loud. It could damage your child's hearing. Children should wear hearing protection. Don't let kids fire cap guns closer than one foot from their ears, and only use them outdoors.
• Toy guns with projectiles, Airsoft guns, and paintball guns can cause eye injuries, including severe and permanent vision loss. Kids should wear eye protection when using them.
• Don't let kids put caps from toy guns in their pockets. They can ignite and cause burn injuries.