"You'll shoot your eye out" may not be the biggest worry of parents whose children ask if they can have BB or pellet guns. Modern models often appear identical to "real" firearms and sometimes pack similar power.
Law enforcement officials warn frequently of the danger of BB and pellet guns that resemble pistols, rifles and shotguns using gunpowder. One concern is that in a confrontation with police, someone carrying a realistic-looking BB gun is at great risk.
When someone carrying one of those brandishes it in a menacing manner, officers and deputies have just split-seconds to decide whether to respond with deadly force. Occasionally they do just that, only to find they have shot youngsters carrying plastic replicas of Colts, Berettas, etc.
On Monday, Wheeling police were summoned to the Mount Wood Overlook, by a caller concerned about teenagers firing guns in the area. Officers found three juveniles and an 18-year-old. All of them were carrying carbon dioxide-powered pellet guns.
The weapons were close in appearance to .40-caliber pistols police use. "One even had a laser scope on it that actually fit on one of our duty weapons," police Detective Greg McKenzie noted.
Fortunately, no one was hurt when police confronted the teens. But, as McKenzie stressed, "If a person flashed one of these to police, that person could very easily be shot and killed. The same is true if the BB gun is shown to a private citizen who is armed."
Especially worrisome in the Monday incident was that the teens appear to have altered their guns. McKenzie noted many BB and pellet guns have red markings on their barrels, to distinguish them from "real" guns. In this case, the markings had been removed.
Too many teenagers simply ignore the risks of such behavior. That means it is up to parents and guardians to safeguard them. And that, in turn, means that if your son or daughter wants a BB or pellet gun, you should pick one that looks as little like real firearm as possible. Then, you should give the youth instruction in how to behave if confronted by a law enforcement officer or anyone else who happens to be armed.
Drop it may be the best advice.
Too many tragedies are not avoidable. Having a child shot accidentally because he or she was carrying a realistic copy of a firearm can be prevented, however.