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Guns And Our Kids

Whether shooting foam darts, paintballs, metal or plastic BBs, are toy guns really toys?

On a gray, rainy Tuesday this week, the Parents Council could be found at Brewed Awakenings talking about guns and our kids. With hunting season starting soon and South County being home to no less than six wildlife management areas that permit licensed hunting, we figured gun safety was a good topic.

Thinking back to July and a story you may have seen in the news about Tommy Gallagher, a 12 year old boy who was accidentally shot  in the face with a BB gun by his nine year old brother. He survived, but lost some use of his left side due to the BB being permanently embedded in his brain. But aren’t BB guns toys? Didn’t we all grow up with one leaning against the wall by the back door ready to defend the bird feeder from squirrels? What about shooting cans off fence posts or rocks; harmless play right?

Did you know that basically all non-powder guns; guns that use forced air, CO2 pressure, or a spring mechanisms as BB, airsoft, and paintball guns do, are all capable of firing their respective ammo at speeds between 160 ft/sec and 450 ft/sec? That’s about 200 mph! Ralphy’s mother said it best: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Technically, the same argument could probably be made against those ever popular and obviously toys - Nerf Guns. Depending on the model and choice of projectile, even those foam bullets can injure without proper eye protection.

As none of us own guns, other than the antique, decorative type or any number of assorted Nerf guns, we collectively were under the
assumption that it was the same in the households of our children’s friends. Like “they” say, never assume. Many gun related injuries and deaths involving children under the age of 18 happen in the homes of friends or neighbors. Something as innocent as showing off the family shot gun or coming across a gun in the back of a closet while playing can lead to disaster.

So what’s a parent to do? After all, it is our constitutional right as American’s to be able to own a gun to defend ourselves and country. Do we interrogate our friends and neighbors about their views on guns and gun violence? Do you not allow our children to play at a home where the family enjoys hunting for fear of a random accident? Do you play it ultra-safe and ban all guns, and gun play from your home? If so, that means banning sticks, Legos, and hands as well ‘cuz we all know that anything you can point or build with, will inevitably be used to construct a weapon. Then it will be picked up, pointed and be accompanied by some sound effect meaning “bang-bang.”

As with just about everything, education and common sense is the key to enjoying our hunting hobby or directing our children in natural, developmentally appropriate play. We've all imagined ourselves as the good hero fighting the evil villain, saving the world for another day. So in the spirit of the start of school and education, here are some things we learned and want to share:

The federal government does not regulate the transfer, possession or use of non-powder (BB) guns. Some states, however, including Rhode Island, consider non-powder guns, i.e. BB guns, to be firearms. RI classifies a BB gun as a rifle so all laws that apply to rifle ownership also apply to BB guns (the metal projectile ones not paint for example). That means that in RI, standard BB guns ARE NOT TOYS.

Because paintball and airsoft guns do not fire metal pellets, they can be purchased by just about anybody. Although local gun shops sell them, you can purchase these at the same place you might commonly buy that Nerf Blaster.

Speaking of local gun shops, the two stores here in Town are both reputable establishments owned and operated by extremely knowledgeable folks. Before letting you make any purchase they will help you by educating you on the proper use, care and safety of whatever you decide to buy. They are SK’s best resource for guns and gun related information, in addition to the South Kingstown Police Department of course.

Safety is always paramount when using any type of firearm, even that great big honkin’ Nerf thing that might even be longer than the kid trying to use it. To avoid the dreaded “shooting your eye out” always wear safety gear recommended by the manufacturer. That includes anything and everything from goggles, face masks, gloves, chest protectors, and so on. Even if participating in a controlled airsoft arena, no matter how sweaty you get under that mask, don’t lift it up to dry off. Those few seconds of exposed face time may be all it takes to lose an eye and that’s no joke.

The wildlife management areas in our state are beautiful and popular with campers, hikers, bird watchers, mountain bikers and hunters. Be careful not to wear that bear costume you got for Halloween or that
favorite white T-shirt that could be mistaken for the non-seeing end of a deer. Learn to love orange! Remember where you are and know that not everything that moves through the bush is potential game for the dinner table.

So no matter what type of firearm, be it big, blue and plastic with foam ammo thing or that rifle you are taking out in search of deer, you and your children might do well to remember the 10 Commandments of Gun  Safety which are:

  1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use.
  3. Don’t rely on your gun’s safety mechanisms.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is behind it.
  5. Use proper ammunition.
  6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care.
  7. Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting.
  8. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.
  9. Don’t alter or modify your gun and have it serviced regularly.
  10. Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using.

Help us, help you, help kids be safe and respectful of the power of guns. Is it enough to remind your kids that the shoot ‘em up action of video games and Hollywood movies is pretend and you usually don’t get up and walk away from a gun fight? Tell us what YOU would do if your child came home all excited and told you about the cool gun Tommy showed him when he was over at his house after school? If you have guns in your house, what have you done to protect and educate your children about them?

Jonathan Daly-LaBelle September 08, 2011 at 04:14 PM
Great article, Lynne. I thought this was an important topic to discuss. Hopefully it spurs some thought, and dialogue, with the Parent's Council readers.
Pat Riot September 08, 2011 at 04:40 PM
Thanks for the article. Gun safety should be taught at an early age. I'm fully in favor of lower power BB guns as astarter toys with really great instruction on where to never point them. Then at about 6 or 7, a trip to the real gun range is in order, with the kids looking at water ballons shot by higher power rounds. The display is amazing and teaches kids what will happen if they shoot someone. This is the ONLY way to keep kids safe in a society that has gun in every home (including mine)
Diana Charpentier September 08, 2011 at 05:00 PM
i agree with Pat, have you seen children who have never seen or touched a weapon?? overly fascinated, want to touch , hold, etc...scarey, my child has been around weapons all her life and has been taken to shooting ranges to learn safety and has a total respect for the weapon. I feel kids that do not have that opportunity and do not know the safety are the ones in trouble, but once you show them, teach them and let them fire a weapon, its sort of over, there are always a few that its not enough, but i have found that in general thats all it takes...respect...i also do not think that paintball guns are toys. Have you ever been hit by one..ouch...it left welts on me for weeks, no lie...and they yell stuff like you are dead, ur dead, i'm all, still running, yelling back im not dead..lol...i didnt like it...and those other "toy" guns that shoot the little white plastic things, yipes...its more fun watching...weapons have been around for years.
Ed Airsoftrc September 08, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Great Article. Buy Airsoft Guns http://www.airsoftrc.com/airsoft-guns.html
Lynne M. Harper September 10, 2011 at 08:47 PM
A friend of mine emailed me directly her thoughts on kids and guns. Here they are: "My oldest son has an airsoft rifle, but the younger two have also played at the Peace Dale Mill place. Of course they love it. I don't know what it is about boys and guns. My biggest concern is about the kids using the guns safely, especially eye protection. The oldest has a full face mask that he always wears. Also, he's not allowed to play near roads or houses. We also have a BB gun. I keep this and they can only use it when my husband or I are home to supervise. The cub scouts introduced them to BB guns, and they were taught how to safely use it. This is only used for target shooting and never aimed at another person. When the oldest became a boy scout, he took rifle shooting and earned this merit badge. The best part of the scout program is that they learn the safety procedures first before they ever get to touch the rifle. My husband grew up in a family that hunts, so he grew up with guns around. I didn't and I really don't like guns, but I have learned to tolerate them and let the boys use the airsoft and BB guns if they follow my strict rules. They think my rules are too tough, but in the words of Ralph from Christmas Story, "you could put an eye out with that thing!"

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