THE DANGERS OF BALL-BEARING
AND OTHER NONPOWDER
For some time Gun Control Network has been highlighting
the dangers posed by the easy availability of ball-bearing and BB guns.
The fact that many of these resemble, and can therefore be mistaken for
real guns, has resulted in many incidents to which police armed response
teams have been called.
Critics of our campaign often say that the guns
themselves are not dangerous, and they promote them as suitable playthings
for children. The number of incidents in which children are
injured by pellets fired from BB guns should provide a sufficient warning
about the fallacy of this view.
Last year the American Academy of Pediatrics
published a technical report entitled "Injury Risk of Nonpowder Guns"
which gives details of the number of nonpowder gun-related injuries and
deaths. The report indicates that nonpowder guns, which include
ball-bearing guns, pellets guns, air rifles and paintball guns, are
extremely powerful and continue to cause serious injury, disability and
even death to children and adolescents in America. It concludes that
nonpowder guns are weapons and should never be characterised as toys.
> See a
Summary of the Report
This is what a recent article in The Times (16
May 2005) had to say about BB guns:
"PLASTIC IMITATIONS THAT CAN BLIND,
CRIPPLE OR MAIM"
• BB guns are also known as airsoft
guns because although they work on the same basis as airguns, they use a
weaker air charge to fire the pellet or ball bearing
• Although BB guns rarely cause more
than a bruise, they can blind, cripple or maim in exceptional
• Most BB guns available in Britain are
made by Marui, a Japanese company, and, although made in plastic, are
modelled on original weapons and look identical to the real thing
• The precursor to the BB gun was
invented in the 1500s, when a weapon was designed using spring-loaded
bellows to fire a dart
• BB guns can have a range of up to 25
• Until January 2004, there was no law
relating to possession of toy guns, including BBs, in public, but the
2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act made it an arrestable offence to carry
one in public
• During a recent six-hour weapons
amnesty in Liverpool, 12 ball-bearing guns were handed in to police by
children as young as seven
The Times article also mentioned the case of David Hazel.
At the end of June 2004 Mr Hazel, a former soldier, was shot outside his home
in Woodchurch on the Wirral. He was hit in the back as he ran down a
neighbour's path to escape his attacker. The shot lodged in Mr Hazel's spinal cord, and as a
result, doctors say, he will never have the use of his legs again.
He was so badly injured that medics thought he had been shot with a
The weapon used was widely reported to have been a BB
gun: the Liverpool Echo repeated this view in an article (Ball
bearing guns 'must be banned') seven months after the incident on 26
The incident prompted the following Early Day Motion
in Parliament on 18 October 2004
PROHIBITION ON POSSESSION OR SALE OF BB GUNS
Mr George Howarth
Mr Tony Colman
Mr David Chidgey
Mr Mark Lazarowicz
"That this House views with
alarm the growing use of BB guns for unlawful and dangerous purposes,
and particularly notes with horror the recent motiveless shooting of
Mr David Hazel with a BB gun which has left him paralysed from the
waist down; further notes that such guns are easily available for
purchase; and calls upon the Government to consider as a matter of
urgency whether the sale or possession of BB guns should be regulated
as though they were a firearm or banned."
Here's an extract from Stephen Hesford MP's speech
during the Second Reading of the Violent Crime Reduction Bill (20
Jun 2005 : Column 617)
because of the case of my then constituent, David Hazel. He was simply
talking to his wife outside the front door of his house on one of our
estates when a car pulled up which was completely unknown to Mr. Hazel
and his family. The incident was probably a case of mistaken identity,
but after a short exchange of words about nothing in particular, the
driver got out of the car and shot Mr. Hazel in the back with a BB
I have written to
the Home Office about banning the sale of BB guns, which was the
subject of my early-day motion. It touches on two aspects of the Bill.
BB guns can be frighteningly realistic and they are certainly cheap,
yet they can be lethal. Unfortunately for Mr. Hazel—a healthy young
man in his prime with a young family—the ball-bearing that was fired
out of the gun entered his spine and crippled him. That was a
senseless act and he was blameless. The type of gun used in the
offence is freely available. From my reading of the Bill, it seems
that those guns will be as easy to obtain after its enactment as they
are now. Perhaps we can debate that in Committee.
I agree with the
comments on air weapons. I ask the Minister to consider adding to
clauses 26 and 27 and stiffening up their provisions. Other hon.
Members mentioned licensing. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary
talked about the difficulties that it might bring. I ask the Minister
to reconsider this aspect of the Bill. I believe that that is
important, as do the family and friends of my former constituent,
Stories on the incident and a moving interview
given by David Hazel were published in the
Liverpool Echo and
To get a full indication of the extent of the problem
These guns are not harmless toys and it is time
their manufacture, import and sale are stopped.
Written: September 2004
Amended: June 2005