THE DANGERS OF BALL-BEARING AND OTHER NONPOWDER GUNS

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

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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 circumstances

 

• 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 yards

 

• 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

 

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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 bullet.

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 January 2005.

The incident prompted the following Early Day Motion in Parliament on 18 October 2004

PROHIBITION ON POSSESSION OR SALE OF BB GUNS

Stephen Hesford

David Taylor

Mr George Howarth

Mr Tony Colman

Mr David Chidgey

Bob Spink

Mr Mark Lazarowicz

Valerie Davey

"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."

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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 gun.

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, David Hazel.

 

Stories on the incident and a moving interview given by David Hazel were published in the Liverpool Echo and Daily Post

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To get a full indication of the extent of the problem view the Incidents Pages

These guns are not harmless toys and it is time their manufacture, import and sale are stopped.

Written: September 2004

Amended: June 2005

 

GCN COMMENT

Cats and Airguns

 

Liberal Gun Laws

 

Gun Crime Figures

January 2010

January 2009

 

Definitions

 

Airgun Crime

 

Airgun Ownership and Children

 

VCR Act

Implementation

Airsoft

Gun Lobby Abuse

Guns & Advertising

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Kate Hoey on Gun Crime (May 07)

Ball-bearing & Non-Powder Guns (June 05)

Lethal Airguns (Mar 05)

Stolen Guns (Nov 04)

Gun Crime & Gun Comment (Nov 04)