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Are BB Guns Safe?

BB guns are airsoft guns or pellet guns designed to shoot projectiles. These nonpowder guns can be dangerous weapons if used improperly. The name "BB" refers to the ball bearing or "bullet ball," a round pellet roughly the size of a single lead shot contained in a shotgun shell. These pellets are shot out by the gun at a high muzzle velocity.

Even though some may consider BB guns as toy guns, they can be very dangerous and cause serious injury or even death in some situations. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a safety alert on BB guns, warning consumers that BB guns can kill because of their high muzzle velocity. CPSC reported that BB guns or pellet guns cause about 4 deaths per year. Still yet, BB guns face much fewer restrictions than real firearms.

When BB gun laws are debated, BB gun owners often cite the Second Amendment since they believe they fall within the scope of the law. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

This article discusses federal and state BB gun laws and your legal liability under them.

Federal BB Gun Laws

Federal law restricts who can own, possess, or sell a gun. Some of these federal laws extend to BB guns. If you have been convicted of certain crimes, or fall under any of the special categories or situations listed below, you face potential criminal penalty under the Brady Act.

This federal law bars personal and business ownership, use, and possession of a BB gun if you:

1. Were convicted of a crime punishable by being in prison for more than one year; 2. Are a fugitive from justice; 3. Are addicted to, or illegally use, any controlled substance; 4. Have been ruled mental defective by a court, or are committed to a mental institution; 5. Are an illegal alien living in the United States unlawfully; 6. Received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces; 7. Renounced your U.S. citizenship, if you are a U.S. citizen; 8. Are subject to a court restraining order that involves your "intimate partner", your partner's child, or children; or 9. Were convicted of domestic violence in any court of a misdemeanor.

If you fall into any of the above situations or categories, check with a local attorney about whether you can own, buy, or use a BB gun.

While the CPSC can not create enforceable laws, they recommend only kids 16 years of age or older may use a BB gun. The American Pediatric Surgical Association also recommends better parental supervision when BB guns are being used, and insists that all children and adults wear eye protection to prevent eye injuries.

State BB Gun Laws

BB gun laws vary considerably from state to state. Some states restrict BB guns, while others have few or no restrictions.

California defines a "BB device" as: "any instrument that expels a projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure, or spring action." It is a misdemeanor in California to sell, loan, or transfer a BB gun, or "BB device" to a minor.

In Massachusetts, it is illegal for children under eighteen to have a BB gun or air rifle in any public area, unless: (a) an adult is with them; (b) they have a sporting or hunting license with them, or (c) they have a permit from the police chief in the town where they live. Violating Massachusetts' BB gun law is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of up to $100, confiscation of the BB gun or air rifle, and possible destruction of the firearm by the Massachusetts State Police.

Michigan law requires that BB guns are subject to the same firearm license requirements, safety inspection certificate, and concealed pistol license requirements as other firearms. You cannot buy a pellet air gun in Michigan unless you have a permit.

Many states prohibit people from carrying BB guns openly in public, frequently called the "right to carry." BB gun owners who travel with their airsoft guns to other states may not be granted reciprocity and recognition for any "right to carry" law that they might have enjoyed in their home state.

Many states also place the burden on the jury to determine whether a BB gun is considered a "deadly weapon." In these situations, the perpetrator may purport the BB gun to be a real gun. There are many criminal implications if someone injures, robs at gunpoint, or takes the life of another with a BB gun.

BB Gun Safety Tips

If you use a BB gun, it is important that you follow BB gun safety tips to minimize the risk of gun injuries or death. Here are some tips for BB gun safety:

  • Always wear protective gear, especially eye protection since eye injuries are common with BB guns.
  • Follow state and local BB gun laws, federal firearms laws, manufacturer warnings, and safety tips when handling a BB gun.
  • If you own or sell BB guns, you must still use extreme care when handling them. BB guns are not toy guns, and they have the ability to seriously injure or kill. Use proper firearm safety techniques to minimize harm.
  • If you want to use a BB gun outside your home state, check applicable local and state BB gun laws for that state.
  • Make sure that you get safety training and practical experience using a BB gun.
  • Never let children use BB guns if it is against the law where you live. Even if adolescents can use BB guns in your state or town, it is important that they be trained to use them safely and under adult supervision.
  • Never use a BB gun if you have been drinking alcohol or under the influence of drugs.

BB Guns: Getting Legal Help

If you believe you may have a legal claim for an injury caused by a BB gun, you should speak to a personal injury attorney today.

If you are facing BB gun-related criminal charges, you should speak to a criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney will help review your state's laws and determine the best course of action for your defense. Speak to a criminal defense attorney today.

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