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5 BB Gun Laws You Need to Know

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

BB and pellet guns may seem like toys to some, but legally, they may be treated more like weapons.

Police in Ohio certainly considered the BB/pellet rifle being carried by 22-year-old John Crawford inside a local Walmart to be a dangerous weapon. Beavercreek Police officers fatally shot Crawford after Crawford allegedly refused to comply with officers' commands, reports the New York Daily News. The Crosman MK-177 rifle Crawford was holding when he was shot is sold at Walmart. Crawford's wife told the Dayton Daily News that Crawford did not bring a gun with him when the couple went to the Walmart and was killed while holding a "toy gun" he picked up at the store.

What are the laws regarding BB guns? Here are five you need to know:

  1. BB guns aren't required to have orange-tipped barrels. Under federal law, imitation firearms are required to have blaze orange barrel tips. But the statute specifically exempts "traditional BB or pellet-firing air guns" from the requirement.
  2. States can't prohibit the sale of BB guns. Federal law also prohibits the states from passing laws prohibiting the sale of BB and pellet guns. However, states may still regulate the sale of these guns, such as prohibiting sales to minors, without conflicting with federal law.
  3. There's a difference between BB guns and Airsoft guns. Although, like BB guns, Airsoft guns are manufactured to look like real weapons and use air pressure to fire a projectile, the difference lies in the type of projectile fired: Airsoft guns fire plastic projectiles while BB guns and pellet guns fire metal projectiles. The two are therefore often subject to different laws. For example, Airsoft guns are required by federal law to have the same orange-tipped barrels as toy and other imitation guns.
  4. Only two states treat BB guns as firearms. In most states, the laws that apply to firearms do not necessarily apply to BB guns. Only two states, New Jersey and Rhode Island define all non-powder guns such as those that fire BBs or pellets as "firearms."
  5. New York City requires a license to possess a BB gun. New York City law requires anyone who possesses or sells an air pistol or air rifle to have a specific license to do so, with the exception of licensed operators of "an amusement" or an authorized pistol range.

If you are charged with violating a state or federal law regulating the use or possession of a BB gun, a criminal lawyer can help explain the charges and your legal options.

  • Know someone who has been arrested or charged with a crime? Get in touch with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area today.

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