Are BB Guns Safe?
As a BB gun owner and enthusiast, I know firsthand that these airsoft or pellet guns, designed to shoot projectiles, can be dangerous weapons when 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. The high muzzle velocity with which these pellets are shot can cause serious injury or even death.
Despite the fact that some people see BB guns as toy guns, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued a safety alert warning consumers that BB guns can be lethal. According to the CPSC, BB guns or pellet guns cause about four deaths per year. Yet, these guns face far fewer restrictions than real firearms.
As BB gun owners, we often find ourselves debating the Second Amendment when discussing BB gun laws, as we believe our rights to own and use these guns fall within the scope of the law. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In this article, we’ll explore federal and state BB gun laws, as well as our legal liability under these laws.
Federal BB Gun Laws
Federal law regulates who can own, possess, or sell a gun. Some of these federal laws extend to BB guns. If we have been convicted of certain crimes or fall under any of the special categories or situations listed below, we face potential criminal penalties under the Brady Act.
This federal law prohibits personal and business ownership, use, and possession of a BB gun if we:
- 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 our U.S. citizenship if we are U.S. citizens; 8. Are subject to a court restraining order that involves our “intimate partner”, our partner’s child, or children; or 9. Were convicted of domestic violence in any court of a misdemeanor.
If we fall into any of the above situations or categories, we should consult a local attorney about whether we can own, buy, or use a BB gun.
Although the CPSC cannot create enforceable laws, they recommend that only kids 16 years or older use a BB gun. The American Pediatric Surgical Association also advises 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 differ significantly from state to state. Some states restrict BB guns, while others have few or no restrictions.
For example, 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.” In California, it’s a misdemeanor to sell, loan, or transfer a BB gun or “BB device” to a minor.
In Massachusetts, it’s 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 mandates that BB guns are subject to the same firearm license requirements, safety inspection certificates, and concealed pistol license requirements as other firearms. We cannot buy a pellet air gun in Michigan without a permit.
Many states prohibit us from openly carrying BB guns in public, which is frequently referred to as the “right to carry.” If we travel with our airsoft guns to other states, we may not be granted reciprocity and recognition for any “right to carry” law that we might have enjoyed in our home state.
Additionally, many states burden the jury to determine whether a BB gun is considered a “deadly weapon.” In these situations, the perpetrator may claim 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
As responsible BB gun users, we must follow safety tips to minimize the risk of gun injuries or death. Here are some tips for BB gun safety:
- Always wear protective gear, primarily eye protection, since eye injuries are common with BB guns.
- Adhere to state and local BB gun laws, federal firearms laws, manufacturer warnings, and safety tips when handling a BB gun.
- Whether we own or sell BB guns, we must still use extreme care when handling them. BB guns are not toy guns; they can injure or kill seriously. Practice proper firearm safety techniques to minimize harm.
- If we want to use a BB gun outside our home state, check applicable local and state BB gun laws for that state.
- Ensure that we receive safety training and practical experience using a BB gun.
- Never let children use BB guns if it is against the law where we live. Even if adolescents can use BB guns in our state or town, they must be trained to use them safely and under adult supervision.
- Never use a BB gun if you have been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of drugs.