Real-looking pellet, BB guns are trouble

If you’re still shopping for the children on your Christmas list, we have a suggestion: Cross off pellet guns that look like real firearms. They are not toys.

Pellet and BB guns can be good gifts for teenagers and adults, but some are so powerful they should not be given to younger children – or older ones who may not handle the weapons safely.

Pellet guns made to look like real firearms can be deadly in situations where those carrying them confront police. Tragically, children occasionally die in such situations.

On Dec. 2, a high school student in Toledo, Ohio, took a pellet gun to school. Police were called. Thankfully, they were able to end the ensuing standoff without anyone being hurt – but it could have ended very, very badly.

It did end badly for eighth-grader Andy Lopez Cruz on Oct. 22 in his hometown of Santa Rosa, Calif. He was walking with a realistic pellet rifle, returning it to the friend from whom he had borrowed it, when a sheriff’s deputy mistook the gun for the real thing and shot the boy dead.

Obviously some responsibility here falls on the police officer, and the deputy who shot Andy Lopez Cruz has sparked protests, an investigation and a lawsuit. But when a non-lethal gun is intentionally disguised as a lethal one, it puts police in a terrible position. If an officer sees a young man carrying a gun, should he stop him and ask, “Excuse me, is that a pellet gun or a real one?” Sometimes, as in Toledo, police guess right, but sometimes, as in Santa Rosa, they don’t. Even the most experienced officers can get it wrong. The deputy who killed Andy Lopez Cruz was a firearms instructor.

So this Christmas, think very critically before giving a BB or pellet gun as a gift, and if it’s one that mimics the real deal, just say no.