Pellet Gun is a weapon, not a toy

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Katherine-Loper
Attorney Katherine Loper

Attorney Katherine Loper

Last week, I read about a  22-year-old who died after a shot from a pellet gun perforated his heart. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported that two friends were playing around with a pellet gun at  a Westside home  last Thursday night when the gun discharged and struck the victim in the chest, perforating his heart.  Rescue personnel transported  the victim to a local hospital where he died early Saturday morning from the injuries. 

Read more at News4jax: Man dies from pellet gun accident 

Even as an isolated incident, the tragic death of this young 22 year old man  reminds us of the dangers of these weapons of sport.   A pellet gun CAN produce injuries, or as what happened here –  death. They are not toys, should not be treated as toys, and should be used by people that are mature enough to use them in a responsible manner.

 More than 3 million pellet guns are sold nationwide each year.  Nationally, air guns cause more than 25,000 injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Most of these incidents involve children under 19. They also kill an average of four Americans yearly. Proponents say that shows  fatalities are rare, but four dead people are too many. 

Air Soft Gun

Air Soft Gun

 Velocity

Pellet guns are classified along with other nonpowder guns–air rifles, pellet guns and ball-bearing BB guns–as dangerous in the hands of the untrained due to the high velocity discharge of the gun. These firearms can generate muzzle speeds of 150 feet per second to 1,200 feet per second. By way of comparison, a regular firearm pistol’s muzzle velocity is 750 feet per second.

Pellet Pistol Is a Weapon

In most states, a pellet gun is considered a firearm. Legally, a firearm is any instrument that can be reasonably expected to cause bodily harm. Florida is among the states that impose age restrictions on the possession, use or transfer of pellet guns.  Florida law can also place a penalty on any adult that permits their minor child to have a pellet gun or BB gun in their possession while not in their presence.

 Definitions

Unlike some other states, Florida does not classify air guns (bb guns and air or gas-operated pellet guns) as firearms or as dangerous weapons. Instead, the state lumps these weapons in with other non-lethal weapons such as stun guns. Given this light classification, it is important to note that the state laws are not so lax for all non-combustion projectile weapons. “Slungshots” or “slingshots” are classified as dangerous weapons right along with brass knuckles and tear gas guns.
Typically, an air gun is classified as a projectile weapon that fires .177 caliber to .22 caliber bbs or pellets by either air, gas or spring pressure.

Minors

Under Florida law, it is illegal for any minor under the age of 16 to use an air gun (bbs or pellets) unless they are in direct supervision of an adult who is the child’s parent or guardian, or if the supervising adult is acting with the permission of the child’s parent or guardian. Any adult who allows a child 16 years or younger under their care to operate or possess any air gun without direct supervision is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and may face fines, jail time or probation.

Pellet Gun Safety Tips

  • Follow state and local Pellet gun laws and federal firearms laws.
  • If you own or sell Pellet guns, you must still use extreme care when handling them. Pellet guns are not toys, and they have the ability to seriously injure or kill.
  • Make sure that you get safety training and practical experience using a Pellet gun.
  • Never let children use Pellet guns.
  • Never use a Pellet gun if you have been drinking alcohol or under the influence of drugs

 Pellet Guns and Your Legal Rights

If you are injured as a result of the accidental discharge of a pellet gun, an attorney can review the coverage terms of the homeowners insurance policy that insures the home where the injury occurred to determine if this injury is covered.

Not all homeowners insurance policies will cover injuries from firearms, and some do not consider a Pellet gun a firearm. If the homeowners insurance does cover injury from firearms, and considers a Pellet gun to be a firearm, it is likely that the policy will cover the medical expenses.  Another matter to consider is Florida state laws regarding minors and Pellet guns. It is illegal for a child under 16 to be in possession of a Pellet gun without  the supervision and in the presence of an adult who is acting with the consent of the minor’s parent. (F.S. 790.22)  If the homeowner violated the Florida gun law, the child (depending on their age) or their parents may be held liable for negligence resulting in injury. Regardless, you should consult with a premises liability attorney to determine your legal options. 

The attorneys at Edwards & Ragatz, P.A. can help you review the homeowners insurance policy to determine if yourinjuries are covered under their firearms policy. If a lawsuit is necessary to obtain compensation for your  medical bills, our skilled  team will prepare your case for trial “ even if it settles beforehand. For more information, contact us today – 800-366-1609

1 Comment

  1. Dan says:

    As previously stated in your article, the BB gun is not legally a firearm. A firearm being a device that propels a projectile via explosion/black powder (fire).
    Yet, later in your post, you request we follow firearm laws. I’m not quite sure that applies when they aren’t firearms. In my opinion, it’s like telling someone with a cane to follow laws for billy clubs.
    They just aren’t the same and are not used for the same purpose.
    I do agree that they have similarities and potential for harm, but more people have been killed by rocks than by BB guns.
    I believe laws should be more clear with BB guns and Airguns. With respect to the crimes (if any) in the area. If there is no trend of crime with them, I believe they should be treated like pocket knives. Just tools.
    Personally, I have a BB gun and use it for target practice and preparedness for self-defense in my home or when I go out with my wife and child. My child is an infant, so for now, I can leave it on the table near me during the day. As it’s not a firearm, it doesn’t have to be secured.
    Common sense tells me that when my child gets older, I keep it out of reach of him and teach him it’s NOT a toy. It’s a tool for emergencies.
    I have looked into the Florida laws. I haven’t found any that directly address the issue of an adult carrying openly or concealed, an Airgun or BB gun. Even when I saw something that might have addressed it as a “Handgun” Black’s Law dictionary describes it in 2 parts. Both stating the word “firearm” which brings us back to “black powder” and “explosion”.
    New law needs to be written regarding the technology updates in our day. I DO NOT believe it should just be added into firearm or weapon laws. It is a separate device in it’s own class.

    Please feel free to respond to me at the email address provided if you have access to it as an administrator of this page.

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