Last week 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez Jr. was shot and killed by police in his school after an altercation with another student. The police asked the boy if he had a gun. He answered yes. (Read here for the whole story of what happened at the school.)
It was actually a high-powered BB gun that resembled a black Glock semiautomatic. It can be purchased on the internet for $60
His death raises questions about BB and pellet guns that resemble real guns and that are easily purchased online.
“The death has shocked this South Texas border city, but it was only the latest in a series of shootings involving realistic-looking BB guns and pellet guns. In recent years, dozens of police officers in Texas, California, Maryland, Florida and elsewhere have shot children and adults armed with what they believed were handguns but that were determined later to be BB guns or other types of air pistols. In addition, the gun replicas have killed or injured thousands of children around the country in cases in which the victims were accidentally shot by relatives or friends….
“A federal law requires toy firearms and so-called airsoft guns — low-impact weapons used by the police in training and by hobbyists in outdoor games — to have an orange tip at the end of the barrel. But the law does not apply to pellet and BB guns like the one Jaime had. “
Here are figures involving shootings and death from BB guns and pellet guns not including being shot by police:
“In 2007, 2008 and 2009, a total of 124 people, including 23 children and teenagers aged 18 and younger, were killed in Texas from accidents involving BB guns, pellet guns and other types of firearms that do not use gunpowder, according to data supplied by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Those figures do not include deaths stemming from police confrontations with people armed with air pistols. No agency tracks the frequency of those shootings. “
“Nationally, about four children are killed on average each year in episodes involving BB guns or pellet guns, but that number also does not include deaths stemming from police shootings, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
(On a personal note: My brother was shot in the hand by a neighbor with a BB gun when he was around 12. The kids were all checking out the BB gun and somebody pulled the trigger. So I know how easily it can happen. He had to have surgery to have the BB removed from his hand.)
This Texas case makes me so sad. I can understand that the young man was upset and had an altercation with another student. He was agitated. But what would have happened if he didn’t have access to a BB gun that looked like a Glock?
Hard to know for certain but I bet he probably just be suspended from school for hitting a kid and not dead.
Should makers of BB and pellet guns regulate themselves and not allow them to look like real guns? Should the government step in and legislate a change? Should their sale be more closely regulated? Should they be sold online? Or should they be sold following the rules for regular gun sales?