OKEECHOBEE — In the classic holiday movie, “A Christmas Story,” little Ralphie tries to convince adults that a BB gun would be a perfect gift, only to be warned over and over by adults, “you’ll shoot your eye out.”
Fortunately that fate did not befall an Okeechobee youth who was eager to get his hands on a BB gun, but his trip to the Emergency Room for an eye injury serves as a reminder that BB guns pose a real danger.
According to the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office report, on Nov. 21, a local man was on his way home from work when he received a call from his 15-year-old son and was told that his 13-year-old son had been struck in the eye by a projectile from a BB gun.
The man told his son to hang up and call 9-1-1. The father continued to his residence to find the 13-year-old alert. The boy told his father he took the BB gun outside and shot at a lizard. The BB gun fired twice, with both BBs ricocheting off an unknown object.
One BB struck the boy in the eye, and the other struck his right wrist.
The OCSO incident report stated that the BB gun belonged to another boy, age 14, who was visiting the brothers. The 13-year-old asked to see the pistol-type CO2 operated BB gun, and took it outside, the report states. A short time later, the 13-year-old came back into the house yelling that he had hurt himself.
The injured youth was transported by Okeechobee County Fire/Rescue to the Raulerson Hospital Emergency Room. He was treated for contusions on his right eyelid and a small laceration on his right wrist.
The BB gun was picked up from the residence by an adult family friend.
As the holidays approach, parents are advised to consider pleas for a BB gun with caution. And if a BB gun is under the Christmas tree, make sure safety equipment is also there, and that safety rules are established before the BB gun is fired.
“It is definitely imperative that the parents supervise use of these pellet and BB guns, especially those driven by the use of bottled gas,” said OCSO Major Noel Stephen.
The guns that use a gas cylinder expel the BB or pellet at a high velocity, increasing the risk of a ricochet, he explained. Shooting at something at close range also increases the risk of a ricochet.
“We were fortunate this young man was not hurt more seriously,” he said, noting that the boy has fully recovered.
“The worst case scenario has happened in the past,” Maj. Stephen added.
He said eye and face protection can help. This gear is required at commercial shooting facilities that allow BB gun use.
Shooting a BB gun without face protection is like riding a motorcycle without a helmet, he said. “You’re having a great time until something goes wrong.”
Under Florida Statute 790.22, “The use for any purpose whatsoever of BB guns, air or gas-operated guns, or electric weapons or devices, by any minor under the age of 16 years is prohibited unless such use is under the supervision and in the presence of an adult who is acting with the consent of the minor’s parent.”
Twice in the past 30 years, Okeechobee County residents have died from BB gun injuries. In one case, a BB ricochetted off a rock and struck a child in the neck, nicking his aorta. In another case, a woman, who under the influence of drugs, shot a relative in the chest at close range and the projectile punctured his lung.
Both of those deaths were from projectiles from old-fashioned air rifles, which were “pumped up” manually. The new guns which are powered by gas canisters are more dangerous, Maj. Stephen added.
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