Non-powder guns, such as BB guns, pellet guns, and paintball guns, are collectively known as air guns. They are often given to children as a safer alternative to firearms, and potentially as a way to practice target shooting. However, although these guns are safer than firearms, they are not toys, and if used improperly they are definitely not safe.
A new study in the journal Pediatrics recently identified a 169% increase in air gun-related eye injuries between 1990 and 2012 — that’s nearly triple the rate of injury. The study also documented other serious and even fatal injuries. For example, some children were shot in the head and sustained brain injuries that resulted in permanent neurological impairment or death.
Of children that sustained eye injuries, a whopping 66% had permanent vision loss, and 39% suffered complete blindness as a result.
This study clearly identifies that air guns pose a major and increasing safety hazard to children. Parents should seriously consider whether their children are responsible enough to use these guns safely. Further, parents should make ground rules for the use of air guns that include safety precautions, and never allow minor children to use air guns unsupervised.
If your child uses air guns, read on to learn how to protect against dangerous injuries, and how to take action if your child was injured by an air gun due to negligence.
Understanding Traumatic Eye Injuries
Traumatic eye injury is a leading cause of vision loss nationwide. If your child sustains an air gun eye injury, it is likely that the injury will be serious. Remember, in the Pediatrics study mentioned above, a majority of children who sustained eye injuries suffered permanent vision loss as a result.
An air gun eye injury may include penetration of foreign objects into the eye, and potentially complete rupture and destruction of the eye. Presence of foreign bodies, known as intraocular foreign bodies, can lead to permanent eye damage if left untreated. If your child sustains a direct hit to the eye from an air gun, it is likely that the eye will rupture, leading to loss of the eye.
How to Protect Your Kids Against an Air Gun Eye Injury
Bottom line? Air guns are not toys, and it is recommended that they be used only by adults and older children under adult supervision. Even then, it is imperative to teach your children how to use air guns safely, to ensure that they always wear proper protective equipment, and to supervise air gun use.
Teach Safe Use
If you are considering allowing your children to use air guns, seriously consider whether they are responsible enough to follow instructions for safe use. If so, teach your children and anyone who will be using air guns with them practices for safe use.
We recommend carefully researching safety guidelines specific for the type of air gun used, and air gun activities your child will be engaging in. However, the following safety guidelines may be a helpful starting point:
- Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
- Treat every air gun as if it were loaded. Do not point your gun at anything that you do not intend to shoot.
- Only load or cock a gun prior to shooting.
- Anyone shooting or near a shooter should wear safety glasses.
- Never climb or jump with a gun. These activities risk an accidental discharge.
- Avoid ricochet by not shooting at hard surfaces or the surface of water.
- Unload guns not in use.
- Never brandish an air gun in public.
Use Eye Protection
Proper eye protection can go a long way towards preventing air gun-related eye injuries. Make sure that your child always wears eye protection while using air guns or standing in the vicinity of someone else using an air gun.
Even taking eye protection off for a short period – such as to clean off goggles during a paintball match – can lead to serious injury.
Supervise Children During Use
Minor children should never be allowed to use an air gun of any kind without adult supervision. Always supervise your children during air gun use, and be aware that you could be held liable if they are using air guns with other children under your supervision.
If your children will be using air guns at a friend’s house, speak to their friends’ parents ahead of time to ensure that they will be fully supervised.
Liability for Air Gun Injuries
If your child sustained an air gun injury due to a defective gun or safety equipment, or due to the negligence of another, you may be trying to make sense of this tragic occurrence. Your child could be left with permanent debilitating injuries, and you could be facing costly medical bills.
In this case, it may be worth seeking compensation to hold those responsible accountable for the consequences of their actions, and to seek some closure on a traumatic event for your child. A knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorney can help guide you in this process.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.