Each Christmas, there are children around America who unwrap a new, non-powder gun. These guns include BB, pellet, and paintball. While many parents may believe such guns to be harmless, and even see them as a toy, statistics suggest otherwise. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 20,000 injuries result from these types of guns each year, with four percent of them requiring hospitalization.
“These guns are not toys at all, and they can certainly do damage both to people and to animals,” explains Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue, an organization dedicated to helping animals in need. “In our line of work, we have seen it often – kids who shoot at animals just for fun, and leave them distressed and injured. These guns create problems that parents are not even usually aware of.”
Here are 5 tips for parents who may have a child with one of these non-powder guns, or who are considering getting one for them:
1. Ask why. If your child wants a BB or pellet gun, find out why and ask what it is that they want to shoot at. If they don’t have a good answer, or it is one that involves harming people and animals, then hold off on making the purchase.
2. Wait until they are older. Young children may not be mature enough or have the impulse control to follow the rules that come with a BB gun. Wait until they are old enough to follow the rules and will take them seriously. Typically, this would be when they are a teenager.
3. Find a safety course. Check around in your city to see if you can find a safety course for your child to take. You may find one by checking with the NRA, the Boy Scouts, or local camp sites.
4. Hold them accountable. If your child has one of these guns and you have set rules and guidelines, be sure to follow through if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. Better to take the gun away now than have to face up to someone whose child or pet has been injured by the gun.
5. Discuss the ethics. Talk to your child about not shooting animals for target practice. This causes a lot of injuries and leaves injured animals out on the streets, helpless. Help your child learn to have compassion for animals, rather than seeing them as merely something to shoot at.
“There are many problems that can arise when children have these guns,” added Misseri. “People may mistakenly think your child is actually holding a high-powered gun, or your child may get a taste for shooting things and move on to bigger targets. It’s really best to just avoid a BB gun purchase all together, which helps avoid potential problems later on.”
Guardians of Rescue provides assistance to animals out on the streets, helping to rescue them, provide medical care, food, shelter, and find foster home placement. They have also been instrumental in helping the animals that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Many families are still struggling to recover from the storm, making it difficult to care for their pet, either financially or while living in temporary housing. To learn more, or to make a donation to support the Guardians of Rescue, log onto www.guardiansofrescue.org.