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Do we need more kids with BB Guns?

Jack Lessenberry

My parents have been dead for a long time, but I feel I owe them a long-overdue thank you for saying no half a century ago, when I wanted an air rifle, otherwise known as a BB gun.

I had read about them in Boys’ Life, and believe I had ambitions of shooting birds in the backyard.

Today, I would be horrified at that, but young people can be insensitive. My mother’s refusal to let me have a gun probably had, however, little to do with birds, and more to do with Larry, an older kid in the neighborhood. Larry once had a friend with a BB gun, and as a result, Larry had a glass eye.

Well, our representatives in the Legislature, or at least those who give them campaign money, apparently would have thought my momma a spineless wimp. They are seriously considering an eight-bill package that would dramatically loosen restrictions on pellet guns, or other weapons that power a bullet by gas, spring or air.

Currently, it is illegal for anyone under eighteen to have a BB gun unless they’re with an adult. That’s something that seems common sense. But that’s not how the National Rifle Association sees it. They want that law repealed – and the Michigan House has already done so. Now, it’s up to the Senate.

What I can’t understand is why anyone thinks this is a good idea. I know all the arguments for rifles and handguns. Those who support what they call gun rights say we may need them to defend ourselves, against criminals or an evil government.

You can also make a case in favor of hunting. However, you are unlikely to stop a murderous bad guy, or drop a bear, with a BB gun. Unsupervised kids with air rifles would be, however, in an excellent position to put out the eyes of other kids like Larry.

They also could do a heck of a lot of property damage. Just ask the police in a couple of townships in Macomb County. Sometime in the wee hours Saturday, someone with a BB gun shot out the windows of more than a hundred cars.

So far, nobody has been arrested for this crime. But somehow I don’t think it was a fellow middle-aged member of my generation.

In any event, I’d like to see a member of the Legislature tell the police chiefs in those townships that kids need more access to BB guns. Nevertheless, the state Senate judiciary committee is slated to take up a bunch of bills to do just that tomorrow afternoon at 2:30.

The chair of that committee is State Senator Rick Jones. In case you wonder who thinks we need unsupervised kids with air rifles, it is The National Rifle Association.

The NRA, which has evolved from a sportsman’s association into a hotbed of gun fanatics, says that Michigan has “outdated and unduly burdensome “restrictions on air rifles. And it looks like our lawmakers will do what the NRA wants. After all, they probably give more money to politicians than you do. But just for the heck of it, you might want to let your legislators know how you feel.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. You can read his essays online at michiganradio.org. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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