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Not Your Dad's BB Gun

Like most gun advocates, Beeman believes proper instruction is the most important step toward safe handling of any firearm -- including a BB gun. He credits Daisy for spending millions of dollars to train millions of youngsters in the safe handling of guns, and says the NRA has also tried to improve BB gun safety.

In fact, listening to the white-bearded Beeman, one might mistake him for Ralphie's BB-gun-delivering Santa of old. He doesn't hesitate to make the case that BB guns -- the ones made for youngsters, that is -- aren't really any more dangerous than the Red Ryder Ralphie had on his list.

Ralphie's quest for a BB gun in the cult film "A Christmas Story" speaks to the nostalgia society has for the toy. (Mgm / Zuma Press)

But there's that safety issue. The incidents. The pediatrics report. "You'll shoot your eye out."

"You can get a big case against the danger of bubble gum," Beeman says. He's loaded with statistics to counter the pediatrics report and indicate that bicycles and skateboards, even coins that are shoved into ears and up noses, result in far more injuries than BB guns.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in 2003, there were 550,000 to 600,000 injuries associated with bicycles and 97,640 injuries from skateboards that required emergency room treatment, compared with 19,504 for air guns -- including the high-powered air guns.

Laraque points out that there are more bikes and skateboards in use. However, she adds, "one doesn't negate the other. This report is in line with reports on anything that causes injuries."

Beeman persists: "When we talk about 21,000 kids were injured, we have to stand back and say, what did that injury mean? Was it a finger cut or did it go into his brain?"

He says the pediatrics statistics even count as a "BB accident" when someone sticks a BB in his ear. "What I'm saying is, for every several billion BBs produced, there is only one injury recorded," says Beeman. "BB guns and air guns are probably among the safest recreational objects around."

Tell that to Neil Bush. Although the White House did not respond to a request that the president recall his BB gun-brandishing days, in hindsight, the president's brother did tell those Richmond school kids that shooting siblings and other people with BBs is "a really stupid thing."

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