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13-year-old son wants an airsoft gun

Dec 2008

Our 13 year-old son is asking permission to buy an Airsoft gun. They shoot plastic pellets which hurt so adequate cover-up is necessary. He plans to use it with his friends who also plan to purchase the guns. He sent us a link to the product website. My husband feels he should not have this toy as the guns are made to look real and there is a danger that they might be mistaken for real weapons. Ideally, they would be used on private property with adequate supervision. Also, the plastic pellets could injure someone if they aren't appropriately protected. We've discouraged guns but since we have 2 boys, we understand the fascination they can have with all kinds of weapons. I'm interested in others' experience and opinions with Airsoft guns. nervous about Airsoft

Our sons are a little younger, and desperately wanted one of these. Our solution was that Santa ''gave'' it to my husband last year (at that time the boys were 10 and 11). They are so happy to get to go play it with dad - but it is his, he controls it, and that is best. One of them did sneak it out once, and other parents in the neighborhood weren't impressed. So, my two cents, give one to dad! air gun household

My son had an airsoft gun a few years ago. His fencing teacher supervised a small group of kids in the fencing school (like a big warehouse) playing a war game. We were uneasy about this but since it was adult supervised 100% of the time we agreed. That only lasted a month or two and then we made him sell it back to the teacher.

If you know that your son's airsoft gun will be supervised 100% of the time, I'd say OK, but if thre is ANY chance he and his friends will be out inthe world shooting, I'd say absolutely not. And if he is caught other then supervised there should be serious consequences.

Recently a woman walking her dog in a field near my house was shot twice by kids with airsoft guns, just out ''playing''. Of course the kids ran away, but the woman was terrified and injured (yes, they REALLY HURT and can do serious damage). The guns look like real guns. It's hard with boys cause many do have a fascination with guns and weapons. I say go for it only if he is mature enough to know how to be responsible. anti gun mom of boys

I know exactly what you are going through; last year my son was 12 when this occurred. I am totally against guns and the only ones I allowd were super shooters that didn't look like guns. Even then they got a lecture. All of my son's friends had airsoft guns and he was being left out of the mix. My husband talked me into letting him have one but only if he paid for it. He got it and the eye protection and had non stop wars for a month or two and has never used it since. This is typical of my son; he will go at something for hours, days, weeks on end until he tires of it. Then he drops it. I don't think his friends have these wars anymore. One boy was so totally into it he had camo clothes that he wore; I believe he has found a group to have wars with still. My son doesn't hang around with that kid anymore. All this being said it depends on the kid. I knew underneath that my son and his friends would outgrow this. I just made sure he knew my viewpoint on this at all times. We had and still have long discussions about weapons, street violence and war. Of course the next level to deal with is video games like Call of Duty. Good luck; it's an ongoing battle. hate guns too

I have an absolute rule tha there are no guns in the house. Full stop. On the other hand, I grew up on a farm shooting rabbits and targets and felt it was a skill my kids should have. So we have taken our kids paintballing - hiring the guns and suits. Also the Chabot Gun Club has .22 rifle shooting classes for teens two Saturday mornings a month, that are really excellent and teach them actual skills that could be useful. I prefer this, even though it's more expensive, to a gun that they think is a toy and can use unsupervised. My son also enjoyed archery with Michael Lang at La Loma Park 841-7749 on weekends when he was younger. Fiona

My son went through a long phase where he was very interested in airsoft guns. Our rules were similar to the ones you listed. He could not play with it in public due to the fact that the guns are made to resemble real guns. He did break the rules a few times by going out in the front yard ( as opposed to staying in the back yard which is fenced in) with his friends and he scared a neighbor of ours. He is now 13 and has lost interest in the guns all together. p.s. he and his friends did not wear protective gear and no one ever got hurt. guns in berkeley? anon

You are right to be nervous about pellet guns. My 18-year-old nephew intentionally shot another person with one during an altercation, slightly breaking the skin. Even though it was only a pellet gun and there was no serious injury to the victim, the gun had looked real, and law enforcement prosecuted him as if he had used a real gun, charging him with two strike felonies and asking for a 13-year prison sentence. This was his first offense, and he still ended up doing jail time and with one strike felony on his permanent record. The consequences were horrific for him and his family. He was 18 at the time; stop and think for a minute about the maturity level of a 13-year-old, not to mention the level of 13-year-olds in groups. I'd strongly advise against providing this recipe for disaster. If the kids want to play games with guns, there's always laser tag or paintball. Way cheaper than spending $20,000 on legal defense. Wish We Could Have Prevented Disaster

We allowed our 7th grade son to get air soft guns in August with buy-in from other parents. It meant A LOT to our son that we said yes -- he knows I hate this stuff. Our son has an active fantasy life re: weapons and power. We agree it is fantasy only and I get points for not overreacting. The novelty of guns wore off after 2-3 months. The boys are back to football and light saber battles. Marks on skin from the pellots have been temporary. They wear eye protection. The transparent guns don't look real. For our family, this has been an opportunity to teach responsibility, gun safety, get boys outdoors, and show our son we trust him. The trust mattered most. Debbie

Something else to consider as a reason to pass on this as a present (in addition to accidental shooting) - some teenagers find it hard to resist showing off such a ''toy'' to their friends. And, bringing a gun to school (even pellet, airguns, etc.) is grounds for expulsion. If your child has no previous behavior issues, your child may receive an expended expulsion (potentially weeks of missing class while the case is heard and then up to a year of probationary school attendance monitored by an academic/behavior contract). Either would be on your child's permanent record. School Board Member

Where to play paintball

May 2007

My 12 year old wants to play paintball, but searching on the web we've not found anywhere closer than Concord or Antioch (which do not seem close to me). Are we missing something? Where do Berkeley/Oakland/Lamorinda kids go to play paintball? Does he need to join a team? Any inside info on this sport would be much appreciated - he's only done it once, out of town while on vacation. Thanks. Paint mom

I took my 12 year old son and 2 friends to the place out in Clayton (Concord). We live in Lafayette. The man that runs the place was very nice and helpful. He suggested that new players visit on Sunday as Saturdays are very crowded. The participants were a mixture of young and old. They ''play'' a number of games that last about 15-20 minutes each with breaks in between. They play out in a field, not like you see on TV. There is a red team and and a blue team which are randomly assigned. Each team tries to capture the others flag. They have all of the equipment if you need to rent any. They sell hot dogs at lunch time. Bring water. David

The best place for paintball is Paintball Jungle. It is a bit of a drive, past Vallejo, in American Canyon, but it is fabulous. Something like 50 acres of eucalyptus groves with forts and the whole thing. The people who run it are very nice and the place is well organized. Check out their website for more. There is a place in Hayward, but it is not as nice. barbara

13 year old boy obsessed with BB guns

May 2007

My 13 year old son has been shooting a small bbgun that shoots plastic BB's for about 5 months. These plastic BB's are harmless. Then about one month ago he began shooting his grandfathers BBgun. We have a large back yard and have reviewed safety rules with him. He is generally a very aware and responsible kid when it comes to using appliances, tools, etc. However he now wants a more powerful BBgun. I am concerned about safety issues and also that he seems to be dropping other interests and hobbies, (bass guitar and skate boarding) in favor of target practice with his BBgun.

Last summer he visited his uncle in Minnesota and all the boys his age already were shooting BB guns and in some cases hunting rifles.

He is pressuring me to let him buy a new (air rifle) that shoots BB's 750 fps. This is about 100 fps faster than his grandfathers BBgun.

Would like to hear from other parents or persons 'in-the-know' about what kind of damage can be done with a BBgun that can shoot at this velocity. I have heard that BBguns can kill if they hit a person in a few vulnerable spots.

Also any suggestions on how to encourage other activities would be greatly appreciated?

Thanks, BB bugged mom Janet

here is some information on BB gun injuries, from a quick google search:
the consumer product safety commission warns that high- velocity BB guns can kill, and that children under 16 should not use them:

i hate guns, including BB guns. a childhood friend lost an eye when her brother accidentally shot her with a BB gun. a classmate in 9th grade nearly killed his best friend when they were playing around with a gun they thought was unloaded. some teenagers with a BB gun once tried to steal my car [and i gave them the keys; their excellent plan was foiled by the stick shift] -- these boys pointed the BB gun at my infant daughter, who would not have done well being hit at close range. you don't have to look farther than the daily newspaper to see the damage guns can inflict, intentionally or accidentally.

i know a lot of people disagree with me about gun ownership, but for adolescents especially, it seems to me the safety issues outweigh all. the potential for accidents is clearly there -- especially where a BB gun is being used without really close supervision. teens do not yet have the judgment and foresight to anticipate risks and guard against them.

and frankly, there are times during adolescence that are rocky for almost all teens -- even the smartest ones, even the ones with great support, even the ones who are almost always steady emotionally. if a kid in an emotional meltdown has easy access to a weapon like a real high- powered BB gun, that is not a safe situation.

it is really OK to be a mean parent on this issue. in my opinion, it is important. the stupid little plastic- pellet play guns are annoying, but they don't have life- threatening potential. it is hard to backtrack once you've given a child permission to do something, but i'd encourage you to take grandpa's BB gun away and lock it up. you will hear that nobody else has a parent as stupid and mean as you -- those are just words, and they aren't true. anonymom

When my son similarly became interested in guns and shooting, my brother-in-law (a life-long gun handler and hunter) suggested that there is some innate drive in some kids around shooting and that it would help my son develop his full range of skills to be allowed to shoot. When we moved from Oakland to Humboldt County, it became much more reasonable to own a gun, so both my son and husband purchased guns not long ago. Our son, now 11, must shoot his gun only under the strictest imaginable conditions. And before he could touch a gun, I insisted that he and his dad take the Hunter Safety and Ethics class offered by Fish and Game. Not sure what F and G might offer in Alameda County, but perhaps one of the regional parks might offer an equivalent. I would certainly suggest looking into this. A bb gun is still a gun, and anyone who uses a gun should know all there is to know about the safest possible handling of that gun. I wrestled with this issue a lot, and was willing to allow gun ownership as a way of demystifying it and making sure that my son knew about proper safety and management, rather than stumbling upon a dangerous situation as a teen and not knowing how to best handle it (especially here in the country). Best of luck and proceed with caution. This is saying a lot coming from a Million Mom March Mom

My nephew was doing target shooting with his bb gun in my back yard (against my explicit prohibition) and accidentally shot the neighbor's cat. The neighbors were away and when they came home, they found their cat dead in the house. The cat had gone back into the house and apparently bled everywhere before dying. Believe me, you don't want to go through anything like that. Not only were the neighbors devastated, my nephew was too. At least he never used his bb gun again. Not worth the risk

13-year-old son is very interested in playing Airsoft

Jan 2007

Our 13-year-old son is very interested in playing Airsoft and is pressuring us to get equipment and let him get started with it. He already has an expensive and time-consuming hobby in Warhammer 40K (which is also of a war and destruction nature) so we're telling him we need to think about this. He wants to get an Airsoft gun just to play with one of his friends, or so he claims at this point. It makes us uncomfortable to get him started with another activity (he also is into fencing and video gaming). We're also not wild about his focus on weapon-based entertainment - we never allowed war toys in the house when he was little, but now we're trying to compromise some in order to defuse the lure of the forbidden. Does anyone have experience with this activity, or advice about it? Gordon

Airsoft was a HUGE deal in our home 2 years ago. We allowed no guns when our son was little, limited videos etc. Neighborhood boys snuck and bought cheap guns at the Solano Stroll and there were 3 sets of upset parents.

Arguing went on for over a year and finally in reward for showing he could keep his temper for 6 months, we allowed him to buy one. We read web sites, made rules such as use only shooting at a target with eye protection for anyone in the room. After a couple of lapses on our son's part, we took control of the gun and only handed it to him for the brief period that he was going to play.

It has probably been a 8 months since he's played with it (now 13). A father down the block supervised the boys shooting at a target on a tree once last summer. In the middle of an arguement he'll bring up the subject to illustrate how mean we are, but after so much wrangling, it really has lost it's appeal.

I was the parent who thought that giving a taste of forbidden fruit would de-charge it, so I can comfortably feel like I was right, but my partner is still ademantly opposed to airsoft as a dangerous weapon. Kate

Our family has ventured down the forbidding path of AirSoft guns. We have developed some strictly enforced policies to mitigate some of the dangers.

1) AirSoft may only be played with an adult's (mom or dad) permission and presence. Mom or Dad must be present to supervise play.

2) AirSoft guns are kept locked up when not in use.

3) AirSoft guns may not be taken out in public. It hasn't been that easy for us to find remote but accessible outdoor venues for this hobby, and the pay-to-play AirSoft parks mostly have a minimum age of 18 or so. This effectively limits us to indoors (target practice only) and the back yard (we have thick hedges around our yard, but forbid play when neighbors are present in adjoining yards).

4) Helmets and protective clothing must be worn for all interactive play. Helmets have built-in eye protection in the form of visors.

5) Friends can play if they have their parents' permission and abide by all the other rules.

We have found that the actual instances of AirSoft play are fairly few and far between, given the restrictive nature of the rules we have established. Our back yard is not very big. Many kids can't get their parents' permission to join in. Some decide they don't like it after being hit by a few AirSoft bb's, which can sting when they hit exposed skin.

One other word of advice: get spring-powered guns with lower muzzle velocity, rather than high-powered gas and electric guns, which can be more painful when they score a hit.)

Let us know if you find any good places to play where there's lots of room to sneak around.... John

12-year-old wants an airsoft gun

Jan 2006

My 12 year old son is interested in Airsoft ''guns'' (like bb guns, as far as I can tell). My husband and I are very anti- military and concerned by what we are learning about airsoft culture and safety. My son is anti-military too, but says it is just something fun to do with friends. My questions are whether other parents on this list have kids interested in Airsoft: 1) are they safe? 2) where do kids use them? 3) what do you think about adolescent kids of peace-niks engaging in pseudo-military activities as a form of entertainment? should we impose our values or let our son indulge harmless fantasies? Looking forward to your responses! catha

Several months ago, our 13 year old son became obessessed with getting an air soft gun. My husband and I are also anti gun, but our son pushed so much that we did some research about the gun. The guns use a strong air blast to propell small plastic pellets, which are a bad idea to the environment. I have seen these pellets all over our elementary school; imagine little kids putting them in their mouths. Or in a park where animals can ingest them. There are also biodegradable pellets for several times more. Differing models of the guns differ in the strength of propelling the pellets. While our son claims it's harmless fun, I saw a small indentation on his skin when his friend ''accidentally'' shot him. Kids should have eye goggles when playinng; imagine the eye damage. Because the guns can also look like real guns, which can be dangerous to whoever misinterprets them as real weapons including the police, the guns should have an bright orange tip to distinguish them ! as toys. ld

My 15 yo son did airsort gun play about a year ago. We are also totally anti gun, war, etc. I let him do it because he really liked it, it was in a safe environment with a responsible adult and it encouraged team work, cooperation, strategies, working together. It certainly didn't create any desire for my son to have a gun of his own or want to go into the military. When you look at the big picture, all the boys I grew up with, my brothers included all played with toy guns when they were kids (in the 50's) and they played army, war, etc. No emotional damage done there. I'm happy to say the situation for my son didn't last as they lost the place they did Airsoft gun play in and he hasn't brought it up since then. Good luck in your decision. Kids learn their values mostly at home, so probably not to worry. anon

My two cents: BB guns and teenager boys are a dangerous combination. It's a weapon in the hands of an individual who is subject to hormonal variation (puberty), developing ego, peer pressure, extreme curiosity, impulsiveness, and inexperience.

How comfortable are you with allowing your child to play today's violent video games? Simulated war and combat games are amazingly realistic and disturbingly popular. War is fun! Kill, kill, kill! Consider that airsoft guns are made to mimic real guns. Kids can pretend they're firing their favorite model now, just like the video game. So your child and his peers will be able to emulate their fantasy role models, whoever that may be.

In my childhood, my brothers and I played freely with BB guns on my grandparent's farm. We were very responsible and fully aware that a gun is a weapon (strict parents). But the overwhelming thought that goes through the mind is ''what happens when I shoot at...'' that tree, that apple, that Coke can, that pot, that telephone pole, my brother, etc (harmless experimenting). The whole point is to shoot something which requires the conscious decision to aim at it with intent to hit it. You are fully aware that you have the power to inflict harm upon whatever you are targeting. So every time you pull the trigger, it's training the mind to accept that concept. As a parent, that makes me very uncomfortable.

The danger is in allowing a child to experiment with this power during a time when the line that separates fantasy from reality is still being developed, and when he probably has the least amount of control over impulsiveness and curiosity. Give a kid a hammer, and he's going to hit something. Same goes for a gun; but cause and consequence is not always going to be his foremost thought and there are more dire consequences possible. Bad choices are usually realized in retrospect.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed growing up playing with BB guns but I truly consider myself lucky that no permanent harm ever came from it (mostly welts, a couple stitches, one very lucky miss). Needless to say, although I completely understand the fascination and allure of airsoft guns, they will not be a part of my kids' childhood. Parent of 7 and 8 yr olds

A few years ago my 13 yo stepson wanted to get a ''bb gun'' to shot with his friends in San Pablo.Since I am only the step-mom and the bb gun wouldn't be coming to our house, I had absolutely NO say. My step-son lived mainly with his mother and my husband had quite a lengthy discussion with him & finally gave the okay (even though the boy probably would have gotten the gun no matter what & just never told my husband). Anyway, we're thinking bb gun that looks like a miniature rifle but come to find out it looked very much like a real hand gun (did you look at the airsoft website).

My opinion is that this isn't a no, it is a HELL NO! There have been instances where those types of ''not real guns'' have been involved in shootings where a kid draws a gun and since the gun looks real to the police, the kid gets shot & killed. There are so many scenarios that can go wrong with a fake gun that looks like a real gun & the one that I have seen looked very much real to me close up let alone at a distance of 5-10-15-20 feet.

I grew up in the country where kids rode their bikes with bb guns & had real guns for hunting so I'm not a fanatic one way or the other. Unless you live in the country or go to a designated shooting area, there really is no where in this urban sprawl that a group of underage boys (OR anyone) should be having shooting practice. Even if there are designated Airsoft shooting ranges or there is a friend who lives in the country, will you have possession of the gun at all other times except those where he is supervised by another adult.

All I know is that if a kid is stopped by police or seen by gang members with a ''gun'' they wouldn't nicely ask him if the gun were real ~ they would shoot first & ask questions later. Anon

Target practice can be a lot of fun and I wish there were satisfactory substitues. Here's our experience. I'm not familiar with the particulars of airsoft ammunition so for what it is worth, about three years back my nephew accidentally killed the neighbor's cat with a BB gun. We think a BB went throught the little gap (the width of a #2 pencil) between the fence boards. The cat took days to die, and maybe wouldn't have but its owners were away. It was pretty horrible all around. Right before that his younger brother(8) had to have a BB removed from his cheek after a teen shot him from a passing car. It lodged about one inch below his eye...he has a permanent scar, but it could have been worse. I don't know what the modern BBs can do, nor what the range is, but I did notice there is a bit of safety gear associated with it. After those incidents my nephew wasted not time in throwing his BB gun away. I think it is still a very painfull memory for him. Learned the hard way

I wanted to reply, even though I don't have first-hand experience with Airsoft guns. I would caution against OK'ing play with these guns. An instinct about gun safety can be developed in boys, but I would think Airsoft gun play would remove this protective instinct.

I am very anti-handgun, even though I had a shotgun and rifles as a teenager (for hunting), and played guns and robbers like crazy when I was in 1-3 grades. Handguns are designed for one purpose only, to kill people at any time at close range (target practice is a crock). A child should never have reason to hold one, even one that just looks real. And for any play gun, I believe a gun that shoots anything should never be pointed at anyone, and toy guns should never look like real. Airsoft violates both these principles. When boys feel it's OK to hold real-looking guns, and to aim them at people, accidents happen: too often boys have found the best hidden handgun at a neighbors' house, aimed at their friend and pulled the trigger, and police have too often shot children aiming at them. At the age of 12, in my mind, a boy should be instinctively reluctant to point any gun, including realistic toys, at anyone.

Enabling play with these toys will remove this instinct.

It's tough to develop this instinct. Research shows that one can't just tell children not to touch guns. Guns, especially handguns, hold an undeniable attraction for kids.

But this kind of play can be really fun. For younger children. At the age of 12, however, the interest in this kind of play may be partly driven by an interest in the military. Why are you anti-miltary? Do you mean rather that you are anti- war? Perhaps an alternative to consider for your son is cadets. Kids age 12 and older are eligible to Naval Cadets, Marine Cadets or Army Cadets ( Marksmanship and weapons Safety are offered, but most of the activities are more scout-like: rappelling and mountain climbing; maps, compass, and land navigation; first aid, water survival; scuba diving, small boat handling etc etc. Cadet programs are designed to develop leadership qualities, not groom youngsters for the military. Just my thoughts

14-year-old wants a BB Gun

Feb 2003

My almost 14 year old son came home from a friend's house the other day singing the praises of owning a beebee gun. I know the beebees are tiny and plastic, but I have this gut reaction against any kind of gun. He wants to shoot at coffee cans or other targets, and is totally responsible. I know he wouldn't shoot at anybody, but I m still against it. My husband thinks it is ok as long as he doesn't do it in the house and only shoots in a huge open space. Any ideas or suggestions? concerned mom

I have a childhood friend who has a bee bee ''bullet'' permanantly implanted in his face (about 2 inches below his eye, near his sinus cavity). If the shot had only gone a few inches in any direction (eye, temple) it could have had drastic consequences. Even though the bullets are small and plastic or stainless steel, I would FORBID the play of guns in your house and around your children. What's wrong with Laser Tag or some form of target play that doesn't involve projectiles? Nancy