An open letter to Dotti

Monday, February 28, 2011

Recently, I received a response to this blog from a woman who identified herself as Dotti Workman.

Here’s what she said:

“Jack. My son was swimming in the back yard while visiting my sister in TN. The boy next door was shooting and my son turned his head to look and was struck in the eye. What I see as a problem is not enough warnings or accountability. I think it starts with the Mfg’s and dealers. Ex: I called Walmart and said “My 8 yr old son wants a BB gun, what do you recommend?” The sales clerk said “Well you can start him off with a Daisy but he will want something more powerful pretty quickly” No warnings at all. I went to the store and you can buy them right off the shelf. The only warning is on the box saying “This is not a Toy” As a parent I had no idea that at 250 fps they can penetrate skin, at 400 fps it can crack bone. There is a little girl right a few months ago shot in the eye and can no longer, walk, talk or feed herself. Kids get guns they think are toys and like to aim them at each other and shoot. 30,000 children per year are admitted to the ER with these injuries. And I use BB gun, because I’m not familiar with the difference. I’m trying to get my voice out there to push for stiffer warnings and penalties, even to the parents. The little girl I was referring to was in her grandmothers house with lots of people around and her cousin pulled it out of the closet. If they are suppose to be treated like handguns then why aren’t they sold like them. What suggestions for change do you suggest.

Also, not sure exactly what gun it was. it’s still under investigation. I was told it was a Crossman. It was a pump gun. I’m also not sure what it fired. BB’s, Pelletts. I don’t know. And I really don’t understand the comment of the other Blogger who said “If her son truly is Blinded” That is not something any parent would want to lie about.”

Well, Dotti, I have several reactions to your comments.

The first is that it is always a tragedy when someone is hurt unintentionally with an airgun. My sympathy goes out to those who are injured.

You say, “What I see as a problem is not enough warnings or accountability.

When it comes to warnings, I disagree with you. On a recent trip to a large discount store, I checked out the packaging for one of the most popular airguns sold today. Prominently displayed on the box is the following:

“WARNING. Not a toy. Adult supervision required. Misuse or careless use may cause serious injury or death. May be dangers up to 500 yards (457mM).

Important: This airgun is intended for those 16 years of age and older.

You and others with you should always wear shooting glasses to protect your eyes.

Read all instructions before using. Buyer and user have the duty to obey all laws about the use and ownership of this airgun.”

Further, the opening section of the manual contains six separate boldly highlighted warning blocks, and the ninth section of the manual contains a 15-point safety review, all in red type.

Virtually every airgun box I saw at the discount store had warning and age-appropriateness information on the outside of the package. So, honestly, I don’t see lack of warnings as a problem.

But when it comes to accountability, I agree with you. That accountability, however, doesn’t fall on the manufacturers and the dealers. It falls instead on the shooter and (in the case of underage shooters) the shooter’s parents.

Here’s why: Rule One of gun safety is this – never, ever, point your gun at anything you don’t want to see a hole in. The responsibility of where the gun is pointing falls on the shooter. Parental supervision is mandatory for younger shooters, but if a parent is not 100% certain that his or her child – regardless of age – will observe Rule One at all times, then that parent needs to supervise the shooting. By supervise, I mean the parent has to stand close enough to re-direct the muzzle of the gun to a safe direction if that becomes necessary.

So, Dotti, if it was your son that was injured by the boy shooting next door while you were visiting your sister in TN, you need to have a chat with the parents of that boy and ask them why they were not supervising their son.

I suggest you check out: and

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–          Jock Elliott


  1. Patrick Miller says:

    Very concise and excellent article, Jock! What a terrible, senseless tragedy that must always remind us to exercise safety no matter whether it is a firearm, pellet gun or even a “harmless” toy. Nevertheless, we need to stop blaming companies who produce these articles and start assuming full responsibility ourselves for the safe use of the products, whether it is guns, toys, McDonald’s coffee or whatever you may be using. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, my father took us three children out to the farm to shoot the .22 often on Sundays. I’ll guarantee you that each of us took our respective turns and each of us practiced basic gun safety within arms reach of Dad and if any of us demonstrated anything short of safety we lost our turn and depending on our response to direction may have lost our turn for the day. But we never even considered the thought of pointing a gun at something other than the target and learned through repetition in practicing a series of safe handling techniques from the beginning to the very end in the process of firing the gun. Anyway, my heart goes out to the young boy and his mother. It is an “accident” that, unfortunately, should never have happened.

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      Thanks guys for all the positive response!

  2. Orin says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Jock.

    I’m not trying to harp on Dotti, but she actually already stated the problem… she just focused on the wrong detail.

    The little girl I was referring to was in her grandmothers house with lots of people around and her cousin pulled it out of the closet. If they are suppose to be treated like handguns then why aren’t they sold like them.

    The problem in this instance was not how the gun was sold or marketed, but rather how it was treated. Why was a child able to pull it out of the closet and point it at somebody? If that were a firearm, the little girl (and possibly others) would be dead. Lack of education and enforcement were the issue, not what was written on the box.

    – Orin

  3. Larry Pirrone says:

    My parents gave me a BB gun with absolutely no supervison or input. Scary. I am lucky I did not hve an accident. Later when I wanted a .22 to go hunting with I had to take and pass the NRA hunter safey course. It was required at that time in Califronia to get a hunting permit. Those lessons are with me today over 50 years later. Sadly, I see “experienced” shooters violate those safety principals. Didn’t our VP shoot someone on a hunt?

    The responsiblity lies with the parents who give their kids guns of any kind. Unfortunatley I think many of those parents have little or no experince with guns and have nothing to teach their kids. If I were going to give my child an air gun today I would enroll them in the NRA hunter safety course (if it sitll exists) even though I understand gun safety. That third party influence is very valuable.

    Larry Pirrone

  4. Bob Todrick says:

    The unfortunate thing is that you are preaching to the converted.
    The people who need to see this…the parents who willy nilly buy their kids b.b. guns, violent video games and other age inappropriate materials, without an ounce of supervision (or really not even knowing what is in the packaging they are purchasing) will never read your statement.
    I too feel sorry for Dotti.
    You can mandate tougher restrictions…even outlaw airguns for children…but you’ll never get rid of ignorant parents who don’t participate in their childrens lives.

  5. Conor says:

    This is unfortunate. Great response though.

    p.s. Are you going to announce who won the drawing tomorrow?

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I will announce the winner of the contest on next Monday.

  6. Clay says:

    Jock, remarkable restraint in your response. Everything she has cited is a clear failure on the parents part. Bottom line, if something bad happens to your child, it’s your fault.


  7. Robert from Arcade says:

    Jock : I also praise you for your restraint and patience with Dottie , given that the situation she has presented could be a anti-gun trollling attempt. That aside, I agree that what was alleged to have happened, is a terrible tradgedy,and my heart goes out to the victum. Perhaps,she should consult a lawyer to extract money from that boy’s stupid parents for her son’s injury. I agree with the other poster’s comments that the thing ,in this case an airgun, is not the problem. It could have been a golfball that struck the boy in the eye. The results would have been just as bad. The real problem is that you cannot cure stupid, or legistlate morality or ethics. Responsibility is the real issue, and in this entitlement driven, progressive, and permissive society that many of these folks have reached maturity in. Where someone else besides a responsible set of parents is looking after their kids,( and many of these didn’t have responsible parents themselves),just what can we expect will continue to happen? The logical conculsion will be that our priveleges and rights will be taken from us by the nanny who is striving control all of us to protect the least common denominator, Robert.

  8. bob suga says:

    Dottie has an obvious political agenda and like many of her persuasion, feel free to fabricate statistics. Stating that 30,000 children are injured by guns each year is pure fantasy and exaggeration. I am a surgeon and have worked in a level 2 trauma center for 25 years. In that period of time I have seen one teenager who accidentally discharged a BB gun into his palm causing minor injuries. There is no literature anywhere to support such a statement.

    1. Orin says:

      That seems like a crazy high number to me also, but I wonder how many different types of devices are lumped into the “airgun” category, or whatever statistic returned results for 30,000 injured children per year. Pellet guns, BB guns, Airsoft guns, paintball guns, blowguns, and maybe slingshots and rocks to boot.

      Statistics are easily manipulated, and even if somebody isn’t intentionally doing so, they are at the mercy of the person who obtained the data. When somebody uses a statistics to make or prove a point, they have usually searched for the largest (or smallest) number they can find to help validate the claim. It’s human nature. So I don’t blame Dottie for quoting what seems like an inflated number, and I don’t know that she has what I’d call a political agenda. But I do think if she was more intimate with guns and gun safety before the accident, she might now be preaching the safety element and furthering education/training efforts than lobbying for stiffer restrictions. Unfortunately, post-accident, it is very unlikely she will ever change her viewpoint.

      It’s comforting to know that you – being a trauma surgeon – have seen so few airgun-related injuries. Somewhere, somebody must be doing something right!

      – Orin

  9. Michael says:

    I agree with the surgeon…I am have OR scrubbing backround and I have not seen any (in 6 yrs) BB/Pellet injuries. Also, I have been looking into getting a Gamo CFX .177 and all the sites have the same warning: Not intended for persons under the age of 16…Not a toy…Adult supervision required…Point in safe direction…and many other warnings of the same. There are too many people buying their childern Airsoft guns and they are as fast as some of the cheaper model BB/Pellet guns. I am one to say that parents are to be leaders, teachers, and the conscience of their childern. There is no warning that will have the impression as the one where a Mother or Father hands a child their first Air Pistol/Rifle with instructions, demostrations, and constant supervision (a year or more). Then when the child is old/mature enough to handle weapon they have a grasp on the nature of the weapon. I know this from experience and that experience carried me through Iraq without incident. I am sorry for the misfortune of other childern, I have empathy. I do understand that not all parents are good parents, but to stop sales or make it harder to buy weapons in any nature only regresses our progress as a “free” nation. Education not condemnation!

  10. nyhunter says:

    its not guns, rather a lack of parenting!!! my father actually gave me a shotgun before an airgun for the sole reason that he wanted me to realize that no gun is a “toy” if it launches a projectile its dangerous, and we as adults are responsible for teaching our children to handle potentially dangerous machines with responsibility and common sense. its too easy these days to point a finger at manufacturers. its not their fault you didnt raise your child right!!! my son has been shooting since the age of 5 and while he was always supervised i’m now confident that i could have turned him loose and trusted him by age 7 even though i didnt. he’s now 19 and i would be completely confident with him having my back in a combat situation. teach your children! that why you are the parent… to teach

    1. Jock Elliott says:

      NYhunter, I agree.

  11. Dotti Workman says:

    Wow, just googled my name and found this long blog. I hope my now 13 year old son never comes across this. As my mouth is hanging open, I see my desires to make sense of my sons tragedy didn’t offer up any suggestions other than blaming me. Looking back, I wasn’t there. he was visiting my sister in Tennessee..I couldn’t have prevented it, and politically speaking, you can’t regulate ignorant people..I’m speaking from my experience as a single mother and a consumer. No one found it appalling that the Walmart sales clerk offered no caution, or safety instructions. When you sell an item that causes harm you can’t assume all consumers are educated on its use. Mostly why is this conversation which is about a child and a BB gun turned into something political..Children don’t have the right to bear arms. One last note, when I bought my second son, a much wanted paint ball gun, the clerk insisted I also buy all protective gear and gave me a listing of pre approved ranges to shoot. That’s what my post was about, it’s not difficult for retailers to be overly cautious and assume their consumers have zero knowledge of their product

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I suspect that you read my blog too quickly. If you re-read carefully, you’ll see that never at any time did I blame you or your son. Neither of you is at fault.

      But I stand by my original premise: “But when it comes to accountability, I agree with you. That accountability, however, doesn’t fall on the manufacturers and the dealers. It falls instead on the shooter and (in the case of underage shooters) the shooter’s parents.” It wasn’t up to you to prevent the tragedy; it was up to the shooter and his parents. In my original blog, that is why I suggested a conversation with the parents of the shooter was necessary.

      The safety cautions that you want are there: all over the outside of airgun boxes and on the instructional inserts. Those cautions are there (in part) because airguns manufacturers know that big box retail clerks rarely known anything about the products they sell. As to the paintball clerk you dealt with — good for him (or her)! I was once asked to testify in a lawsuit in which a paintballer had inadvertently shot his friend in the eye when the match was over and they had their protective gear off. The plaintiff wanted to blame the manufacturer of the paintball gun. I declined to participate. If the gun had been pointed in a safe direction when their protective gear was off, the accident could not have happened.

      With respect, I also disagree that this is a political issue. It’s common sense and personal responsibility issue. The parents should have supervised the shooter. Someone obviously read enough of the instructions included with the gun to load and shoot it, but they ignored the safety warnings and instructions that were right there in front of them, and unfortunately your son paid the price. My guess is that they would ignore any warnings offered by a retailer as well.

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