Some years ago, two teenage boys were fooling around with a Daisy pump-up air rifle. At some point in their interaction, they pumped the gun, shot it, and nothing came out. They did this a few more times, with the same result: nothing came out. Then one of the boys decided that he would pump the gun, point it at his friend’s head, and pull the trigger to poof his friend’s hair. This time, something did come out, and the victim suffered brain damage.
A lawsuit ensued, and in 2001 the case made its way to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, propelled by the idea that the design of the gun was somehow defective. A settlement was proposed, and comments were solicited from the general public.
While doing some research on the Internet, I accidentally stumbled upon the comments I submitted to CPSC. It struck me that they are as applicable today as they were over a decade ago.
Below are my comments in their entirety.
“CPSC settlement comment
As a fulltime writer who has tested and written extensively about airguns over the past several years, I find the CPSC/Daisy settlement (indeed, the entire action) an affront to human reason and a travesty of what the CPSC is supposed to do. This settlement flies in the face of common sense, personal responsibility and the fundamental issues of product safety.
1. Common sense. No one would argue for even a moment that it is a tragedy that a young man has been disabled for life. But the root cause for the injury was not that the airgun malfunctioned. The airgun did exactly what it is supposed to do: launch a projectile. The root cause of this misfortune is that the other individual involved violated the first law of gun safety: never point a gun (airgun or otherwise) at anything that you don’t want perforated, broken or destroyed. (The second law of gun safety is that all guns are loaded. The third: even unloaded guns are loaded.) This individual not only pointed the gun in an unsafe direction (at his friend), but further chose to pull the trigger when doing so. His intent – to make a joke by “poofing” his friend’s hair – is irrelevant. He performed a wantonly unsafe act. He should not be surprised by the results.
To assert that “. . . Children will be children. They grow up pointing toy guns at each other. To expect them not to point BB guns at each other when they believe they are empty of BB’s is to expect too much” raises four key issues. First, airguns are, emphatically, not toys. They are guns and should be treated with all the respect due any firearm. Children who do not understand the difference should not be allowed to use them. That brings us to the second point, responsible parents, guardians or caretakers will assess their children’s ability to understand and deal with the responsibility of properly handling airguns. Very often adult supervision is necessary to make sure that a child understands and observes proper gun safety. Daisy is specific in its age recommendations for its products. Third, (see above) the rules of gun safety dictate that all guns are to be treated as if they are loaded, even when everyone “knows” that a gun is unloaded. There are no exceptions. If a child or teenager doesn’t understand this, it would be inappropriate to allow them to use an airgun. Fourth, let’s apply this same line of reasoning to another type of product. Have you ever watched teenaged boys playing automobile-related video games? Spectacular crashes and reckless driving are common. Is it too much to expect them to do otherwise when they get their driver’s licenses? I think not.
2. Personal responsibility. The proper use of products is the responsibility of the individual using them. People who wish to drive automobiles are expected to learn how – through various means such as parents, driving schools, or driver’s education. If you choose to run over your spouse, as a woman in New York did, it is scarcely the fault of the automobile manufacturer. It is a blatant misuse of the product. Pointing a gun at someone whom you do not intend to injure is likewise a blatant misuse of the product.
3. The fundamental issues of product safety. According to its website, “The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” The key word is unreasonable. An airgun is a projectile launcher. If you point it at someone and pull the trigger, you should expect that a projectile will be launched at that person. Serious injury or death may result. It is completely unreasonable to expect that anything else will happen. Protecting against this sort of incident – in which the product functioned properly but was unconscionably misused – is not within the purview of the CPSC. Further, it is a waste of the Commission’s scarce resources and the taxpayer’s money.
Jock (John) Elliott”
As airgunners, let’s strive always to handle our air rifles and air pistols with utmost safety to teach our children, friends, and relatives to always do the same.
Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.
— Jock Elliott