BB guns, police shootings, and liability...

Alphecca notes a story where a police officer shot a young man with a bb gun, thinking that the gun was real and pointed at him, and asks whether there should be liability for the manufacturer (in making their product look very similar to a real firearm).

First, it's undisputed that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act does not protect anything that isn't a firearm, and BB guns clearly do not qualify.  Alphecca notes that he considers them weapons regardless; I agree that some certainly qualify as weapons but I feel they are more closely categorized as something else.  While a bb gun can cause serious injury, if a BB happens to hit a vulnerable spot, wounds from one are rarely life-threatening.

Regardless of whether or not a bb gun is a weapon, however, there should be no liability for the manufacturer.   BB guns closely resembling real firearms have legitimate uses (training, for example).  If criminals use their resemblance to real firearms for intimidation, they have only themselves to blame when the police or an armed citizen don't bother to extend the benefit of the doubt.  And if an innocent kid wants to act like a criminal, using his BB gun, he needs to find better role models... or accept the potentially fatal consequences of his decision not to.

Indeed, the police officer in the case Alphecca describes might well have a case against the deceased for negligent actions leading to emotional distress, lost work, and required counseling.  After all, when you threaten a police officer with what he perceives (reasonably) to be a firearm, the result is entirely predictable.  I'm not that litigious, of course, but the case could be made -- and probably would be made, were it ever to be economically feasible to do so.

But under no circumstances should the manufacturer be liable.  Moreover, a smart manufacturer would be wise to avoid creating a similarity between their BB guns -- which are capable of causing serious injury -- and similar devices which are entirely toys, such as cap guns, which (at least when I was a kid) offered bright orange plastic barrel plugs so that it was obvious the "gun" was not real.  BB guns may not be weapons, in my opinion, but they are definitely potentially dangerous, and should be recognized as such.

This entry was published Thu Nov 17 20:57:39 CST 2005 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2005-11-17 20:57:39.0. [Tweet]

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