While few can forget the memorable scene in the 1983 classic “A Christmas Story” in which a young boy’s mother warns him that he will “shoot his eye out” with his prized Red Ryder bb gun, no one is laughing at the spate of injuries an updated variety of this “toy” has inflicted on American youth. The 2015 version of the Red Ryder is a pressurized airgun that fires 6-millimeter colored plastic pellets at speeds greater than 350 feet per second. Unlike actual guns, airguns require no gun powder and thus enjoy far less regulation than their firearm counterparts.
Guns’ increased popularity means more injuries
According to a recent study by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine, there has been a 500% leap in the number of eye injuries over the course of just two years. This alarming trend is largely the result of the increasing popularity of airguns, in addition to similar devices such as paintball and BB guns. In 2012 alone, 3,161 children sustained eye injuries in accidents involving pressurized airguns. According to the Stanford study, Airsoft guns, which are specialized airguns designed for a game with the same name, are largely responsible for the jump in accidents, with injury rates from paintball guns remaining far lower.
The airgun eye injury epidemic has not spared Colorado youth, with children throughout the state wounded while playing with the devices. In one recent incident, a Fort Collins 13-year-old was shot in the eye at close range while at a friend’s house. The pellet tore through his eyeball and damaged the retina in two places. To address the injury, the victim needed three surgeries, the first of which was required to extract the pellet. According to the boy’s doctor, the victim’s vision is most likely irreparably damaged.
Putting the brakes on eye injuries
The doctors who performed the aforementioned Stanford study, published in the Journal of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, stressed that many Airsoft gun injuries are actually preventable. The study’s abstract intones, “[T]he potential for ocular injury from Airsoft guns is great and protective equipment such as protective eyewear should be considered mandatory during operation.”
Victims of preventable injuries deserve caring legal advocates that can identify and pursue the parties responsible for their accidents.