Article at a Glance

  • Study finds permanent eye injuries—including eye removal—not an uncommon outcome when children play with pellet style guns.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics and toy gun manufacturers stress the need for constant supervision and approved eye protection.
  • Toy guns can be confused for real guns and should be treated with the same safety rules.

A newly released study from Children’s Medical Center Dallas and Dr. Nina Mizuki Fitzgerald reveals just how dangerous airsoft, paintball, and BB guns can be in the hands of kids. The study, which examined medical records at the hospital over a five year period, included 288 children injured with pellet guns.

The average patient treated for these gun injuries was just eleven—two years younger than the minimum age suggested by most manufacturers.

Study Findings:

  • 75% of injuries were BB gun related.
  • 25% of patients had to undergo surgery for the injury.
  • Nearly 45% required a foreign body be removed.
  • 10% were left with a functional deficit.
  • Seven children’s injuries were so severe, surgeons had to remove the eye.

The takeaway is, according to Dr. Fitzgerald, that children using these guns should always be supervised and always wear eye protection.

For families that choose to play with pellet guns, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents require kids wear eye protection that meets federal safety standards. Further, they advocate playing only on designated commercial fields where safety rules are enforced.

Manufacturers and resellers offer these additional tips:

  • Face masks extend protection to the cheeks, ears, and teeth and are a better alternative to goggles.
  • Adults should test all eyewear before it is used in play by shooting at it from a range of 5-10 feet.
  • Play with the rule that any removal of safety equipment during a game disqualifies the player.
  • Set paintball guns to shoot at or less than 280 feet per second.
  • Use barrel plugs, as safety mechanisms are known to fail and are often not properly used.
  • Keep barrel plugs in place until all masks are on and, after play, put all barrel plugs in or let an adult collect guns before masks come off.

Another point manufacturers take pains to stress is that these guns are highly realistic and may be confused for the real thing by law enforcement. The orange tip denoting them as toys is a federal requirement and should never be colored over or removed. Finally, they suggest toy guns be handled with all the same safety precautions as real guns, including never using with them on public property like parks or schools.

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Paintball, airsoft, and BB guns less safe than believed

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