BB guns not toys; All firearm safety rules apply

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - A four-year-old Carson City boy is clinging to life after being shot in the head by his 13-year-old brother with a BB gun.

BB gun.

The incident might prompt parents to take another look at this gun. The young boy was apparently shot in the head by his brother at their home in an apartment complex off Airport Road, according to the Carson City Sheriff's Office.

Taken to Carson Tahoe Hospital, he was immediately rushed to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento where he's listed in critical, but stable condition. The BB apparently penetrated his skull and was lodged in his brain.

The extent of the injury may surprise some, but medical experts say it shouldn't. A child's skull at that age is thin, especially around the temple, and there's ample evidence a shot from one of these guns can inflict a serious, even fatal, injury.

Statistics and case studies in medical journals aren't hard to find. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics says "At close range bb's and pellets fired from these air power guns.....can cause tissue damage similar to that inflicted by....bullets fired from small caliber handguns."

Scores of injuries are reported each year, serious injuries and even deaths. In one study, "Three of 10 children with intracranial injuries died. Two had long-term neurologic deficits."

More than three million of these guns are sold every year in the U-S. Many, if not most, end up in the hands of children.

Many decades ago I was one of those kids. Like Ralphie in 'A Christmas Story,' I desperately wanted and got a Daisy Red Ryder carbine for Christmas. I was growing up in rural Nevada where guns were part of the culture. At five years old I lacked the strength to cock it myself. So when I had it I was always with my father. I spent a lot of time with my father and learned at an early age, the important basics of gun safety.

These days there are other opportunities. If your child has one of these weapons you might introduce him to someone like Rich Knight. Knight is a 4-H leader and instructor in the proper handling of these guns. His lessons are more formal than I got, the details the same.

"Anytime they're handling a gun they need to have a parent or an adult with them. We always teach them when they're handling them, finger off the trigger. We don't aim at our pet cat, our brother, our sister, the house or cars. The only thing we aim it at is something we intend to shoot."

Those rules are the same as if you were learning to shoot what you might think of as a real gun and that's the point.

"They shouldn't be given to a youth as a toy. It should always be considered a firearm that can cause bodily injury."