George W. Bush once shot at his brother with a BB gun. But BB guns aren’t what they used to be, says the Washington Post. A recent spate of BB gun sniping in Northern Virginia and a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics attributing about 21,000 injuries annually to BB guns paints a different picture. Kraig Troxell of the Loudoun County, Va., sheriff’s office says that, “Some of these firearms are sold at traditional toy stores, but they aren’t toys.” Loudoun County last week charged four teenage boys with malicious wounding after a BB gun was fired into a crowd of 20 teenagers on Halloween night. Using a BB rifle equipped with a scope and powered by compressed carbon dioxide propulsion, they hit four teenagers, including a 14-year-old girl who was struck “less than an inch from her eye,” officials say.
The attack came within weeks of other area incidents that are giving BB guns a bad name: A 10-year-old boy was struck in the head while playing in his yard, a 27-year-old woman was fired on from a van, a man was shot in the eye and more than a dozen car windshields and businesses’ windows were shot out. This is a contrast to the ’40s, ’50s, even ’60s, when BB guns were a rite of passage, held in the same esteem as a good pocketknife.