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BB gun bill requires minors to have adult around when shooting off property

Young boys are frequently the victims when it comes to airgun injuries. A bill in the Michigan House would require minors to have an adult with them when firing a BB, pellet or paintball gun outside of their home and yard. (Shutterstock)
  • A House bill would require adult supervision for minors who use BB or similar guns off their property
  • Democrats say nearly 10,000 Americans are injured by BB or pellet guns annually, the majority are minors
  • BB guns, like the Daisy Red Ryder from ‘A Christmas Story,’ are a learning tool for many children first experiencing firearms

Deven Free, a 12-year-old boy from Galesburg, was playing with BB guns with friends outside two years ago when he was shot in the head. The BB entered just above his right eye and lodged in his brain

Deven was in and out of hospitals for more than a year before dying from his injuries last July.


His tragic story is what prompted state Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, to introduce House Bill 4184 in early March. The bill would require people under 18 using pneumatic weapons such as BB or pellet guns outside their homes and yards to have adult supervision.


Pneumatic weapons include any firearm that expels a BB or pellet by a spring or air, including not just BB guns, but pellet and paintball guns. According to a press release from Michigan House Democrats, nearly 10,000 Americans are injured by BB or pellet guns every year, with a majority of these being injuries suffered by minors. 

A 2018 study in the journal Pediatrics found that roughly 10 percent of U.S. childhood eye injuries suffered in sports or recreational activities were caused by so-called “nonpowder guns.” The victims tended to be boys of about Deven’s age and the injuries tended to be more serious, causing nearly half the hospitalizations, the study found.     

Rogers, a physical therapist by profession, told Bridge Michigan that after hearing about Deven’s case, she began to investigate laws surrounding BB gun usage in Michigan, and was dismayed to find that, in 2015, state restrictions were removed.

Prior to 2015, under Public Act 186 a minor caught using a pneumatic weapon without adult supervision outside of their home or yard could be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, or a maximum fine of $500. The act was repealed in 2015. While the current language of the new bill is ambiguous, the sponsor said its intent is to place responsibility on the adult who failed to supervise, not the child. 

Rogers’ bill seeks to reinstate the original restrictions, something Rogers said Deven’s family expressed their support for when the measure was originally introduced in 2022.

Rogers said the bill is not only about restricting minors, but about raising awareness of the dangers of these weapons.


“I think there’s misconceptions that they’re toys, or that they’re not that serious,” Rogers said. “You know, the joke from ‘The Christmas Story,’ the ‘You’ll shoot your eye out’ type of thing. And I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that BB guns today are very different from those of the 1960’s. They’re more powerful, and can be much more dangerous.”

It’s true that today’s BB guns are different. In fact, the Daisy Red Ryder gun  requested in the “A Christmas Story” scene, shot at a velocity ranging from 280-350 feet per second. Today’s Daisy models marketed to teens 16 and older can shoot upwards of 800 feet per second. (One study found that the required velocity of a BB to cut through human skin is around 330 feet per second.)

Brenden Boudreau, executive director of Great Lakes Gun Rights, which describes itself as a “no compromise” defender of the 2nd Amendment, recalled starting out as a child on a Daisy Red Ryder — a gun produced by a company founded in Plymouth. The pneumatic gun was a learning tool for him.

“I started shooting a BB gun when I was five or six years old,” said Boudreau, who grew up in Tawas City. “It really is a good way to learn. There’s no recoil, it’s a lighter gun, it’s something easy for youth to learn on.”

In his view, accidents involving these weapons are the fault of the user, or more accurately, the user’s parents.

“This (bill) is a solution in search of a problem,” Boudreau said. “It’s not that there (aren’t) accidents that happen. 

“There are obviously irresponsible people that are going to not be responsible and allow their children to do dangerous things with not just BB guns, but with knives, cars, and all sorts of dangerous things.”

The bill is introduced at a time when a now-Democratic majority in the Michigan Legislature has passed a string of laws to tighten regulations on firearms. In March, Gretchen Whitmer signed bills establishing universal background checks and safe storage requirements in Michigan. And she recently signed a ‘red-flag’ law, allowing courts to order firearms removed from people considered a danger to themselves or others. 

But Rogers said her bill isn’t a part of that.

“I think (House Bill 4184) is a little bit different, because it’s not trying to limit or take someone’s firearm away,” Rogers said. “It’s more about that adult supervision piece, because children might not have the best decision-making capacity.”

To Boudreau, the bill is similar to other bills in the legislature that are talking about firearms, primarily because to him, the solutions they are proposing aren’t the right ones.

“I think that there are obviously great societal issues that we are struggling with as a nation,” Boudreau said. “We have violence, we have mental health issues, and I think all of these solutions kind of take away the personal responsibility aspect. “They are attempting to put a Band-Aid on the bigger issues.”

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