You're Most Certainly Not Getting a BB Gun, Ya Dope.
August 7, 2013 4:46 AM   Subscribe

Kinetic 3 is turning 15 this month and all his little heart wants is a BB gun, because he and his friends like to make war movies (or something). Every single inner instinct I have automatically says, "No. Not gonna happen, pal," because of all the obvious reasons (no guns in my house, what the hell do you need a gun for, someone's gonna lose an eye, etc.). My question is: is there any reason my kid should be allowed to get a BB gun? Am I missing something?
posted by kinetic to Human Relations (63 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
No. And no.
posted by Salamander at 4:52 AM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]

Sure there is, when they're 10 or thereabouts. It is ridiculous to even contemplate it at his age. Absolutely not - it's a babyish fantasy.

I have a BB gun (don't laugh). I've always loved shooting. It's a wonderful sport that requires discipline and focus and poses great challenges in which you can really see improvement. I tend to like all things involving targets - darts, archery, bocce - and I see shooting as very consistent with that. I've also shot skeet, which is great fun, but I don't own my own shotgun for it, I've just rented from clubs. I swear if I had thought about it I would have seriously loved to be a biathlete.

Of course I was not brought up to shoot at living things (barring hunting which I don't do anyway) or to use guns in play, like "making war movies" or playing cops and robbers.

But there is nothing inherently wrong with target shooting - especially on a safely controlled piece of land and with a nonlethal firearm like a BB gun. It can be a really satisfying sport and one that offers the opportunity to compete and develop skill. The trick is that the parents have to set guidelines and standards for when and how the gun is used, and that when most kids start idealizing the idea of guns, the ideas they have in mind ("All right, Black Bart, you'll get yours") are not responsible uses.
posted by Miko at 4:53 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

all his little heart wants

That's reason enough for me (but I'm a soft touch).

Although I'm hugely anti-gun, I think denying him will make him feel resentful and left out. At 15 the burning urge is to be THE SAME and if his friends are doing stuff that he can't then he's not going to be happy.

Personally, I think you just need really strong boundaries - when and where it can be used, stored, etc - with clear and enforced consequences if these aren't followed. Giving him repeated messages about the dangers of guns, and the importance of responsibility, might be more real-world-useful than banning it altogether.
posted by billiebee at 4:55 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wonder if there's a gun safety class you could sign him up for, maybe something put on by the local PD? Look around.

It's kind of weird to me that a 15 year old wants a BB gun (you sure it's not a paintball gun he wants?), since they're generally toys for younger kids, but whatever. Still important to know proper gun safety (I remember my dad lecturing at my brother and me for being reckless with toy (true toy, plastic, no BBs or caps or anything) guns) and if you're not equipped to teach it yourself, having someone else do it might be a good choice. It would set your mind at ease, at least.
posted by phunniemee at 5:02 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

My kids have BB guns. I think it has taught them responsibility and that getting shot with a BB hurts. To me, the ownership of the gun wasn't the issue, education about gun safety, appropriate use and limitations were of paramount importance. I was actually more concerned with allowing them to buy paintball guns because those are used most often to specifically target humans. (Although I now know that some kids play paintball like games with BB guns and accept the bruises.)

I would allow the gun but only if you are willing and able to spend the time to (learn) and educate. If it is just an "Ok, you wore me out, here is the BB gun" you will regret it if only because you will be constantly worried about him. I would also make him pay for it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:02 AM on August 7, 2013

Take him to a gun range instead. I had a bb gun as a teenager and used it for many nefarious dumb-teen deeds. 2 hours in a gun range would have fulfilled my destructive urges in a safe way.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:03 AM on August 7, 2013 [17 favorites]

I had a slingshot and a bow and arrow (nothing spectacular...just a recurve) when I was a kid, and I am sure if I had made a big deal about a BB gun--or even a .22--my dad would have been willing to set me up.

BUT--I was the type of kid that would have followed every rule related to said dangerous item to a T. And if I hadn't, it would have been taken away. Also, I lived in the woods.

And I am guessing he might want an AirSoft gun.
posted by chiefthe at 5:07 AM on August 7, 2013

One positive reason with getting a BB gun isn't because of the danger it poses now, but to potentially prevent danger in the future. A little kid can use a BB Gun without a huge amount of risk of death or dismemberment -- and that time can be used to learn proper gun safety and handling, trigger discipline, don't point it at anything you don't want shot, store it properly, etc. Then, some years down the road when your 22-year-old Kinetic3 is in a position to hold a real gun for some reason, he's neither terrified of it nor risking truly catastrophic failure when he shoots it.

One problem we discovered when a kid wanted a BB gun -- these days, laws are so restrictive there's not many places you can shoot one other than a gun range with a BB gun lane. Yeah, people get them and shoot in their back yard anyway, but we don't want to encourage "well, the law says this about guns, including air or spring powered guns, but we'll secretly break that law because we want to have fun."
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:07 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Teenagers who want things that are expensive and/or dangerous had to make a good case for them in my house. "War movies" is not a good case, you can easily make a movie without an actual working gun. Ask him if he'd be interested in a class on special effects or CGI, and if he says no, he wants the BB gun for some other reason.
posted by juniperesque at 5:17 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Wanted to add that he's heavily into music and I already got him a NuMark MixTrack Pro II. This is what he wants to ask other people to get him.

I appreciate the responses but for real, this kid doesn't need a gun. And I just checked the state law...I'd need to be with him at all times. So no war movies.
posted by kinetic at 5:19 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

He can learn the safe use of a gun properly, or he can learn the not safe use of a gun on the streets or in the woods. Either way, a 15 year old that is interested is going to get his hands on a gun.

But I agree that a BB gun at 15 seems a little odd. I think you should talk to him further to understand why he wants it. If his friends are running around the woods shooting BBs at each other (something we did at 11 or 12) you have a good reason to say no. If he wants to learn to shoot, see my first sentence.
posted by COD at 5:26 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was a teen I had an AirSoft gun for movie purposes and, well, shooting at my friends. I'm not a parent, but as a generally anti-gun type of guy, I think 15 is old enough for a kid to know the difference between a real gun and playing with a toy.

I think AirSoft is the way to go because, let's face it, teenage boys do stupid things and the level of damage he could do with an AirSoft gun is pretty low - plus they look real enough to be fun as movie props.
posted by Think_Long at 5:26 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

If what he wants is a prop to film a movie, then I would do some investigation into getting that and not a gun for shooting.

Prop guns can either be real guns that fire blanks (clearly not going to buy) or replicas that have no firing capabilities at all (might work perfectly well for your son's movie making purposes) or non guns that make noise, but don't fire anything.

Check 'em out

In any case the use of violence on stage and screen is a skill that people learn from certified trainers. He should still have rules for using a prop gun. You could also give him a stage combat class so he could learn how to simulate violence safely and realistically.
posted by brookeb at 5:28 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a little surprised that people think it's weird that a 15 year old would want to run around the woods and shoot at his friends. What the hell did y'all do when you were 15, read safety manuals?
posted by Think_Long at 5:29 AM on August 7, 2013 [26 favorites]

FWIW, he's a VERY young 15 year old.
posted by kinetic at 5:33 AM on August 7, 2013

OH for heaven's sake - I thought you said he was "3 going on 15." Never mind what I said about age.

His age is appropriate. His motivation and naivete isn't. He needs good education on handling guns of any kind and a responsible, structured context to learn in. If you don't know much about guns, you can't provide that context. So I agree, get him involved with a shooting club or take him to open house days at a rifle range.
posted by Miko at 5:40 AM on August 7, 2013 [10 favorites]

15 seems a little old for a BB gun. Cub Scouts can earn a BB gun belt loop/patch, and they earn it by learning how to shoot it at a little range from a qualified instructor. A couple of my sons have done it, and one of them enjoyed it enough to ask for (and received) a BB gun similar to the one they used at camp. He used it in the back yard on cans and paper targets until it broke and that was the end of it.

I will mention, though, that the by the time the thing broke (it as an inexpensive Daisy model), he was pretty damned accurate with the thing. I was (and still am) a stickler for safety and he's a calm, level-headed kid and I knew I didn't have anything to worry about. Some of his siblings, on the other hand...hell no.

If he's genuinely interested in target shooting, there are air rifles that are a hell of a lot of fun to shoot, and there is a whole competitive program (up to the Olympic level) for 10-meter shooting. Daughter of a friend of ours does 10-meter rifle and she's apparently moving up the ranks pretty quickly.
posted by jquinby at 5:47 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

If he wants one that bad then my suggestion is that you encourage him to save up for it. He's old enough to be buying things he wants and learning to save for it. If this is the first time he's ever saved up for something, then you will also be teaching him some nice life-long skills in the process.
posted by royalsong at 5:47 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a BB gun at 15 and used it without supervision. I also had an incredibly close call where someone shot me in the face at point blank range, and the BB glanced off the bone below my eye. I was less than 1 cm away from severe damage to my eye. You'd think that would have scared me to the point where I never would want to be around one again, but teenagers are really not that great at risk assessment.

Running around with a gun that looks realistic, whether or not it fires any kind of projectile at any speed, is something that you will really have to consider based on where you live. Even though I did this as a teenager and lived to tell the tale, I would definitely think twice about letting my kids do it.
posted by dubold at 5:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

BB guns are pre-internet. Get some good training, spend enough that if it ends up in the closet you sell it for near what you paid for it; and y'know; if he beats the crap out of it and it ends up splintered and scratched; well son. Responsibility.

Pride of Ownership and responsibility.

The used M853 would probably sell for more at most gun shows than CMP is selling it for...

And as others have mentioned; best a child learn from a parent and professionals than from run amok peer group playing redcoats and patriots.
posted by buzzman at 6:00 AM on August 7, 2013

I appreciate the responses but for real, this kid doesn't need a gun. And I just checked the state law...I'd need to be with him at all times.

It sounds like you've already made up your mind. What answer are you hoping to find here?

It is ok to tell him he can't have one. Just be able to give him a reason.
posted by phunniemee at 6:00 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

One reason to not get it for him is that people who see teenage boys running around with a "gun" may come to a tragically wrong conclusion.
posted by rtha at 6:04 AM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]

If the BB gun laws in your area are that restrictive, print 'em out and give the kid a copy of the laws and say, "if you get a BB gun, it can only be used lawfully -- you lose the gun the first time you violate the laws regarding guns, including BB guns." If he wants a BB gun in order to be a good marksman, it won't faze him. If he wants it because he wants to just go shoot things whenever he feels like it, then the laws (which are rightly designed to prevent such a thing) may be a discouragement, he may decide a BB gun is more trouble than it's worth.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:19 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

No, there is no good reason to get him (or let others get him) a BB gun if you object to having one in your house. There is also no reason that you need to negotiate with him, feel guilty about saying no, or give any other reasoning than your objection to the endorsement of guns-as-toys (which you've presumably already explained).

You are his parent, it's your job to decide which of the things that he "sets his heart on" are not OK for him at this point in his life. By saying no, you are doing a good job, and that's true regardless of what he says, his friends say, or even what YOU might think several years from now.
posted by Wylla at 6:26 AM on August 7, 2013 [12 favorites]

A bb gun is not good for movies: doesn't look like a real gun, and you really don't want something that can be accidentally loaded. And, the first time I shot one, I almost put my eye out (just like the god damn movie), BBs are hardened steel, they ricochet off any hard surface. If your son really wants to make movies, then have him watch this tutorial about a kid making a very realistic M3 sub-machinegun prop (there are tons of prop making videos, blogs, forums, etc online). Then get him a dremel tool and a hot glue gun for his birthday.
posted by 445supermag at 6:26 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had BB guns growing up, and I can honestly say that it had absolutely no lasting impact on my life one way or the other. I think that the pocket knives I had over the years have been more dangerous than the BB guns. In fact, there was the same rule for both: if I pointed either one at someone they'd get taken away. If he can't give you a convincing reason he needs a BB gun, then there isn't one. In the end if you don't want something in your house, don't let it in your house.

I say all this as a guy who both owns guns and shoots them.
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:29 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Where I grew up, the 'friends' getting shot at weren't friends, they were the kids being bullied. Maybe they shot their friends, too, but kids were certainly shot without their consent. I'm kind of shocked at the number of people suggesting allowing your kid to shoot people with a BB gun is good clean fun.

It's possible that he has some reasonable desire for a BB gun, whether it's target shooting or making films (which, frankly, is pushing my boundaries of 'reasonable'--a BB gun seems like a stupid choice), and is afraid to fully admit it for fear of your disapproval. This is certainly something I would have done as at 15. If you think this is what's going on, you can try to get the real reason out of him and make your decision then. But saying "Guns are not toys, even BB guns. I'll look into going to a range if you want, but we're not having one in the house." is totally reasonable.
posted by hoyland at 6:33 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

(I actually generally wouldn't take my hypothetical kid to a range either (I've been and have since realised I'm not okay with handling guns), but it sounds like your son may be around guns (BB or not) at his friends' houses, and I'd think about it in that sort of situation.)
posted by hoyland at 6:36 AM on August 7, 2013

A traditional small BB gun is, in fact, what you usually give a ten year old. But if you've been pretty strongly anti-gun for a while, it's quite possible that it's taken him this long to ask for the lowest model that he could think of that might not bother you. It is more likely, however, that he is thinking of an Airsoft gun, but wants you to think of a traditional BB gun when you are making your decision

If he wants to make war movies with his friend, an Airsoft rifle is the cheapest and most effective way to make realistic war movies. This is not unusual if they don't have to worry about the sound effects. Here is an Airsoft AR-15, which looks extremely realistic, for $30. A "rubber duck", or replica rifle used for training and such, is far less realistic and much more expensive. There's also the option of buying him one without the ammo if he just wants it for a film. Or buying it and making it inoperable. (memail me if you want tips on how to safely do this.)

FWIW, the shooting at friends is something that happens. I was in the military, and there was a short period of time where everyone was shooting BB guns at everyone else for the funsies at a remote outstation.

If you get it, make sure you familiarize yourself with the actual power. Some BB guns made these days are much more powerful than their predecessors, and can actually hurt people and should not be shot at others.
posted by corb at 6:40 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd say no, but take he and his friends to play laser tag or paintball anyway to get the "let's shoot at each other" urge out of his system. For a few weeks, at least.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:41 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd like to chime in here once again to echo the folks suggesting taking him to a gun range instead of buying him a BB gun. He may get there, fire a gun, and decide, "wow, this really isn't what I thought it was, this isn't for me."

That was pretty much the experience of my cousin when he came to a gun range with us (at age 19). He was all excited and rarin' to go, ready to do some target practice, excited about shooting a gun in theory. But when he got there, and actually had the gun in his hand, and actually fired it a few times, he put it down, stepped back, and said, "uh, I need to uh, make a call. I'm going to go wait in the car," and stayed in the car the rest of the afternoon. Just wasn't for him.
posted by phunniemee at 6:42 AM on August 7, 2013

He doesn't need to use any kind of real gun for making movies. If he wants to make movies, he can use prop guns. If he's 15, he can get a job to save money for replica guns that are specifically designed to be used in movies.

Hell, he could probably even paint some kinds of super soakers black and they may work just as well (so long as he doesn't need the firing aspect of the gun in the movie, and even if he does that's what sound effects added after the fact or well designed camera shots are for when it comes to movies made by teenagers.)
posted by zizzle at 6:45 AM on August 7, 2013

NB: He may also want it to actually compete in an Airsoft match or tournament, which are real things that happen.

It may also be helpful to look at what you want, and why you're uncomfortable with him having a BB. Those things lying underneath are not exactly going away. Is it more important to you that you not have guns in the house of any kind? That he not handle a gun of any kind? Are you concerned that he will start with a BB gun and move on to wanting a real gun? It's really important to figure out what, for you, is the heart of the problem before moving on to what the soution is.
posted by corb at 6:46 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would be curious what his response would be if you said, "how about an Airsoft gun instead?" My son is 13 and has one, which he and his friends use out in the woods (caveat that we are rural country). I also own paintball guns that I use regularly, but am not a real gun owner. I honestly am (mostly) okay with the airsoft gun, as it uses plastic pellets, and we have been CRYSTAL clear about safety while using it (goggles and masks for everyone, etc.).

And, if he still maintains that he wants it for making movies, and you're not comfortable with anything that shoots projectiles, look at corb's suggestions for disabling an Airsoft gun for him to use as a prop.
posted by liquado at 6:48 AM on August 7, 2013

Is there any way you can convince him that a bow would be even more awesome than a bb gun? Any idiot can fire a gun, but hitting a target with a bow and arrow requires some real skill. The fact that a bb gun could be mistaken for a more powerful weapon by over-excited people and authorities would also argue for not getting him a gun.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:52 AM on August 7, 2013

I'm a little surprised that people think it's weird that a 15 year old would want to run around the woods and shoot at his friends.
I'm a little surprised that so many people think it's perfectly normal for kids to shoot at each other with bb guns, but I guess the answers in this thread reflect different childhood experiences with them. I had a BB gun when I was around that age, maybe a little younger. I was allowed to use it unsupervised, but only in a designated target range area in the woods behind my house, and only because I had been properly trained to handle a .22 rifle at scout camp; my parents (mostly my dad, who also has some basic firearms experience) made the judgement that I wasn't going to be a dumbass with it.

As for the reason he's asking for one, making war movies - as has already been said, you don't need anything that actually shoots projectiles for that. There are prop guns, or cheap fluorescent plastic toy guns can be repainted. (And as others have also said; kids running around rural woods with realistic guns is one thing... kids running around the suburbs with realistic looking guns is another.)

If what he really wants is to shoot a gun, taking him to a range for a proper introduction to firearm safety and supervised shooting is absolutely the way to go.
posted by usonian at 6:54 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

My grandfather actually DID put a kid's eye out with a BB gun. He always felt terrible about it and my Dad and his brothers weren't allowed to own anything remotely gun-like.

Have you had a discussion with Kinetic 3 about this? Have you explained that you have serious misgivings and concerns about his owning a BB gun? 15 is old enough to speak to him Man to Man. Can you discuss other options for what he wants, that aren't BB guns (Nerf guns, toy guns, water guns, prop guns.)

I think if you impress upon him that you don't like guns, don't think playing with guns is appropriate and that while you trust him to be a responsible BB gun owner, that it's his knuckle-headed friends you're worried about, that he may accept your decision. He may complain and whine a bit, but once you make your decision clear, he'll accept it.

Tell him when he's 18 and out of the house, he can own all the BB guns he wants. But at your house, no BB guns.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:55 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The art of adulthood is compromise. Getting him a BB gun is clearly a no-go in your family - but perhaps you can sign him up for range shooting lessons at a target shooting club (I.e a responsible sports based shooting club). I would sit him down before hand and let him know that he is not going to get a BB gun in your family. but you are willing to let him learn responsible gun skills in a fun environment. Any kid who gets to fire even a .22 rifle at a range in responsible conditions is not going to want a BB gun it's no fun/cool/interesting by comparison. - even better if you can suggest this to his friends parents and they are willing to also sign them up for lessons!
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 7:02 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absolutely not, IMHO. No child (or adult for that matter) should own a gun that's not for self defense only.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:08 AM on August 7, 2013

Where do you live? I mean, is it a city, a rural area, suburbia?

Growing up in the rural south, I knew plenty of kids who had BB guns. The spot out back behind a shed where you could shoot at cans was a ubiquitous cultural thing. Plenty of adults had guns, too, which they used for hunting and were totally safe and responsible about, and they taught their kids about firearms safety. I can definitely see letting a kid have a BB gun in that context.

However, as my rural hometown developed and became more suburban when I was a teenager, suddenly you had all these kids living in suburban landscape who had access to guns. So there was this one situation where a kid shot his BB gun at kids getting off a school bus. For instance.

I know my fair share of people who have been involved in horrific gun accidents, some of them fatal. I don't know that your specific kid could do that kind of damage with a BB gun, but, look, guns aren't a joke.

I'm especially worried about the fact that one of your son's arguments in favor of getting a gun is that he could use it to make movies with his friends. That's a recipe for someone getting hurt, and absolutely does NOT teach safe filmmaking or gun handling practices in any way.
posted by Sara C. at 7:13 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absolutely not, IMHO. No child (or adult for that matter) should own a gun that's not for self defense only.

As detailed above, there are a lot of reasons to own a gun for sport/recreation that are entirely legitimate.
posted by Miko at 7:17 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't see any good reason that he would need this that couldn't be fufilled in some other way. So no.
posted by windykites at 7:18 AM on August 7, 2013

If he really wants it to use as a prop gun for making war movies with his friends, you can show him the many fascinating tutorials on painting/modeling toy guns to look fantastically realistic, which will fulfill the filming needs and be an interesting craft project.

If he wants it to run around with and shoot at his friends, then no. Guns are not toys. Furthermore, I tend to think responsible gun ownership needs to be taught earlier than 15, and by someone who is themselves a responsible gun owner.
posted by elizardbits at 7:23 AM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

My dad enjoys hunting. Among his guns is a BB gun. I was not allowed to touch said gun until I was about 10 years old or so (I don't remember, exactly, but it was certainly much older than 5).

I was allowed to use the gun to shoot at paper targets, empty cans, and things like that, and ALWAYS under supervision. Though I didn't take a formal gun safety class until much later, basic gun safety was ALWAYS enforced. Things like -- never point the gun at people or animals, even if it isn't loaded (though my dad used the BB gun to shoot rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks on our property, I was not allowed to do this). If someone else is shooting, you always stand behind them. Make sure the gun's not loaded and the safety is on before you put it away and also when you take it out or when it is handed to you.

I would NEVER have been allowed to use it for play, or for making war movies.
posted by tckma at 7:31 AM on August 7, 2013

And I am guessing he might want an AirSoft gun.

I personally think that AirSoft guns are ... not worse exactly, but require more maturity than a BB gun. It's easy to say, with a BB gun or air rifle, "do not, ever, even point this at someone; if you do it's gone". But I think with an AirSoft, since they are (in some circumstances anyway) designed to be shot at other people, that would encourage bad behavior. Like using them in that way without the right protective gear. I guess I'd rather start someone off with something that has a clear set of rules, that don't change depending on circumstances (shooting a BB gun at other people is always bad).


BB guns seem pretty benign to me, but it all depends on the level of parental involvement. I had one, from the age of 12 or 13 (actually not just a BB gun but a proper .177 cal air rifle that could shoot BBs or pellets), but it was part of a progression from toy guns to cap guns to air rifles to actual firearms, closely supervised by my father. It was treated very much like a gun. It lived in the gun safe, in fact, alongside all the other guns. I didn't play with it around morons from school; the only other kids who got to use it were ones vetted by my father. I already knew all the rules of gun safety long before I actually got said air rifle, and it never occurred to me to shoot it at a person or animal. (That said, my family are not hunters. If they had been, perhaps the animal thing might have been different, but again I assume there would have been training and nuance involved.)

If OP is not a "gun person" and willing to be rather involved with setting up and enforcing rules about the BB gun's use, then it's probably a bad idea. Not because there's anything intrinsically wrong with BB guns, but because they require adult supervision and if that's not guaranteed, then all sorts of bad stuff may result.

And honestly, I think 15 is probably late for a BB gun. It's old enough that unless they've been previously indoctrinated with all the right gun safety rules, they're likely (unless they're very mature for that age and immune to peer pressure) to treat it far too casually to be safe. A 12-year-old, who starts off using a BB gun under very close, constant supervision and only "graduates" after a few years to being able to carry and use it on their own, would cause me a lot less heartburn than a 15-year-old who suddenly gets handed one and proceeds to show it off to their idiot friends and generally cause havoc.

If they're honestly interested in firearms, at that age I'd be more likely to sign them up for a safety course and take them to a range to shoot regular gunpowder guns. At least they will probably respect those, so the safety training has a better chance of sticking. (And then if it really seems to make an impression, perhaps reopen the air rifle discussion, but don't mention it until that point.) If they're not interested in that, and the interest in a BB gun has more to do with running around with friends and creating havoc and suddenly evaporates when confronted with a requirement to take a safety class ... consider yourself to have dodged a bullet (or a BB).
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:50 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a little surprised that so many people think it's perfectly normal for kids to shoot at each other with bb guns, but I guess the answers in this thread reflect different childhood experiences with them.

I suppose I should clarify - I actually don't think shooting each other with BB guns is a good idea because yeah, they're dangerous.

I think what a lot of people are missing though is that this is a 15 year old kid. He's not asking for a BB gun because he wants to experience the thrill of target practice at a licensed gun range with trained professionals and get involved in the shooting community. He's just a kid who wants to dick around with his friends. In which case yeah, BB gun may be a little too dangerous - that's why I think an Airsoft is a good compromise. The fun of a BB gun, without most of the danger (make him wear goggles and the danger is even less).
posted by Think_Long at 7:51 AM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Check your city laws. In my city it is illegal to discharge even a bb gun in the city limits.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:14 AM on August 7, 2013

My father learned to shoot at cans at the age of four and got a pump-action shotgun for his twelfth birthday in 1957. They were taught that guns were not toys and how to shoot responsibly. He also lived on a farm and times were very different. A kid holding a rifle wouldn't make you look twice back then. That is almost certainly not the case these days.

You sound very uncomfortable with this and buying him one isn't going to make you more comfortable. You say he's a very young 15 and my reading of that is that he is not very mature. I'm all for teaching young people how to shoot responsibly in controlled conditions but I also remember that the teenagers I knew who had BB guns back in the day were almost certainly shooting each other and generally being arseholes about it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:22 AM on August 7, 2013

If you don't want him to have it, don't get him one. I received mine around 12 or so without much fuss.
posted by Atreides at 8:46 AM on August 7, 2013

Your child should not be making films in the woods with live weapons or realistic looking weapons. It's happened before that a child has been shot because they had what was thought to be a deadly gun on them and they were shot and killed by police because of it.
posted by inturnaround at 10:01 AM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is it an AirSoft gun that he wants? I'm hearing more and more about those being popular with teens.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:22 AM on August 7, 2013

To clarify, he will happily accept a BB gun or an Airgun but still and all, I'm not comfortable with any gun in my house (even Nerfs) and especially, my typically-stupid teenage boy having any gun.

I was wondering, because we're an all-female no-gun household and my kid doesn't have an actively participating dad, if there are angles of, "Boys need guns!" or whatever that I just don't know about, such is our estrogen-driven home.

As I said, I see no reason for him to have one, and despite the many excellent answers explaining why it could be an okay present, I'm sticking firm with, "No gun."

He and his friends can go paintballing and get welts and bruises from that. Or maybe he can take some archery or rifle shooting lessons.

Then he can learn to deejay and perhaps make the soundtrack for this ridiculous war movie.

Oh, and it turns out that in my state of Massachusetts, he would always need to use it with an adult present, and I'm never going to do that, so forget it.
posted by kinetic at 10:50 AM on August 7, 2013

I was wondering, because we're an all-female no-gun household and my kid doesn't have an actively participating dad, if there are angles of, "Boys need guns!" or whatever that I just don't know about, such is our estrogen-driven home.

I actually received my bb gun because my dad just felt it was proper for a kid my age to have one. I did not ask or think to ask to get one. He had one at that age and his father had one (actually a .22), and so on. Our home was otherwise an anti-gun household, in part because of my mother's uncomfortableness with firearms.

However, there is no manliness test out there that your son will flunk for not having a bb gun now or later. There are no future therapy session bills that will arise in 30 years from not having a bb gun, either. They are fun, but I found short of the actual element of target shooting, they were just incidental to fun things I found to do with or without them. I also nearly shot my eye out, too (coughs).

I suggest doing as everyone else has suggested, find out why he wants it and find non-bb gun ways to fulfill those desires.
posted by Atreides at 11:14 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Even BB guns have the potential for real harm, and 15 year old boys, i.e. adolescents, .e., humans that look capable of rational thought but whose brains are awash in hormones and not really developed, are at risk of harming others or themselves. Gun availability is a factor in this, even for the most responsible 15 - 18 year old. Gun range, great idea. Going hunting or shooting with a really, really responsible adult, great idea. Toy guns as a prop, okay. In fact, I have a busted up gun that I found in the woods. Might have been a bb gun. MeMail yr address, and I'll send it to you.
posted by theora55 at 11:26 AM on August 7, 2013

I know you've made your mind up but I thought I'd let you in on our experience with all boys. We got them one and after the initial thrill, a couple of months later it was never seen again. Btw husband and I grew up in western mass. Both of us used BB guns as kids sans supervision. We're pretty normal I think.
posted by lasamana at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2013

Airsoft guns shoot little plastic pellets at low velocity. They're meant to shoot at other people with safety equipment (goggles and facemask) - sort of like paintball without the bruises or mess.

I can understand your discomfort with nerf guns and other totems of mock-violence, but it's a point of view out of the mainstream in even violence-averse societies like Japan, where airsoft is pretty popular. At 15 you're not steering him away from violence and danger by denying him this - but you are alienating him from a pretty normal social group. You'll also have to decide if you want to forbid him from hanging out with his friends, because one of them is going to have a spare gun he can borrow for their movie-making.

I'd get him the gun, and a video course on basic airsoft safety, and watch it with him so he understands the risks that come with it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:10 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

it's a point of view out of the mainstream

There are families for whom this is mainstream and families for whom it's really not. I think it entirely depends on the geography and the nature of the community. There are parts of MA where this is the norm, and parts of MA where it is disinctly not. I don't think a kid is necessarily going to be a pariah because his parents object to gun play in many communities. Other kids are going to recognize that many parents and schools object to and forbid this play, because that is fairly normal, even if their own parents are permissive.

No matter what happens, it is definitely a sign that his friends are talking guns, and that means it's probably time to explore the idea of safety with him. Sad to say, I think all kinds have to know some basics about how to behave when a gun is around (never aim a gun at someone even if joking, never assume a gun is unloaded), because so many people are obtusely irresponsible with the guns in their homes and if there is a fascination among the group, he could encounter real guns.
posted by Miko at 12:20 PM on August 7, 2013

It certainly is an excellent idea to get him into a gun safety course now. Education never hurts. Taking him to a range for a day would be an awesome present for a 15 year old. Tell him that doing both of these things will make his film more authentic in terms of gun handling.

If he really wants it to use as a prop gun for making war movies with his friends, you can show him the many fascinating tutorials on painting/modeling toy guns to look fantastically realistic, which will fulfill the filming needs and be an interesting craft project.

Glad you favorited this. Safe, educational, gives him something creative to do and ultimately fulfilling.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:39 PM on August 7, 2013

BB's are dangerous.

When I was 15, I tried to shoot a quail that was sitting on a high tension line. I hit the line and the bb came right back and hit me between the eyes without breaking the skin. Another time I was trying to shoot a catfish in a shallow creek and the bb ricocheted off a rock and took a little piece off my earlobe. That was a bloody mess and Mom suggested switching to pellets as she was patching me up.

I only let my son shoot pellets, and only with me. He's 7 and enjoys the heck out of it. A two liter bottle full of water is the most hysterical thing ever. Ricochets are still possible, but not the right back at you kind.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:57 PM on August 7, 2013

I own guns. I got a BB gun for christmas when I was 12, and I shot "real guns" that belonged to my father around the same age. I never shot anyone with any of them. If my daughter tells me when she's 12 that he wants one, I'll probably get her one. I'd definitely let her shoot the one I keep for shooting gophers.

None of this has any bearing on whether you should get your son one. If you can't or don't want to provide the necessary oversight for such a thing, then you can tell him "no". If you know a parent of a friend or someone like that who you think is a responsible shooter, and are comfortable letting him shoot with that person, then let him do that, but that doesn't mean he needs his own gun. Plus he's 15, he'll probably forget he even wanted one in a couple of months anyway. If he still wants one when he's 18, he can buy his own then.

That said, your other reasons don't really seems super strong to me:

no guns in my house
Fine. Your house, your rules.

what the hell do you need a gun for
Nothing, which is the same thing you need an xbox or skateboard or guitar for. That doesn't mean you shouldn't want or get these things.

someone's gonna lose an eye
Of all the people I've known who owned guns as kids, this has never happened. Your kid will be old enough to get a driver's license in a year. That's a million times more dangerous. This worry is overstated compared to things that are actually likely to hurt your son.

And finally:
I appreciate the responses but for real, this kid doesn't need a gun.
Why even ask then?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 3:12 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

My 10-year-old son has an airsoft gun and clearly understands the rules about using it. When his friend comes over, they were extra layers of clothes and gas masks to protect their faces and have fun shooting at each other in the fenced-in backyard.

You get to make the rules in your house. That's true. But his desire to own a "fake" gun is pretty normal and can be reigned in if you have a change of mind.
posted by tacodave at 3:20 PM on August 7, 2013

Guns (BB, paintball and otherwise) are tools. Tools aren't inherently bad or good (e.g., a lock pick set).

At 15, if he's interested in firearms, I'd second Potomac Avenue and suggest a gun range.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:19 PM on August 7, 2013

If you are going to encourage him to build prop guns, please also teach him about how to be safe with these around people who might think they are real guns.
posted by yohko at 11:36 PM on August 8, 2013

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