Do pellet guns count as firearms?

Last week, I read about a  22-year-old who died after a shot from a pellet gun perforated his heart. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported that two friends were playing around with a pellet gun at  a Westside home  last Thursday night when the gun discharged and struck the victim in the chest, perforating his heart.  Rescue personnel transported  the victim to a local hospital where he died early Saturday morning from the injuries.

Even as an isolated incident, the tragic death of this young 22 year old man  reminds us of the dangers of these weapons of sport.   A pellet gun CAN produce injuries, or as what happened here –  death. They are not toys, should not be treated as toys, and should be used by people that are mature enough to use them in a responsible manner.

More than 3 million pellet guns are sold nationwide each year.  Nationally, air guns cause more than 25,000 injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Most of these incidents involve children under 19. They also kill an average of four Americans yearly. Proponents say that shows  fatalities are rare, but four dead people are too many.

Pellet guns are classified along with other nonpowder guns–air rifles, pellet guns and ball-bearing BB guns–as dangerous in the hands of the untrained due to the high velocity discharge of the gun. These firearms can generate muzzle speeds of 150 feet per second to 1,200 feet per second. By way of comparison, a regular firearm pistol’s muzzle velocity is 750 feet per second.

Pellet Pistol Is a Weapon
In most states, a pellet gun is considered a firearm. Legally, a firearm is any instrument that can be reasonably expected to cause bodily harm. Florida is among the states that impose age restrictions on the possession, use or transfer of pellet guns.  Florida law can also place a penalty on any adult that permits their minor child to have a pellet gun or BB gun in their possession while not in their presence.

Unlike some other states, Florida does not classify air guns (bb guns and air or gas-operated pellet guns) as firearms or as dangerous weapons. Instead, the state lumps these weapons in with other non-lethal weapons such as stun guns. Given this light classification, it is important to note that the state laws are not so lax for all non-combustion projectile weapons. “Slungshots” or “slingshots” are classified as dangerous weapons right along with brass knuckles and tear gas guns.
Typically, an air gun is classified as a projectile weapon that fires .177 caliber to .22 caliber bbs or pellets by either air, gas or spring pressure.

Under Florida law, it is illegal for any minor under the age of 16 to use an air gun (bbs or pellets) unless they are in direct supervision of an adult who is the child’s parent or guardian, or if the supervising adult is acting with the permission of the child’s parent or guardian. Any adult who allows a child 16 years or younger under their care to operate or possess any air gun without direct supervision is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and may face fines, jail time or probation.

Pellet Gun Safety Tips

  • Follow state and local Pellet gun laws and federal firearms laws.
  • If you own or sell Pellet guns, you must still use extreme care when handling them. Pellet guns are not toys, and they have the ability to seriously injure or kill.
  • Make sure that you get safety training and practical experience using a Pellet gun.
  • Never let children use Pellet guns.
  • Never use a Pellet gun if you have been drinking alcohol or under the influence of drugs

Pellet Guns and Your Legal Rights
If you are injured as a result of the accidental discharge of a pellet gun, an attorney can review the coverage terms of the homeowners insurance policy that insures the home where the injury occurred to determine if this injury is covered. 

The Hamilton’s criminal lawyer can help you review the homeowners insurance policy to determine if your injuries are covered under their firearms policy. If a lawsuit is necessary to obtain compensation for your  medical bills, our skilled  team will prepare your case for trial “ even if it settles beforehand.