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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 21:50 GMT
Safety agency sets sights on rifles
Adverts for Daisy Red Ryder air rifle
Some Daisy air rifles are marketed to youths
David Schepp

A US manufacturer of air rifles has been targeted for a forced recall of millions of its products the government says are unsafe.

At risk are millions of American youths whose parents may have purchased air rifles, or BB guns, as they are called, as a rite of passage.

Nostalgic Daisy air rifle advert
Air rifles, or "BB guns", are a right of passage for some boys
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), a government watchdog, said on Tuesday it is forcing a recall of more than 7.5 million powerful rifles made by Daisy Manufacturing because users may not be aware the gun is loaded with ammunition.

The agency said 16 models of Daisy's PowerLine 856 and 880 BB guns are believed to be responsible for 28 deaths and 210 serious injuries since 1972, after the metal balls the guns use for pellets were inadvertently shot from the barrel.

Unseen risk

In a 2-1 vote, the agency voted to start legal action against Daisy after the firm declined to settle. The decision was announced by CPSC chairwoman Ann Brown, who is set to leave the agency on Wednesday.

The agency wants the guns recalled because they do not have automatic safety locks, which have been installed on about 2% of all guns in the US.

The mandated action has roused the concerns of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which believes an affirmative recall vote will have vast implications for the gun industry as a whole.

A spokesman for the gun-rights organisation called the forced recall an unnecessary action.

"The facts do not justify the recall," said Jason Osborne, NRA spokesman.

"This company has been under investigation four or five time over the last 28 years. This hasn't changed in design, the internal components are all the same," he said.

Tragic accident

According to the CPSC, the BBs, or pellets, can become lodged within the barrel of the rifle, leading users to fire them when they believe they are not loaded.

That was the case for John Tucker Mahoney, who at age 16 in 1999, was accidentally shot when his friend aimed what he believed to be an empty Daisy air rifle at Mr Mahoney's head and fired it.

The rifle was fired as many as eight times before a pellet struck Mr Mahoney.

The BB that struck Mr Mahoney severed an artery in his brain, and he has since lost his ability to walk, eat or talk. Daisy has reportedly settled a claim with the Mahoney's for $18m (12.3m).

Vote to sue

A lawyer for Daisy, Jeffrey Locker, was quoted as saying the CPSC had investigated air guns for 20 years and on three separate occasions and determined they were not defective.

He has also defended the rifles' safety, saying that users must initiate seven steps in order to fire them, leaving nil the probability of users not knowing they are loaded.

Defenders of the recall, however, say the issue should not be confused with concerns over constitutional guarantees under the Second Amendment, securing the right to keep and bear arms.

"We have made no secret that we think there ought to be consumer oversight of guns," said Amy Stillwell of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"BB guns could be a step could be a step in the right direction."

See also:

09 Apr 01 | Scotland
Youth admits shootings
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