Pellet guns fashioned to look like Glocks, Uzis, and a wide assortment of handguns and rifles — some packing power rivaling a firearm — are for sale throughout the region with little or no oversight. Some are safely used by sportsmen but, authorities said, a growing number of pellet guns are in the hands of criminals and children.
When a Warren Avenue market in Brockton was robbed earlier this year, the clerk told police the two men who had swiped the cash register were armed with a gun.
It wasn’t until later — when the suspects were caught — that police would learn the weapon was a pellet gun.
“They are very realistic,” Abington Police Chief David Majenski said of the guns. “When you look at them, you can’t tell the difference.”
Pellet guns fashioned to look like Glocks, Uzis and a wide assortment of handguns and rifles — some packing power rivaling a firearm — are for sale throughout the region with little or no oversight. Some are safely used by sportsmen but, authorities said, a growing number of pellet guns are in the hands of criminals and children.
And some modern-day pellet and air guns are so powerful anyone struck can be seriously injured or killed.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” Majenski said.
Air guns — such as pellet and BB guns — are gaining in popularity throughout the country. More than 3 million pellet guns are sold, on average, each year and with it come problems, several said.
“Depending on where you are hit, they can inflict serious harm,” Brockton Lt. John Crowley, chief of detectives, said. “They’re not toys.”
Nationally, about 30,000 injuries and a handful of deaths each year are caused by air guns.
Richard Ramos, an 11-year-old Brockton boy, was injured when his 8-year-old friend fired a pellet gun at his head earlier this month. A 44-year-old New Jersey woman was accidentally shot with a pellet gun and killed by her husband in her home earlier this year. The gun was the same one the couple used to shoot squirrels, police said at the time.
Some people — particularly children — don’t realize the power the air guns can pack.
“They can do the same damage as a firearm,” Raynham Police Chief Louis J. Pacheco said.
One type of gun, for example, achieves a velocity — or speed — of 900 feet per second with a .22 caliber pellet. That’s about the same speed as the .357 training rounds that police use on a range. It is also faster than a 38-special handgun, which fires a shot at 600 feet per second.
“If you hit someone in the eye, close range, you can definitely inflict injury,” Whitman Police Chief Christine May-Stafford said.
In most cases, heavy clothing will stop a pellet, but some of the guns are used by sportsmen for hunting. “The big pellet guns are used for rabbits and even deer,” Pacheco said.
Bridgewater Lt. Christopher Delmonte said some of the guns have been used in robberies over the years.
“Someone can easily use them for the wrong purposes,” he said.
Anyone age 18 or older can buy and own an air gun without a license. Those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult or hold a sporting license and permit from a local police chief.
In Brockton, no one under age 18 has a license for a pellet gun.
Vandalism has been the biggest problem in communities. Thousands of dollars in damage — usually windows — have been reported throughout the area over the years.
“They’ll get a pellet gun and wipe out a whole series of windows,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said some regulation may be needed with high-velocity air guns. “I think anything that gets up to those speeds should be looked into,” he said.
Maureen Boyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.