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Sheriff: BB guns are not toys, should always be treated as weapons

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jul 15 2013 04:35:58 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 08 2013 03:10:08 PM CDT

'They're weapons, not toys.' That's the message Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes wants to share about BB guns after a four-year-old boy was shot and killed with one last week.

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. -

They're weapons, not toys." That's the message Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes wants to share about BB guns after a four-year-old boy was shot and killed with one last week.

It's spelled out on the front of the box: a BB gun can be very dangerous, and on Tuesday of last week it was deadly when four-year-old Coty Cox died under the supervision of a 10-year-old and 13-year old. Click here to read more.

"What we do know is that one of the juveniles shot the four-year-old with a BB gun, and we seized two from the residence," said Sheriff Chris Mathes.

Sheriff Mathes couldn't elaborate on the specifics of the BB guns used, but what he fears is that not everyone realizes just how dangerous any one of these types of guns can be.

"[I] didn't know that a BB could penetrate even a young child like that and do that much damage," said René Foulk, a Carter County resident.

Mathes said from a law enforcement perspective, BB and pellet guns are just like any other firearm. "It's a metal pellet. It's a BB. So with enough velocity, it's going to pierce skin and in some cases break bone. In this case it went through the skull," said Mathes.

H&S Hunting sells dozens of BB guns of all kinds every year. Owner Howard Craft told News 5 he teaches his BB customers safety like he would a regular rifle. "Most people start out with a little lever-action gun which shoots around 300 feet per second," said Craft.

We learned that a BB at that velocity could cause injury up to 212 yards away, and that's just bottom of the scale.

Pump-style BB guns can be even more dangerous. "There are pump guns that would have the ability to project a pellet a thousand feet per second, which would be very, very fast," Craft said.

That's why Craft said while it's common for kids to use them, they can never be viewed as a toy. "Parents need to be there with them to learn to respect. These are weapons, so they need to be respected," said Craft.

That means no pointing even an unloaded BB gun at anyone and always wearing safety gear until it's time to lock it out of sight and out of reach. "They should be put up just like you put up a firearm, where children couldn't get them," Craft added.

We're told Carter County detectives are still investigating the events leading up to four-year-old Coty Cox's death to see if any charges need to be filed.