BB Guns Not Holiday Toys

BB Gun over target and caduceus: NON-POWDER GUNS--Study finds that thousands are injured each year by BBs and air guns
BB or pellet guns are topping the wish lists of some kids this holiday season.

But Early Show Correspondent Melinda Murphy reports that these guns are not toys.

They're called non-powdered guns which basically means they don't use gun powder to shoot. But don't let that fool you. These guns still pack a powerful punch.

"It's that call you never want to get as a parent. Then it happens to you and it's a shock," says Bill Barlow, father of six-year-old Alexander Barlow.

Alexander was barely clinging to life after his best friend accidently shot him with a pellet gun.

"You cannot even describe the feeling that you have when you find out it was life-threatening," says Alex's mother, Cynthia Barlow.

The pellet nicked the corner of Alexander's left lung, collapsing it. It continued into the sack surrounding his heart - just missing the critical areas.

"The sack around the heart was filling up with blood internally and it was starting to crush the heart and keep it from beating, " says his father. "We knew either act quick or he would never make it."

Alexander was rushed into emergency surgery. Miraculously, he survived.

Alexander tells Murphy that he has a pretty big scar.

According to a new study published in Pediatrics, as many as five children die every year as a result of non-powder guns, and about 21,000 are injured.

Dr. Danielle Laraque of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York was one of the authors of the study.

"Traditionally, many of these non-powder guns are sold in toy departments. So the perception may be from parents and others who give this as gifts - and the majority of these are gifts given to children - is that this is a toy," says Dr. Laraque.

"They don't associate, you know, the risk of serious injury with a toy."

We asked firearms expert Dave Townshend to buy a new gun that shoots bb's and pellets and demonstrate how it works.

"Without tax it's approximately $42," says Townshend.

First, we tested the muzzle velocity from three feet away. After 25 pumps, the pellet fired at 741 feet per second.

The bb travelled even faster.

In our test, a .38 caliber gun - carried by many law enforcement officers - only traveled at 629 feet per second.

We also shot pellets, bbs and bullets into ballistic gelatin which simulates the density of human flesh.

The .38 went clean through. The pellet went four inches and the bb close to six inches. That is the equivalent of halfway through an adult's body, or all the way through a small child's.

Alexander Barlow still clearly remembers the day the accident happened this July. "We were shooting at little pop cans. Then we started shooting a bee on a flower and must've missed and it went by and hit me."

When he returned from the hospital, his brothers and sisters kept him busy. But he was not allowed to do anything physical for several months.

"Every time he takes a bath, takes his shirt off, you see the scar," says his mom. "Everything comes back and even though they tell us that he's okay and that he can play sports now, he can do everything now, there's still that fear that he can't. And I'm scared of anything he does."

The effects were not just physical.

"He was real quiet," recalls his father. "I think he knew how close he'd come."

Alexander tells The Early Show that he doesn't want that to happen to other kids.

"It's not like a toy, " he says.