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Accident prompts warning on air guns

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After a 16-year-old Puna boy was critically injured in a reported air gun accident, Hawaii County police are warning parents that air guns, classified as "toy rifles" in the county ordinance, are no toys.

When contemplating buying an air gun for their children, parents "should consider the potential dangers," said Lt. Gregory Esteban of the Criminal Investigations Section in Hilo. "It should be treated as a firearm because it actually does shoot a projectile at a high velocity and has been known to cause serious injuries and even death."

An air gun similar to the one recovered can discharge a projectile up to 1,000 feet per second, police said.

The boy remained unconscious and in critical condition late Monday morning at the Queen’s Medical Center after what was reported by his family as an accidental discharge of an air gun at their home in the Hawaiian Beaches subdivision, police said.

Police said the family reported adult family members were present when the high-powered air gun discharged, wounding the boy in the chest. In this case a metal pellet was the projectile, Esteban said.

Hawaii County law prohibits the use of a toy rifle, which includes air guns, by anyone under age 18 unless he or she is under adult supervision and at a bona fide public target range. A person must be at least 18 to buy or own an air gun.

Toy rifles are defined as any weapon using compressed air or a spring as a propelling force to eject a projectile in the shape of a ball, pellet or rod, of any type of material.

Esteban recalls at least one instance more than 10 years ago where a person was shot in the eye with an air gun and suffered serious injury.

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