- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a popular boyhood product lined up in its cross hairs.
Safety concerns surrounding the Daisy air rifle, one of the nation's oldest and most recognized BB guns, could spark a recall of as many as 9 million air rifles.
CPSC Chairman Ann Brown and commissioners Mary Sheila Gall and Thomas Moore are set to vote today on the issue. A press conference is set for 2 p.m.
It is unclear how Miss Gall, a Republican, and Mr. Moore, a Democrat, will vote, although Mr. Moore may be the deciding vote, given the differences between Miss Gall and Mrs. Brown on past decisions. Miss Gall was President Bush's nominee to replace Mrs. Brown, but her nomination was shot down after strong opposition from Democrats led by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat. Mrs. Brown announced that she would resign by Nov. 1 unless another chairman was nominated and approved.
CPSC officials did not return calls yesterday requesting comment.
Industry observers say Mrs. Brown is pushing for the recall as a last hurrah. Upon announcing her resignation on Aug. 8, she referred to "a major recall of [or lawsuit regarding] a very dangerous product that kills and maims children" as one of her final actions.
At issue is the safety of Daisy's higher-powered air rifles, not the popular Red Ryder BB gun that is now considered a classic. Daisy air guns are made by the Daisy Manufacturing Co., based in Rogers, Ark.
Those calling for a recall say the high-powered guns have design flaws that might lead users to believe the gun is not loaded when it is. BB's may also become stuck inside the gun's chamber. These are the same concerns laid out by lawyers in a 1999 case involving a 16-year-old Pennsylvania boy who received permanent brain damage after a friend accidentally shot him in the head using a Daisy Model 856. Daisy settled the suit earlier this year for $18 million.
A potential recall of Daisy air rifles and similar guns has those in the shooting sports industry trembling.
"It's going to put a lot of air-gun companies out of business," said Jim Chambers, vice president of government affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "They can't afford to put out a recall on millions and millions of legitimately safe firearms."
Mr. Chambers and others in the industry insist air-gun manufacturers have done a good job policing themselves by creating a voluntary standard requiring air guns to meet drop test, trigger pull and packaging standards. But other aspects of the guns, including the gravity-load design and lack of an automatic safety mechanism are now at issue.
"A BB gun with an automatic safety makes no sense whatsoever," Mr. Chambers said. He went on to say that "the CPSC has absolutely no business being involved with the air-gun industry."
There are also fears within the industry that any recall could be expanded to include all of the more powerful air guns that shoot BBs faster than 350 feet per second. All of the 100 million BB guns on the market might even be targeted, industry leaders feared.
Air-gun industry representatives point to a 1996 ruling by the CPSC that deemed the Daisy Model 880 without defect after a two-year investigation.
"They concluded the guns are not defective," Mr. Chambers said. "We don't quite understand what their logic is."
But attorneys for Tucker Mahoney, the injured boy, say it was the Daisy Model 856, not Model 880 that is defective.
"We know a … lot more now about how BB's get stuck and where," said Andrew Youman, a lawyer with the Philadelphia law firm of Kline and Specter.
Mr. Youman and his colleague, attorney Shanin Specter, urged the CPSC to take another look at the gun last year, and were particularly concerned about the gun's power. The Daisy Air Rifle 856 can fire a BB about 750 feet per second, which was powerful enough to become imbedded 3 centimeters into the skull of the Mahoney boy. The CPSC reports that an average of four persons die each year as a result of BB guns or pellet rifles.
"At 350 feet per second, it can penetrate the skin. And there's always a sliding scale of damage that can be done," Mr. Youman said.
But limiting velocity on guns may come with serious resistance; the minimum suggested power for air-gun target shooting is 750 feet per second, according to the American Airgun Field Target Association.


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