BB Gun Vandalism on the Rise in Worcester
Monday, March 31, 2014
The Worcester Police Department said in a press release last week that they have responded to nine BB gun vandalism complaints since March 17th in the Becker College, Elm Park, and WPI area where vandals have been shooting out car windows.
Earlier in March, the Worcester Police made two additional BB gun related arrests. On the 16th, four teenagers were arrested for shooting at vehicles with BB guns and on the 5th, two teenagers were arrested after shooting and injuring three with a BB gun. In both cases, the teenagers were brought up on charges of Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon and Discharge of a BB Gun on a Public Way. In the vandalism case, charges of Malicious Destruction Over $250, Minor in Possession of a BB Gun, and Disturbing the Peace were also added.
Although attempts to contact the Worcester Police Department were not immediately returned, the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office offered comment about the nature of the guns.
“The thing that you have to look at is that BB guns are very dangerous,” said Dave Tuttle, Chief Deputy Sherriff of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. “BB guns can be souped-up to cause some serious damage; they are not toys.”
Problem in Central MA
While the number of BB gun related incidents is on the rise in Worcester, this is a problem that Central Massachusetts has been dealing with for some time now; the communities of Grafton and Fitchburg have also reported similar incidents.
Fitchburg saw a wave of BB gun related vandalism take place during the summer of 2013 and later in the winter of 2013/2014. Grafton had a string of incidences in December 2013 and January 2014 involving the windows of local homes and businesses being shot at, including one instance that happened on Christmas.
Crepeau acknowledged that BB gun vandalism in Grafton has stopped, but like all forms of vandalism, it appears to come in spurts. The easiest way to end BB gun vandalism for a while usually involves making an arrest.
“We stepped up our patrol and eventually arrested someone for using a BB gun,” said Crepeau. “That usually kills the activity for a while. When one person is arrested, the others tend to stop and move on.”
The Gun Debate
Gun control has sparked national and local debate in the wake of a spike in mass shootings in recent years, but BB guns fall into their own category of laws and regulations.
According to Massachusetts General Law, no one under the age of 18 is permitted to have an air rifle or BB gun in their possession in public, unless accompanied by an adult or unless they possess a sporting or hunting license accompanied by a permit from the chief of police of the town that they currently reside in.
The law also states that no one is permitted to shoot a BB gun into, from, or across any street, alley, public way, or railway. Although these laws and regulations are put in place to prevent BB gun vandalism and violence, BB guns are still pretty easy to obtain.
No license is required to purchase a BB gun from a store. Although law dictates that the purchaser must be 18 years or older, online sales do not seem to ask an age prior to purchasing. They can be found at many popular retail chains such as Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods.
Gun advocacy groups have shown support for BB guns in the past because they are a great tool for teaching hunter safety to younger children because of their smaller size, kickback, and ammunition. BB guns, although still very dangerous, are also less damaging than a true firearm.
“A lot of people start firearm safety with BB guns; A BB gun is a great way to teach a younger person proper gun safety,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owners Action League. “There are laws and regulations that set forth specific guidelines for BB gun sales and use. But BB guns are just like anything else in the world that someone can abuse. Believe it or not, BB guns are used in Olympic Sports.”
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