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Pellet Gun Not Dangerous?

Date: Tue, 8 Jan 2002 12:59:54 -0800 (PST)
From: robert n lyman <rlyman@u.washington.edu>
To: editpage@seattle-pi.com
Subject: "'Firearm' was a pellet gun" (fwd)

To the Editor, Seattle PI,

I am writing to correct two dangerously false statements in your Jan. 8 article regarding the Jan. 6 shooting of an armed man in the University district.

"...[The suspect's gun] was not designed to shoot bullets, but [was] a pellet gun."

Pellet guns ARE designed to shoot bullets, of course. Bullets are the projectiles expelled from the muzzle of a weapon. Pellet guns do not fire rounds encased in metallic cartridges, often erroneously referred to as "bullets," but they most certainly do fire small metallic projectiles at very high speed (caseless ammunition).

The second error is far, far more serious and merits a published correction.

"...[Police Chief Kerlikowske showed the] striking similarities between an instrument that can take a life, and one that cannot."

This statement is utterly, completely, and egregiously false. A pellet or BB gun can most assuredly be used, by a criminal or a fool, to take a life. There are documented cases of bullets fired from modern airguns penetrating human skulls and killing people. Even a lower-powered air pistol, as was most likely involved here, can easily puncture the arteries of the neck, or damage the windpipe enough to allow blood to fill the lungs. To be sure, the Colt 1911 displayed by Chief Kerlikowske is a far more effective tool for killing (having been the Army's sidearm for 80 years), but to say that a pellet gun is NOT a deadly weapon is simply irresponsible. I am aghast.

Personally, I believe the actions of the police (killing the suspect with a head shot) would have been perfectly justified EVEN IF they had known all along they were faced with a pellet gun. He posed a clear and imminent threat of death or severe injury to his hostage. Your article contains a clear implication to the contrary, on the basis of the erroneous belief that a pellet gun is somehow not dangerous. Your paper almost never gets reporting on the subject of guns correct. It seems your reporters know almost nothing about the subject, and it is quite clear that your editorial writers have a sort of negative knowledge, which sucks facts out of the room and makes people standing near them more ignorant. Considering there are perhaps 8-10 gun stores in your local calling area, along with literally 100,000 gun owners and hundreds of front-line police officers (real cops, not the politically-motivated brass), what can your excuse possibly be?

Robert Lyman
607 NW 88th St
Seattle, 98117
(206)7xx-xxxx (H)
(206)5xx-xxxx (W)

P.S. (Not for publication) I am perfectly willing to introduce your reporters and editors to gun safety and marksmanship, as well as serving as an unpaid consultant on technical issues involving firearms. The next time you need facts, or if you would like to learn more for the purpose of improving your reporting, do not hesitate to call me!


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The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.' The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, and not such merely as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed, curtailed, or broken in upon, in the smallest degree; and all this for the important end to be attained: the rearing up and qualifying a well-regulated militia, so vitally necessary to the security of a free State. Our opinion is that any law, State or Federal, is repugnant to the Constitution, and void, which contravenes this right. [Nunn vs. State, 1 Ga. (1 Kel.) 243, at 251 (1846)]

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