Windham: So, when is a kid old enough for an air rifle? , Columnists

By Rick Windham Outdoor columnist

It is a question I get probably 10 to 15 times a year, mostly around Christmas, but I got asked this about Wednesday of this week. It is a serious question one must give a lot of thought to answering. Parents who are considering getting their child a BB gun or air rifle need to think objectively about whether their child is emotionally mature enough to handle an air gun safely and properly.

There is no set age at which a child is old enough and responsible enough to have a BB gun or air rifle. I know many kids as young as 5 or 6 who were very responsible with their airgun and I’ve been around adults that should not be allowed to have anything more powerful than a water pistol!

Today’s airguns are not toys. They are powerful shooting instruments. They can do far more than “put your eye out,” as the fictional character Ralphie was often warned in “A Christmas Story.” They can actually kill with the right circumstances, and when they have been handled by someone unfamiliar or reckless with their power and used irresponsibly. There are unfortunately, documented cases of air guns killing people. A projectile powered by compressed air, even something as small as a BB, can kill.

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According to one study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30,000 people are injured by BB guns and pellet guns, the more powerful of the two, annually. Eighty-one percent of those treated for these injuries are 19 or younger.

One tragic example is that of a 9-year-old in Georgia killed with a pellet gun fired by his 8-year-old brother. A 15-year-old in Nevada was killed when a friend accidentally shot him in the chest with a BB gun.

So, how do you know when a youngster is ready to be trusted with an air gun? When you are sure a child is responsible enough to learn and follow the rules of safety.

I was talking about BB guns and air rifles with Brenda Anderson of North Platte. She expressed an interest in learning more about them. I mentioned that airguns are great tools for learning how to shoot correctly and excellent practice to maintain your proficiency.

I had an opportunity to show her a few of the airguns. I practice with and let her shoot a couple. She is definitely “in” on wanting to learn more. I think that will happen! Don’t be surprised if you see another story about her on the range punching targets.

It is that time of the year when many of the conservation organizations host their annual membership banquets. The first one I have on my list is listed below. If your favorite conservation organization has a banquet or other event, and you’d like to get some press coverage on the event, send the information to me.

The 2022 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic will be held at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, 455 N. 10th Street. It will be March 11 to 13. This event is a big trade show that spotlights wildlife conservation, upland game bird hunting (pheasant and quail), dog training and wildlife habitat management and restoration. In connection with the trade show, Pheasants Forever will have seminars on habitat improvement, pheasant hunting, shooting sports, wild game cooking, dog training, conservation and lots more.

You can attend on a day pass and just tour the exhibits, attend seminars or enjoy a banquet Saturday evening. Ticket prices vary widely depending on what you want to do. Go to pheasantsforever.org and click on the ling for events.

The NGPC fisheries group will begin stocking trout around the state next week. Most of the fish being stocked are rainbow trout, but tiger trout are being stocked in a few places. Here is a list of the locations and the number of trout being stocked about the middle of this month:

» Fort Kearney SRA, Lake 6, 1,200 rainbow trout.

» Plum Creek Park Lake, Lexington, 750 rainbow trout.

» Windmill SRA, Gibbon, 600 rainbow trout.

» Lake Helen, Gothenburg, 2,000 rainbow trout.

» Birdwood Lake, North Platte, 1,000 rainbow trout.

» Lake Ogallala, Ogallala, 12,000 rainbow trout.

“Rainbow trout are especially good for new anglers because they will bite readily on almost anything, including corn, wadded up pieces of bread or worms, and they are easy and safe to handle,” said Larry Pape, aquatic education specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “You can use a simple spin-cast combo or a spinning rod and have a fun day catching trout.”

Oh, and the sandhill cranes are back! Enjoy your time outdoors.

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