By Amy Feldman

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Does the law treat a bb gun more like a toy or more like a weapon?

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Anyone who has watched poor Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story knows why he won’t get a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas. Because you’ll shoot your eye out.

Parents everywhere are aware that somewhere between a toy and a weapon lies a bb gun also known as a variable pump air rifle, a weapon that’s not generally capable of killing humans, but it can kill small animals and can cause grievous bodily injury to people.

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And, unlike toy guns, which by federal law are required to have orange tipped barrels so the police know it’s a toy, bb guns aren’t, making it harder to tell how powerful a weapon a person is holding.

Which may be why police fatally shot a man in an Ohio Walmart last month who’d been reportedly holding a rifle-like weapon, which turned out to be a bb gun pellet rifle.

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Federal law prohibits states from outlawing the sale of bb guns, but states are allowed to regulate their sale, like New York, which requires a license to possess one, and other states that prohibit their sale to minors. In any event, there’s no law that prevents Ralphie’s mom – or you – from saying, no bb gun. How about some tinker toys instead?