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?

READ MORE: Philadelphia School District Students, Staff To Resume Masking As COVID Cases Continue To Rise In City

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.

READ MORE: West Philly Double Shooting Leaves 30-Year-Old Man Dead, Teen Hospitalized: Police

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.

MORE NEWS: Police Investigating Series Of Gunpoint Robberies In Center City, West Philadelphia

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?