Skip to comments.Potato guns aren't toys to those they have maimed
Posted on 07/15/2003 7:15:04 PM PDT by aomagrat
Denton, Texas -- Two months ago, Daniel Berry looked forward to his 18th birthday and fulfilling his childhood aspiration to become an Air Force pilot.
Now, his nights are filled with thoughts of seeing again.
"I dream that I'm running somewhere," Berry said. "I blink my eyes and I can see. Then I blink my eyes again and I can't."
Berry, 17, was blinded April 13 in an accident with a potato gun, a homemade device that combines a long plastic tube or pipe with a propellant such as hair spray to fire projectiles several hundred feet.
In this case, the projectile was a live frog.
Although the fuse was lit, the gun didn't fire, and Berry looked down the barrel to see what was wrong. Suddenly, the gun went off.
"Everything went red and black," he said. "I felt pain, but it was past that. It was pain you don't feel, but you know it's there. As soon as I got to the hospital, I passed out."
No national statistics are available, but the guns have been blamed for several serious injuries. Most involve eye trauma, but in April, a Minnesota boy's lung was punctured by a screwdriver launched from a potato gun.
Berry said he had never heard of potato guns until he and his younger brother, C.W., spotted several college-age youths using them to launch cans of corn, bags of rice and eventually live frogs.
"They said, 'You want to shoot one?'" Berry said. "I was like, 'Sure.'"
Thanks to the Internet, the guns are easy to come by.
Hundreds of Web sites offer instructions on how to make them using materials from hardware stores. Other sites sell the guns, starting at about $55.
Joel Suprise, owner of the Internet-based Spudgun Technology Center, said he fills about 100 orders a month for launchers and components. The majority of his customers are male, he said. Some are physics teachers or professors.
"My mantra is, if it makes noise and will toss something further than you can throw it, guys love it," he said. "Despite the fact they are for fun and entertainment, they can be dangerous when used inappropriately or in an unsafe manner."
Some U.S. cities have banned the devices. They are illegal in Texas, but cases, including the one involving Berry, are rarely prosecuted.
The federal government does not prohibit them.
"We consider them to be recreational devices," said Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"We don't consider them to be firearms or destructive devices. When they're used as they are intended, we don't consider them regulated."
'THEY'RE EXTREMELY UNSTABLE'
Andy Johnson, a Southlake pilot, was partially blinded six years ago after he built a potato gun for his two sons.
Johnson, 50, said his children found the device when he was away from home. They loaded it with fuel but could not make it work and later asked Johnson to inspect it.
"I just reached over to take it out of his hand," he said. "He hit the firing mechanism and it fired."
The gun wasn't loaded, but a tiny fragment of metal hit Johnson in the right eye.
"The problem with potato guns is they're extremely unstable," he said. "If you're going to handle one, you have to assume it can fire at any time."
Dr. Ron Danis, a professor of ophthalmology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said the devices are as dangerous as BB or pellet guns.
"The message is, these nonofficial guns are toys, so we have this sense that they're not as dangerous," said Danis, who has treated a potato gun victim. "This cavalier attitude makes the risk of injury greater."
Berry, who was attending classes at a local business school, had wanted to enlist in the Air Force at age 17, with his parents' permission. But they told him to wait until he was 18. They were afraid of the threat of war.
Berry's future is uncertain now, but he is dealing with his blindness. Details such as which clothes he wears remain important.
He playfully argues with his parents over whether a favorite shirt features a design of a cartoon bear or lion. He still wakes up each morning and listens to cartoons or "The Jerry Springer Show."
"He has a really good attitude," said his mother, Lisa Berry. "Mine wouldn't be as good."
Berry said he has formed his own opinions about potato guns.
"Don't buy them. They're guns," he said. "Don't look down the barrel of any kind of weapon."
And this guy wanted us to trust him with fifty megabucks worth of government property?
"Everything went red and black," he said.
Is he sure it wasn't red and green?
Today, we try to childproof the world. In the old days (and when I grew up), they tried to worldproof the child.
Today, by safety crusaders trying to remove/ban everything that could even scratch someone, it gives kids a false sense of security. They think that the entire world has been "safed" for them, they don't think about the dangers inherent in every activity, and eventually they run into something that's going to bite them on the ass -- if not while kids, then when they go out into the adult world.
Back in the "good old days", kids played with sharp sticks, darts, cap guns, firecrackers, etc., and learned very early on that a) they're not invulnerable, and b) just about anything can cause damage/pain to you if you don't use your head about being appropriately careful. As a result, they were far less likely to do something dangerously foolish the rest of their lives (at least not through blissful carelessness).
This year We built a cradel for the potatoe gun and my daughter calculated ranges based on barrel elevation. I helped her measure the results and she competed in the Dallas County Science Fair.
Next year I hope that she will prepare a paper on the NASA supergun that is being developed at White Sands.
Guns in the hands of fools are dangerous. Kinda like Al_Blore looking down the barrel of his M-16 which has been posted here many times.
Something wrong with buying guns?
Let's face it: we don't want to see this guy in a fighter jet cockpit.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.