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BB guns used to shoot at homes, motorists in recent Arundel crimes Children given weapons as toys, officer says


Carroll Gerbig was waiting at a traffic light at southbound Route 10 and Mountain Road in Pasadena last week when something grazed his forehead. He felt a trickle of liquid and then horror.

"I looked in the mirror and saw blood gushing out," said Gerbig, 53, of Glen Burnie.

He had been shot with a BB gun. Gerbig drove himself to North Arundel Hospital, where he waited two hours for doctors to remove a small BB that was lodged two inches into his forehead.

Fortunately for Gerbig, the injury was not serious, but the incident and a recent rash of similar ones show a new and dangerous turn in the use of BB and pellet guns.

"This is enough to shatter windows and if you get close, it's enough to put someone out of their misery," said Officer Jim Meyer, holding a .177-caliber BB gun. "Unfortunately, too many people buy them for their kids as toys."

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Park Police arrested five Laurel and Maryland City youths after officers allegedly found them shooting at motorists on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near Route 198. The officers found the youths, ages 14 to 16, with seven pellet handguns, .22- and .177-caliber pellets and shotgun ammunition.

At least three windows were shattered, but no one was injured, police said.

That same night, a 17-year-old Glen Burnie girl was shot at by a passing motorist on the Parkway with a BB gun, and the next week, both Gerbig and a Pasadena man were fired upon on Route 100 near Route 10 in Pasadena.

Danger on the road

Police and local hospital staffers said the new crime easily could have deadly consequences.

"The danger is in losing control of your vehicle," said Officer Vaughn Dykes, a police spokesman. "You could run into another vehicle or run into a pole or a curb. It can not only affect you, but other people on the road."

"It's a lot more dangerous and there are a lot more consequences to this than a normal teen-age prank," he said. "With the possibility of injury, I'm sure the courts would really hammer a person even if there were no injuries in that case."

It is illegal to sell a BB or pellet gun to a minor, but it is not illegal for a minor to possess one, and no law requires that a minor must be accompanied by an adult when handling the guns.

Most BB and pellet guns would cause little harm if shot from a distance. The ammunition travels only 30 yards in most low-model, $30 guns, then it virtually drops.

But some German model pellet shotguns, used for hunting small game, can easily blow a hole through an empty soda can at 50 yards, according to Bruce Heath, a salesman at Dick's Clothing and Sporting Goods in Glen Burnie. Guns made for competition shooting can go even further and cost several hundred dollars.

"Any one can be just as fatal as the next," said Meyer, 38. "BBs aren't as deadly as pellets, but they can be. A pellet has more mass and can travel at a higher velocity. More mass generally means a deeper penetration."

Investigators are looking for clues to the culprits in the recent shootings, but until they come up with a suspect, they're counting on parents to watch children.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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