GOVERNMENT Sues Daisy Outdoor Products

Monday, November 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is suing one of the nation's top BB gun manufacturers in an attempt to force the recall of millions of air rifles alleged to have a dangerous defect.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 2-1 on Tuesday to file a lawsuit against Daisy Outdoor Products after the Rogers, Ark.-based company repeatedly refused to negotiate a voluntary recall or other settlement, commission chairwoman Ann Brown said.

The commission's suit targets 16 versions of Daisy's PowerLine Airgun. The company has produced 4.9 million of the model 880 PowerLine Airgun since 1972 and 2.4 million of the model 856 since 1984, the commission said.

The complaint alleges that BBs can get stuck in the magazine of those models, leading users who can no longer hear pellets rolling around inside to believe the guns are unloaded. However, firing the BB guns can shake the pellets loose and shoot them out at extremely high speeds, the suit says.

As a result, the alleged defect _ which would cost $2 per gun to fix _ has been associated with at least 15 deaths and 171 serious injuries, Brown said.

``These aren't the same BB guns we all grew up with,'' Brown said.

Daisy marketing director Joe Murfin said anyone who has been hurt has ignored clear warnings on the packaging on how to safely use BB guns. The packages say BB guns should never be pointed at a person and should only be used by those over 15, with parental supervision.

``There is no defect with this product,'' Murfin said.

The suit asks an administrative law judge to order a recall pulling all unsold products from store shelves nationwide. The commission also wants the company forced to wage a public awareness campaign and offer consumers free repairs, replacements or refunds for BB guns they have already bought.

Mary Sheila Gall, the lone commissioner to vote against the suit, said six previous CPSC investigations of Daisy BB guns had found no defects. She also said the deaths and injuries represent a minuscule percentage of the guns sold.

``This complaint is highly politicized, it is not well-founded in law or the evidence, and it should not have been brought,'' Gall said.

The mother of a Pennsylvania teen-ager who was shot in the head with a Daisy BB gun joined Brown at a news conference after the vote.

``We don't want one other child, one other family to go through what we went through,'' said Becky Mahoney of New Hope, Pa.

Mahoney's son Tucker, then 16, was injured in 1999 after he and a friend had been shooting targets with an 856 model. They could no longer hear pellets inside, so the friend aimed the gun at Tucker and fired.

Tucker suffered severe brain damage. The Mahoneys sued Daisy and received an $18 million settlement.

The vast majority of recalls are accomplished through a joint agreement between the CPSC and a company. A lawsuit is generally a last resort, and they have been used only six times before.

The administrative law judge's decision can be appealed by either side back to the commission. The company could then appeal further in federal court, meaning it could be two years or more before any decision is final.