When should a kid get an Airsoft gun (if ever)?

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My 11-year-old has been bugging me all summer to talk his mother into letting him buy an Airsoft gun (I am, of course, an assumed yes). When I was a kid I had a BB gun, as did most of my friends. We promised to be careful, and then we shot each other in the butt and accidentally put some holes in windows. But nobody lost an eye, and it seemed like just part of a normal childhood.

Today’s Airsoft guns, by contrast, use little plastic pellets rather than metal BBs and are thus safer, but they can still put out an eye. They come in spring, compressed air and electric versions, but they all basically work the same way, which is to use compressed air to launch the pellets at an impressive velocity, simulating the gun experience without being able to kill anyone.

The pro case is that letting him have the gun is an opportunity to teach serious gun safety, which will be an important lesson that will serve him well in later life. The con case is, well, everything from the aforementioned eye to encouraging more of a gun obsession than the Nerf guns have already inspired. Plus we don’t want to get a reputation as the "gun family" in the neighborhood when all his buddies start asking their own parents for one.

Putting aside the broader issues of guns yay or nay for the moment, we’re wondering about the age appropriateness of Airsoft. So, a poll:

<a href ="http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/839792/" >How old should a kid be to get an Airsoft gun?</a>  <br/> <span style="font-size:9px;"> (<a href ="http://www.polldaddy.com">  polls</a>)</span>

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