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Water Gun Sales Not Dampened By Complaints, Related Violence

June 19, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ Despite water gun-related violence and angry complaints around the country of drive-by drenchings, stores continue to sell Super Soaker high-powered squirt guns just as fast as kids can buy them.

The victims have included a school bus driver in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood, who said he was shot in the eyes with ammonia Thursday from a Super Soaker water gun but kept one eye open to drive his empty bus off the freeway safely.

Vincent Rankin said four teenagers in a convertible pulled alongside and fired the high-powered squirt gun in his face. ″If there had been kids on the bus it could have been a terrible accident,″ he said.

Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn asked retailers to pull the guns from shelves earlier this month after a water gun fight with the Super Soakers escalated into real gun fire and a teen-ager was killed.

State lawmakers in New Jersey and Michigan have proposed banning the toys. Flynn, who also wants them banned, promised to raise the issue at a U.S. Conference of Mayors conference in Houston this weekend.

″By design these toys imitate assault weapons and give children the impression that violence is an acceptable form of behavior,″ Flynn said.

A few sellers, including F.W. Woolworth Co.’s Boston stores, have complied with Flynn’s request. But those that keep selling the guns, ranging in cost from $5 to $50, haven’t gone begging for customers.

″As the weather gets hotter the sales just seem to increase,″ said Loretta Bennett, an administrative assistant at Larami Corp., the Philadelphia-based company that makes the toys.

″As soon as the merchandise is put out on the shelf, it sells out,″ said Donna Przychodzki, a buyer with Woolworth’s in New York.

Super Soakers come in five sizes. The largest model holds up to 2 liters of water and can squirt up to 50 feet.

Larami insists it doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.

″We are surprised that so much media attention is being placed on the water toys instead of the real causes of violence and the irresponsible actions of those doing the damage,″ the company said in a statement.

Other violent incidents linked to the water guns include the slashing Monday of a teen-ager in Pottstown, Pa.; a brawl Sunday in Belmar, N.J.; and last week’s wounding of a New York City teen-ager by a man who returned fire with a semi-automatic pistol when he was squirted with a water gun.

Super Soaker-related incidents have resulted in at least one conviction of a squirt gun-toting teen-ager. A judge in Marietta, Ohio, sentenced 18-year- old Shayne Scott Schwendeman to two days in jail for assaulting a motorist June 5.

Police around the country have received complaints of ″drive-by″ drenchings.

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