O’FALLON, MO. • A city councilman and fervent gun rights backer wants O’Fallon to loosen its ban on BB and pellet guns so residents can use them at home.

“Why should somebody control something I’m doing in my own back yard?” Councilman Jim Pepper said in explaining his pending bill to relax the city’s restrictions. “It’s the nanny state syndrome.”

Pepper’s measure was criticized by an official with the Safety Council of Greater St. Louis.

“A BB gun fires a projectile,” said Bill Jaggi, the safety group’s executive director. “Kids can get hurt with these.”

Pepper’s bill would require youths under age 17 using BB and pellet guns to have adult supervision. Jaggi said he doubted that the provision would always be followed.

Also raising safety concerns was fellow Councilman Bob Howell.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission said BB guns or pellet rifles caused about four deaths a year nationally. However, a commission spokeswoman said the agency didn’t take a stand on whether local communities should enact restrictions.

Pepper noted that if his bill passed, it would still be illegal to intentionally or carelessly use such guns to hurt someone else or damage property.

Meanwhile, he said, if enacted, the measure would protect everyone’s property rights. “Why deprive a populace of something just because of a what-if?” he asked.

Pepper said he believed that children using air soft guns and rubber-tipped bows and arrows were technically in violation of the current law. His bill would reverse that for home use, he said.

O’Fallon Police Chief Roy Joachimstaler is remaining neutral on the bill. Using BB and pellet guns on public streets would remain illegal if it passes, he said.

Pepper’s effort was applauded by the National Association for Gun Rights. “We are opposed to gun control in all forms,” said spokeswoman Danielle Thompson. “We support repealing restrictions on Second Amendment rights.”

Earlier this year the City Council rejected a bill sponsored by Pepper and another councilman that would have declared invalid in the city any federal and state laws infringing on the right to keep and bear arms.

Richard Sheets, an official with the Missouri Municipal League, said local ordinances prohibiting BB, pellet and other air guns had been common in Missouri and other states for many years.

“It’s a public health and safety issue,” Sheets said of the rationale for such laws. “Shooting projectiles in close quarters can be a danger. A little kid shooting at a bird misses and hits Mrs. Smith in the eye.”

Among other area municipalities with bans are St. Peters, Lake Saint Louis, Clayton and Florissant. Wentzville prohibits such guns except at paintball facilities.

Chesterfield bans the use of any pellet gun capable of inflicting serious injury within 150 yards of a building, vehicle or park.

There are no restrictions on using BB and pellet guns in St. Charles County’s unincorporated areas.

St. Louis County allows their use in unincorporated areas except from or across a street, sidewalk, highway or park.

However, children younger than 16 can’t carry a BB or pellet gun on streets or in a park unless they’re with someone 18 or older.

St. Louis bars anyone under 17 from possessing or using a BB or pellet gun on streets or in alleys, parks and playgrounds. There are no other restrictions, a city official said.

Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.