Former physics teacher Richard West (courtesy dailymail.co.uk)

“I can’t believe a teacher thought it was appropriate to take a gun into a school. Surely there are safer ways to do this experiment than taking a deadly weapon into the classroom?” This from an anonymous parent speaking to (or existing entirely in the imagination of) dailymail.co.uk. The deadly weapon: a BB gun. The teacher in question: Richard West of St Peter’s Collegiate, Wolverhampton [UK]. The experiment: measuring the deceleration of a pellet as it passed through sheets of paper. The problem . . .

The pellet deflected off a table, hitting 17-year-old AS-level pupil Ben Barlow in the leg causing a massive, gaping wound, threatening death by exsanguination. No wait. “I was left with just a scratch.” And so the school fired the 50-year-old physics teacher with an otherwise unblemished teaching career.

Tim Cooper, a former English teacher at St Peter’s, said Mr. West was ‘one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching with.

An English teacher ending a sentence with a preposition isn’t a sackable offense, but a GUN RELATED experiment gone awry is, apparently. And yes I know: if this had happened in the U.S., Mr. Barlow’s family would have sued the school. Mr. West would have been fired. And then he would have sued the school.

In any case, Mr. West is lucky his career wasn’t terminated (with extreme prejudice) by a crack team of Authorized Firearms Officers. Just sayin’ . . .

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49 Responses to UK Physics Teacher Fired for BB Gun Accident

      • No, it wasn’t a BB gun, and this site shouldn’t have reported it that way.

        I thought the way this site reported the story was a bit off, because BB guns have never been readily available in the U.K., though airguns have been, so I also checked that Daily Mail article. To give the worriers their due, although BB guns just aren’t up to serious damage, and this airgun probably wasn’t either, some of the British airguns really were (because of the restrictions on conventional guns), and were used by farmers to control pests and the like. It’s not easy to tell from a distance. My father used a medium powered airgun against (big, rat sized!) lizards near the house in Nigeria until we got a cat that scared them off, and of course a high powered airgun was used as an assassin’s weapon in a Sherlock Holmes story. So the distinction between an airgun and a BB gun isn’t a quibble. Something that can kill a rat sized lizard can still do serious damage to a human.

      • Without a firearms permit in the UK, air rifles are limited to 12 foot pounds at the muzzle, usually somewhat less as the law only requires that it be capable of it with any ammunition. Since the efficiency of an air rifle can depend on the pellet weight and actual diameter (not the caliber, pellets can be sized to .01mm to allow tuning the rifle). If the authorities find a combination with your gun that makes or exceeds 12ft-lb and you don’t have a license, you lose big time. Kind of like if the ATF here manages to get your AR to double once, you have an unregistered machine gun and off you go.

    • More importantly, this is coming from a country that once owned an empire due to their world renowned riflemen…now look at them. Take heed America!

      • Er, no. The credit went to the Royal Navy and (usually) penny packets of quite ordinary soldiers, whose fallback was the British square more than anything. Shortcomings in marksmanship compared with their opponents became very evident in the Boer War, though the signs were visible on India’s Northwest Frontier and in the Gun War.

    • “Not so wide as a church door, nor so deep as a well, but ’twill suffice to screw you out of everything you’ve worked your whole life to achieve, you gun-loving bastard!”

      (/sarc off)

      Maybe we can trade Piers Morgan for this guy? Straight across, then move him to Austin.

      • Ask for him tomorrow, and you shall find him a grave man (though not in Shakespeare’s meaning, I hope).

        I don’t have a Shakespearean quote handy, but I’m pretty sure the Brits won’t take Piers Morgan back for anything. They may be misguided, but they ain’t stupid.

  1. An English English teacher should especially get a pass, their language. At least he didn’t add any unnecessary vowels.

  2. wow sounds like a cool test!
    I might try it with some .22 shorts and a ream of 24# copy paper. just the kind of experiment my H.S. kids would love to do with their Crickett rifles. Place each sheet 2″ apart on a string and keep shooting till you run out of paper or you stop the bullet. Then have them write a report about their findings. Awesome idea!

  3. The whole “deadly weapon” outrage bit on the part of the supposed parent is eye-rolling worthy. However, this experiment really should have been conducted outside and the students outfitted with safety glasses. Every decent chem or physics lab has them on hand, as do the metal and wood shops. I’m not sure I’d fire this teacher, but he did exercise poor judgment in this case worthy of at least of a written reprimand.

    • Yea, right. Growing up everything was fair game for our Daisy BB Guns, including friends and brothers. Probably not real smart but still a lot of fun.

        • Dammit Ralph, I’m not supposed to have to clean up coffee 10 minutes before going home….

        • As you spewed said coffee did you think the big one, the mother of all swear words, the – – – – word?

        • I was right next to by brother in a BB gun fight when he got hit in the eye with a BB.
          Yes, he lost that eye, but out of 12 kids in the family and 24 eyes, it was the worst one of the lot, so we were lucky it wasn’t his other eye. He was fitted with a glass eye that he could remove and pity the stranger at a bar who ever asked him to watch their money if they went to the john. The patron would be shocked upon return and my brother would say, “Well you did tell me to keep an eye on your money didn’t you?”
          All true!

      • I’m all for kids making their own mistakes and taking a few cuts and scrapes along the way. That’s as much a part of growing up as staring down a bully who wants your lunch money or asking out that cute girl in home room. Either of those can lead to a bruising of one sort or another, but you learn from it and get different results the next time.

        But a teacher jacking around with a BB gun in a class room? That’s just stupid. Take it outside, fire away, and don’t give the anti’s an excuse to label us all as morons.

    • Did the students not have safety glasses on? It wasn’t mentioned in the story and since the student was struck in the leg and your idea of safety is glasses why should there be any punishment? Also, wouldn’t you be embarrassed to be the kid to make such a fuss that a cool teacher got fired for a scratch?

  4. My best friends son wrote a paper on the proper angle for achieving the greatest distance of a launched item.
    He used my potato gun. Just last year.
    He got a b+

  5. I built a trebuchet and brought it to physics class in high school, to demonstrate projectile motion. My teacher immediately started launching water balloons at the chemistry teacher’s door.

    • This was my thought. I specifically built a trebuchet for a class project, brought it into school, and proceeded to launch almost 1lb potatoes about 40 yards. My classmates tried to catch them . . .

      That thing was far more dangerous than a BB gun.

    • Every year a teacher holds a contest for the best chucker. Kids have to design and build their device. Trebuchets and catapults of various types are common, but there are always some interesting new ideas. Points based on height and distance. Can’t remember any more what it was that was chucked–kids finished there too many years ago.

      A BB gun IS a deadly weapon–if you are a small rodent or bird. Other than that, not so much. Although I did have an idiot teenager miss his mark and shoot out a car window once.

  6. So the 500S&W magnum through the phone book test was a no go? Pity. Glad to see they jumped right on that cataclysmic breach of protocal, those Europeans sure are sophisticated. // Whats that sarah? you want BB guns too, they could take a criminals eye out, color me surprised, Randy

  7. OMG! A GUN! OMG! OMG!
    THE QUEEN JUST FAINTED!
    Three guesses why they either lost or needed help from us to win every war they fought since 1770.
    Except for the Falklands gunfight; that was called due to lack of interest – the sheep surrendered and the people went home.

    • Given that HRM Elizabeth survived the Blitz I am thinking she looks at crap like this and shakes her head wondering where the British spirit went.

      Also please help me with my history, how did we help the Brits in the Napoleonic Wars? Or the Boer Wars?

    • So remind me again of the help you gave in the Napoleonic Wars. It doesn’t count that fighting against Britain kept Britain from disbanding regiments before 1814 and allowed them to get back in time for the Waterloo campaign.

      After that, go over all the big and little wars Britain fought during the next century, including the Crimean War and the Boer War as well as the Zulu Wars, Maori Wars and so on.

  8. So, what you’re saying is you can’t demonstrate physics in a physics class in the UK….

    I wonder, do they do anything hands-on in chemistry? Or biology? Might get a burn mixing baking soda and vinegar, or a nick handling a scalpel….

  9. Boy, when the NAZI’S decide to retake England they are going to need guys like this to train their pellet gun troops against the evil dictator.’we will fight them in the air,the sea, the land ,we will never surrender!'[OUR DEADLY LETHAL PELLET GUNS].

  10. I grew up shooting all metal BB pistols almost an exact replica of a 1911. This was in Santa Clara, CA back in the late sixties, in the suburbs, cheek by jowel houses and no cop was ever called because a bunch of kids were running around shooting real looking guns at each other.

    We have devolved into a waste land of the PC spinal jellification of a whole generation. The land of the free is now a land of diaper wearing adults that still live emotionally if not literally in their mommy’s and daddy’s house.

  11. I’m a little surprised at some of the comments. Knowing your target,
    and by extension your backdrop, is one of the most basic rules of
    firearms safety. The teacher made a bonehead mistake and it cost
    him. As a physics teacher, he definitely should have thought out this
    experiment better. Now if he was fired for performing the experiment
    without issue or even simply bringing the BB gun to school; this
    would be another matter.

    As an aside, I would think that gelatin would be easier to observe
    and measure.

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