Faux bullet holes hit the fad mark

Stickers: Some drivers find the novelty items amusing, though gun-control advocates don't see the humor in them.

January 12, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

And now, the latest evidence of Americans' fascination with guns, cars and outlaws: the faux bullet hole.

Drivers are increasingly using the magnets and stickers to create the head-turning illusion of a bullet-riddled vehicle. For some, the fake holes are a cheap way to customize their cars or motorcycles and achieve that gangster look, but without the lifestyle. Still others use them to play harmless practical jokes on people.

"I've had some looks, I'll tell you, and that's worth it," said Ken Durbin, 56, of Dundalk who has used the fake bullet holes to help turn his 2001 PT Cruiser into a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde getaway car.

"People will pull up alongside of me and give me some funny looks. Police haven't pulled me over yet, knock on wood," he said.

The fake holes may make the average motorist pause and do a double-take. But law enforcement officials in the Baltimore region say they're aware of the offbeat fad and haven't mistakenly stopped cars with them. The fake holes are often placed on bumpers, trunks and car doors, or on the sides of motorcycles.

"I haven't been fooled by them," said Cpl. Robert Moroney, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police.

"I've seen actual bullet holes in vehicles, and they're not quite what the stickers are," Moroney said. "The thing about the stickers is that they usually have three or four [bullet holes] in a row and every one is exactly the same. If they were actually shot by a round, they would be differently formed depending on the angle."

Not that police have the right to stop cars that have been strafed with bullets, according to Moroney, who said he usually sees them on sport utility vehicles. Police can't pull over cars with bullet holes - fake or real - unless, for example, they are investigating a shooting and they see a bullet-marred car in the area, he said.

"These aren't illegal and I can't imagine they'd be deemed illegal," he said.

A handful of manufacturers make the fake bullet holes, which come in sticker or magnet forms and can be purchased on numerous Web sites or at automotive and novelty shops, such as Pep Boys and Spencer Gifts.

A pack of six stickers typically costs about half the price of magnetic ones, which sell for $5 to $7. Motorists can choose from smallish .22-caliber holes up to the larger .50-caliber variety.

"I think they're funny," said Michelle Tana, manager of Spencer Gifts at The Mall in Columbia. "We do sell a lot of them. We also sell a lot of the fake bird poop on the car."

However, some don't find the fake bullet holes amusing.

"This fad is a commentary on how desensitized to gun violence we've become and maybe even how much our country glorifies it," said Blaine Rummel, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, based in Washington.

"Americans tend not to think about the fact our country has the highest level of gun violence in the industrialized world. And not coincidentally, we have the weakest gun laws compared to those countries," Rummel said.

Although he thinks they're in bad taste, Rummel said the coalition isn't going to devote time to opposing the holes' sale.

"Putting stickers on a car doesn't foreshadow a propensity toward gun violence," Rummel said. "We recognize it's a fad. ... Our resources will be put into banning real assault weapons, not magnetic bullet holes."

Lena Pause, who with her husband, John, founded Hardley Dangerous Illusions LLC more than three years ago to make fake bullet-hole stickers, said she hasn't received any complaints about the product.

"I'm not selling guns to kids here," she said. "Most people realize it's a novelty."

The Pauses' small company, nestled in Andrews, N.C., in the Smokey Mountains with about five employees, has distributed millions of the fake bullet-hole stickers nationwide and to more than 20 countries, she said. They've also branched out to sell fake car scratch stickers, which make an automobile look like it's been "keyed." The stickers come off without harming a car's finish, she said.

She has noted interest in the stickers from some odd locales.

"We started getting calls from Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Israel," said Pause. "I said, `These people got to be crazy. What do they want with more bullet holes?'"

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