`Is It A Northeaster Or The Jones Kid?'

It's nearly summer, and Super Soaker is back. Not everyone will be thrilled. Some cities considered banning the hyper-powered squirt gun last year, and the thing topped a dangerous-toy list after one youth was killed and two injured in shootings triggered by ill-advised super-dousings.

Call this a victory, sort of, for the free market. Water gun sales tripled in 1991, then doubled again last year despite the publicity. Market leader Larami Corp. sold 10 million Soakers last year, worth $150 million, up from 3 million in 1991. And this summer? The battle may be rejoined, as dozens of copycats pitch water guns of their own. Michigan State Senator Gilbert J. DiNello is keeping an eye on police reports, looking for a reason to revive his bill banning the toy in his state. Analysts say there's a more likely end to this phenomenon: market saturation.

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