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Kids with Guns

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11/5/2013

By Adam Weatherall

 

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    Sweat drips from the edge of my digitally colored bandana. I am peering over the edge of a gun the same camouflage color my entire outfit is matched to. My nerves tense as I see the first blurred enemy soldiers positioning themselves into a forward firing position, I am set at ease though as our commanding officer begins to bark out advice. He yells, “Check Your Mags” and we do. He then yells out, “Find cover and watch your 6!”  With that we follow his quickly-disappearing U.S.M.C patch into the wooden barricades in front of us. The barricades were mainly wooden crates that had been crudely fashioned into a defensible position, and were good for some measure of cover. I was carrying a FNL-FAL assault rifle. The gun is over 45 inches in length and as I am not a trained soldier it shows as I clumsily raise the rifle to my shoulder. Our enemies are mainly mercenaries using AK-47′s and various other small arms. One of them, brandishing a Dragunov rifle fitted with a high capacity drum mag, has managed to completely defeat our advance. Within an instant, 3 of our squad are taken out, receiving rounds to the chest and head. The rest of us were forced to hunker down behind a pile of tires and wait out the onslaught. Our commander quickly rallies us to a counter attack, to my surprise many of the dark and blurry mercenary figures begin to fall as I squeeze my trigger and my squadron continues to fire our weapons until the battle field falls silent. For a moment nothing happens, no one wants to break this rare moment of tranquility in the chaos we were just immersed in. But then perhaps emboldened by adrenaline I speak up…”Is it over? Did we win?” I ponder out loud to the whole squad. It was in this moment, as our commander turned to answer me, his eyes widen. In the doorway a small framed individual is firing his pistol with hollywood-esque accuracy. The Marine goes down, then our shot gunner, seconds later I too feel a sting in the center of my spine…I am shot, and I too fall.  It’s not until he removes his mask that I realize, the last man standing … was just a kid with a gun.

    Luckily, this was not a dessert covered battlefield in Afghanistan or Iraq. The preceding described events took place in no war, but rather a game. That game is known as “airsoft”, and is enjoyed by millions of enthusiasts worldwide. Those enthusiasts are largely made up of children who use military tactics and replica weapons to fire projectiles at each other in what is essentially a mock combat scenario. Until recently I thought nothing of the eerie implications of seeing a child with a firearm. And, in fact, both I and my ex-Marine teammate congratulated the boy with a “nice shot” comment as we exited the airsoft field. I was 11 years old when I fired my first 22 caliber rifle with the Boy Scouts, and until recently I believed that all children should be educated in at least the basic functions of firearm safety. But how young is too young to let children interact with firearms, even as toys or in a video game? Recently a particular school shooting forced me to re-think my position.

sparks middle school memorial

Nearly a week ago a middle school student in Sparks, Nevada opened fire on his classmates, killing a math teacher. The teacher had apparently saved lives by walking toward the shooter while others fled, asking the boy to hand him the gun, before he himself was fatally shot. The boy then turned the semi-automatic handgun on himself. He also injured two other 12-year-oldclassmates, both of whom are in stable condition. The teacher, Michael Landsberry, was an ex-Marine, and had survived two separate deployments to Afghanistan with the National Guard. Authorities suggested that Landsberry tried to protect students that morning, but stressed they were still investigating. The student was reportedly the victim of bullying and was observed by witnesses at the scene shouting, “Why are you doing this to me!”  While the student’s true motivation will forever remain unclear, what is clear is the heroic nature of Michael Landsberry.    

The popular teacher’s Facebook page and memorial website have gone viral, clogged with heartwarming remembrance on behalf of those who knew him best. Mr. Landsberry received years of military training, which perhaps instilled him with the courage to march toward the attacker as everyone else fled.  That day all his training meant nothing versus a twelve year old with a handgun. When I was exiting the airsoft field for the day, my marine teammate told me, “You don’t have to be a genius to shoot somebody”. At the time he was being nonchalant as I attempted to thank him for his service, but he also used it to reference the tiny hitman who had just taken us out. I never would have guessed his words would so soon be applicable to current events. It has forced me to wonder what damage we might be doing as a society giving our kids the knowledge of how to perform violent acts, but not the responsibility to understand the horrible consequences of violence.

Every day we inject our children with endless gun glorification through our media; if not in their favorite video games, it’s being pushed upon them in their favorite television and movies which celebrate gun use. We as a society let our children play games like Grand Theft Auto or Battle Field in which violence and more importantly irresponsible violence is not only permitted but encouraged.  We do this without ever having a responsible conversation or a day’s worth of instruction on firearm safety and responsible gun ownership with our children. The right to bare arms to me is intertwined in the very idea that is America and restricting that idea might serve to diminish that original concept. However, I like many others now wonder what, if anything, can be done to stop these tragic school shootings without altering the Constitution. Surely no amount of legislation could have kept that firearm out of the student’s hand who killed Michael Landsberry. But doing nothing in the face of tragedy isa tragedy in itself. Sparks Middle School has about 700 students in the 7th and 8th grades, 20-30 children witnessed that horrific shooting personally. Nothing but time will heal the wound inflicted on their psyches, and nothing will bring back Michael Landsberry or the multitudes of other victims of school shootings, but something must be done. We must not let the gun debate be pushed aside. It is only through discussion that the correct course of action might be achieved. Last year the tragic loss of life that occurred in Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut forced the gun debate back into the national spotlight, we must continue to shine that light until a practical solution is found. So that one day there can exist a future for all of us, free of tragic events like Sandyhook, a future hopefully filled with more heroes like Mr. Landsberry. But until that day I hope logic will prevail.

Slain teacher, Michael Landsberry’s Facebook page here>

More info and links here>

Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall
Adam Weatherall is the political correspondent for PowerFist.Us a company whose mission is to spread truth and justice to all within it's reach, but more specifically to cover news stories that are often times pushed aside by larger media organizations.