Current Trends by Natasha Sapp

Long has been the gun debate in this country, balancing the rights of the second amendment with modern era gun technology creating more powerful, dangerous weapons, guns designed for combat in conflict and war zones being made available to the civilian market either through proper taxes and checks or the black market of the internet for collectors, gun enthusiasts to something more sinister. Balancing the second amendment, the rights of civilian citizens to own guns for hunting, self-protection, applications in farming and rural America to protect you, your livestock and livelihood from predatory wild animals, against the motives of  criminal elements using them in drive-bys, as intimidation to facilitate robberies, gang activity, to jealous lovers bent on killing the one who rejected them, completely evil, probably psychotic persons who engage in serial killing, other violence using many types of fire arms. In more recent years the conundrum remains where the second amendment falls amidst swelling concern over seemingly normal persons or those with a mental health background legally permitted to purchase, somehow able to get their hands on fire arms and perpetrate mass shootings where the goal is to kill people they believe wronged them, students who want to shoot up a school full of bullies, ineffectual administrators who let incidents go on to killing as many people as possible for the sole purpose of seeing how many you can kill, obeying the voices, whatever clearly psychotic reasoning. At the same time debate rages about how to keep children safe from the thousands of accidental shootings in homes across America daily from unsafe gun storage enacted by well meaning, protection minded parents who weren’t even aware their child knew they had a gun, never mind where it was, who have done, they believe, their due diligence in teaching their child if they see a gun never to touch it, play with it, rather to tell an adult immediately. Then there was this shocking story indicated in the first half of the title where a 9 year old at a gun range accidentally shot her instructor while being shown how to fire an Uzi once on single shot, then on full automatic; the gun kicked back and the child’s small body could not control it firing an undisclosed amount of bullets into the instructors face and chest, later killing him.

If there had not been video accompanying the headline many would have thought it was a hoax; still in the days of the internet, in the days of fake things cropping up on YouTube and similar sites people have trouble believing this actually happened. Horror quickly turning to outrage as they ask some basic, simple questions beginning with, why was a 9 year old allowed to be instructed in how to shoot any gun, let alone an Uzi, an automatic weapon she herself would not be allowed to buy, allowed to own chiefly because of her age. Dovetailing into a common misconception held by the American public, ordinary citizens are not legally capable of owning automatic fire arms, expect they are, having to go through special taxes and permits to do so. Worse is who allegedly filmed the devastatingly gory incident, the child’s own mother present and watching as a supposedly experienced gun handler teaches her daughter how to shoot a ridiculously powerful weapon; presumably mother or father signing the appropriate release form for her to be instructed in the first place, only to watch devastation play out. Heated debate beginning again this time centered around two things, the astounding lack of federal regulation instituted on gun ranges nationwide, the fact there are no parameters, guidelines or laws about who can be taught at a gun range, age limits, providing parents sign standard release forms and the unyielding influence of the NRA (national Rifle Association), who has, true to form, remained silent in the wake of a needless tragedy. A tragedy encompassing 3, not 2 sets of victims, the instructor, his family along with the now traumatized little girl who never should have been put in that situation; adding insult to injury, once again twice over, is a spokesperson for the now infamous range stating they followed procedure, saying her small, 9 year old body and mind were old enough to be instructed there, instructed on using, firing an automatic weapon coupled with the state of Nevada who isn’t filing criminal charges against anyone, obviously not the now deceased instructor but also not the gun range for defying the tenets of common sense. While everyone is clamoring about gun regulation, gun safety no word has reached the public her parents are being charged, even investigated in connection with this deadly debacle. You know child endangerment, child neglect, child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor; allegations you would expect to see post something like this. But no, in fact local officials chose to investigate what happened as an industrial, workplace accident rendering whatever findings under divisions like OSHA meant to ensure safe working conditions. Further, as speaking ill of the dead as it may seem, neither is the instructor blameless; a gun happy parent living a life a-la Duck Dynasty wanting their child to learn about guns is hardly new, only things changing, the ferociousness of guns involved. To that end, what instructor in their right mind would see a 9 year old who looks all of 9, wearing pink shorts, hair in a classic pony tail and agree to let her fire a gun, particularly an Uzi; a man with a daughter himself, why wouldn’t he walk off the job if mandated by his boss to fulfill her parent’s ghastly request? His failure to do so leaving us no last and final social safeguard; federal and state governments leaving us no legal safeguard resulting in exactly what happened, a gun willingly put in the hands of a child, defying all reason to the tune of death, death to a fellow human being, death a young girl has to live with for the rest of her life.

Leaving us pondering where is child services if we can threaten removal of a child from their biological parent due to that parent’s immigration status of all things, then why no action here; if we can scrutinize and penalize parents for primarily being poor, though through assistance all the child’s basic needs are met, accuse parents of leaving their children dirty when what they have is a tan, call child services over toy handcuffs used in play; then why no action here?  You may remember this story from last year, the parents who had their child removed for seeking a second medical opinion from a different hospital after encountering several mistakes regarding their 5 month old son; yes the judge returned him to his parents but not before stipulating he be seen by a third hospital and they follow all subsequent medical advice given about the child. Here’s another one for parents recently juggling summers with children out of school and still getting to work; mother scrounges money for used laptop so her child can play on it while mom works at South Carolina McDonald’s possessing free Wi-Fi, after house gets broken into and laptop stolen child asks if she can play in local park instead, mom drops off child with cellphone for emergencies, despite 40 odd kids all milling around the popular park concerned adult approaches child, when child says mother is at work, adult calls cops and mom is jailed. Looking at cases involving guns, most remember the dad who was either the hero of all parents, or the poster child for better anger management depending on your perspective, for shooting bullets into his daughters laptop after her unflattering posts on Facebook; local CPS there even came to do a cursory investigation to ensure her safety, independent of he shot her laptop not her, it was done in an open area with no people around and his daughter nowhere in sight,  said inquiry done primarily to stop concerned calls coming in from all over the country. So why, when social workers have been known to remove children, keep children in foster care placements as a way to get back at, teach parents a lesson, enforce their morality not the law, not the guidelines determining what is abuse, neglect, over the line when they are really needed do they more often than not drop the ball? Why are children routinely left in horrid squalor, sexually abused, exploited, left to be starved, beaten, at risk of death, left in the midst of guns, drugs, moral depravity, but when there are questions about second amendment rights social services doesn’t even enter into it via expert comment? Why, when like the episode depicting laptop shooting dad, there is video, the child’s mother reportedly recorded as events took place, is there no headline noting an investigation, stating she was removed from an easily argued unsafe home?  And knowing the dysfunction in child protective services facilities in America, or maybe just to ease their burden, better guard the safety of children, shouldn’t there be a national conversation about gun regulations, if not basic hunting rifles and hand guns used in sport, game and protection, then a conversation on these high powered machine guns in the hands of your average citizen Joe? Shouldn’t we think about taking these larger safety questions from individuals and placing them in the applicable hands of government similar to the way every day people are not sent radioactive materials through the mail, left to handle nuclear waste?  Safeties, realities in place namely because average people do not have the expertise to handle the above materials properly.                 

Yet Hardball’s Chris Mathews received a lot of flak from conservative minded Americans, probable gun toters, gun owners who were incredulous he would blame the NRA for a clear cut, to their estimation, case of parental insanity, horrendous misjudgment; for which they, the parent(s) not every pro-gun group, gun owner, not every gun range that teaches safety, teaches proper shooting, gun usage, should be held accountable. I myself am the first to say it’s not about the gun; usually in recent cases about the flagging mental health system, giant red flags missed and a mental health history too often ignored causing them to remain eligible to purchase fire arms. I myself have pointed out, should guns suddenly become illegal to the majority population, what people who want to commit violence will do to commit that violence absent any gun at all, prime example our prisons and the things that transpire there; examples throughout years and numerous headlines where knives, chainsaws, everyday objects even a person’s own teeth have been used to do serious harm to another person, attempted to kill them. I am a 100% believer in the concept guns don’t kill people, people kill people; however, to his point this was a small statured 9 year old being taught how to fire the real life version of something you would see a criminal using in the movies, a soldier using either in combat or on film. Not a hunting rifle used to kill deer, other game animals, not a sports rifle used in marksmanship where you are hitting paper, cardboard targets judged on accuracy, shooting clay pulls winning by shooting as many as you can in an allotted time. It’s not even a hand gun commonly used by families looking to protect themselves, her being taught how to use it as a last resort if she were home alone and her house broken into by buglers, drug dealers, mad men psychos; it’s an Uzi, the essence of automatic fire arms, firing an obscene amount of bullets at an obscene speed, purposed to kill. Which may have some merit in Iraq, Afghanistan, against ISIS, well-armed, fortified terrorists in armored vehicles, exploding IUD’s at a distance, but has absolutely no place near a child.  And when that gun responded with the force it was designed to exert, she could not control it; as Mr. Mathews vehemently said, in her case the gun did do it. Simultaneously the NRA remains pin drop silent; not that things are better when they do speak, who could forget executive vice president Wayne LaPierre blaming violent video games, movies, TV and music for Newtown? Of course the young girl should immediately be removed from her parents who obviously don’t know how to care for her, but that doesn’t exclude the reality, Mr. Mathews bluntly pointed out, it wouldn’t be a parent decision at all if it wasn’t for the NRA’s continual riling up of the conservative base, gun owning, Duck Dynasty-eqsue, even anti-government militia type persons, groups who believe the end of civilization as we know it is coming and they must prepare for anarchy. Plodding on relentlessly with the: they (big brother, big, over stepping it government) are taking your rights away, are subverting, eroding the constitution by trying to take your guns away, rhetoric. The unvarnished truth we would be in a very different place in America if it wasn’t for the NRA’s ceaseless lobbying, mobilized opposition to the most common sense gun regulations, background checks for all gun sales meaning, encompassing too those done person to person and at gun shows across the country, sound questions about why a hunter needs 100 round magazines and high capacity, that’s rapid fire, rifles (they don’t), if you’re on the no fly list no gun for you, have an order of protection against you, no gun, expanding, updating and enforcing each one of these, key emphasis placed mental health parameters as they pertain to recent history making events.        


To his point, it wouldn’t have been a parent decision to make because, absent the NRA, their extreme, politicized positions federal regulation would stipulate limits on gun ranges operating in the United States, age restrictions mandating you have to be at least say, 12 to fire specified sizes of hunting rifle, X inches tall, able to pass X strength test to be sure you can handle the kickback present in the weapon. No one under the age of 18, possibly 21 taught how to fire the largest, most sophisticated guns on the market for civilian purchase, use; why, because it takes a maximum level of maturity combined with body strength to operate a gun safely. The instructor would have had the law to stand behind because the child was far too young, and the gun causing such heartache now wouldn’t have entered into it as, minus NRA interference promoting ‘we can have all the guns we want, no exceptions, no restrictions,’ such automatic, Uzis, dress it up calling them tactical rifles, would remain where they belong, for use in combat, war zones, given only to trained soldiers who have been imparted the knowledge to respect what it can do, have passed a psych exam, or a series of them, ensuring they are mentally healthy enough to handle the responsibility. Otherwise prohibited, allowing him to say ma’am we don’t teach those types of weapons here that’s against the law. There would be mandates on instructors firstly licensed to teach at a gun range, specific things they had to learn, demonstrate, before obtaining a fire arms instructor’s permit including the obligatory mental health exam; vastly better than the haphazard, god only knows system currently determining qualification fitness. Facilitating reasonable regulations far from just lining up with 74% of members the NRA continues to ignore who believe in sensible measures i.e. background checks, extending the list of  those deemed mentally unfit to buy guns; it  would concurrently facilitate a massive cultural shift echoing, the concept returns again, common sense, more than reiterating kids and real guns don’t mix, should never mix, underscoring every day, ordinary people possess no use for a gun designed to function in a war, giving run of the mill citizens access to these types of guns is a recipe for untold amounts of what we see, accidents, death. And someone somehow thinking they “need” variations on said weapon a sign of potential mental disturbance to be closely examined; sans NRA manipulation, had the girl’s mother gotten her hands on that type of gun through dubious means, brought it to the range demanding her child be taught how to shoot it, she would have been arrested, the child remanded to social services, people around them recognizing the clear and present danger.    Ironic you have to be 16 to drive, 18 to buy tobacco and 21 to consume alcohol but there are negligible guidelines on how young is too young to be taught to shoot a gun.

Nor is this as isolated an incident as NRA publicity experts, shooting range establishments would have us believe; yes they happen with far less frequency than criminal activity facilitated by a gun, cases of mistaken identity, family members shot by other family members thinking them an intruder or children playing with an improperly stored gun. Then we remember they should happen with almost unheard of frequency because this is a gun range, a place people are taught respect for the powerful thing they hold, taught safety, taught technique in holding, shooting, otherwise operating various types of guns, shouldn’t it, or that’s what they lead authorities to believe when they petition to stay in operation themselves. Still we have an almost identical scenario culminating in the death of an 8 year old boy at a gun fair, again allowed to fire an Uzi, video showing him holding the gun even though his father was told at minimum twice he was too young to handle that particular gun especially. Exacerbating the case here the person running that booth, in charge of letting people fire 9mm micro Uzis was 15 when this transpired in 2008, him being the one, according to court testimony, to suggest the father choose a different gun for the boy to shoot. Eye opening a 15 year old appears to have more brains than a non-developmentally delayed grown man; at least Massachusetts had the good sense to prosecute that case. Cold hard fact an 8 year old died, actions that can’t be undone; actions eliminated by eliminating NRA meddling due to federal government thus being able to structure gun shows eliminating the presence of children, anyone under 18 from attending for their own safety, insisting booths be run by persons at least 21 years of age. Returning to actual run ranges and the hazards found there, twin sisters in Colorado 2010 were gunned down at a range, though 29 what is shocking is the range owners statement to reporters completely clueless as to how it happened, gaps in surveillance cameras referencing suicide when nothing was known about whether they shot each other accidentally, were shot by another patron of the aforementioned shooting range. Though eventually ruled a suicide pact between the two, adding a layer of creepy to the whole thing they were Australians here on student visas who had Columbine newspaper chippings in their hotel room and chose a shooting range only miles for the infamous school; pointing to we just let foreign persons here on visas, people in general wander into a gun range, rent pistols, carry out suicide pacts and that’s it? They are allowed to rent guns, practice shooting regardless of whether they could pass a background check to own said item, regardless of if they have an otherwise unknowable to range owners, operators mental health issue where the last thing they should be around is a gun; considering these obvious gaps in the gun range system, one wonders how easy it would be for a person who either knows they could not pass a background check or who is deranged to steal a gun from any range in America to carry out their plans? Speaking once more of the mentally ill, it ties directly into the 2009 case of a mother who left a rambling voicemail for her boyfriend, in which she referenced god called herself a fallen angel, stating she had to send herself to hell to save her child before taking her son to a Florida gun range killing him then herself.    

Finally there is perhaps some merit to changing our methods on educating kids about guns, instilling the why they should never touch one; since, as hidden investigations have shown, they can parrot our instructions perfectly still inexplicably drawn to playing with one should they find it and finding any in the home, despite parents best efforts to hide them from the youngest hands. There may be something to taking a child at a certain age to a controlled environment, i.e. shooting range, letting them see exactly what a gun does, reinforcing why they should never touch it; nevertheless there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Firstly it would be a demonstration done by a trained professional with children behind see through bullet resistant barriers, during gun safety, gun injury prevention tutorials for kids, all other activity on the range ceases, the range remains closed to other patrons until the last child has vacated the premises. Secondly demonstrations are done with rifles, hand guns, firearms common to hunting and protection shooting objects like watermelon, squash and pumpkin (the closest non-meat representations of the human body); after shots are fired, guns secured children can look at touch the damage done to the fruit/vegetable in question hopefully with an instructor saying something along the lines: imagine this was your chest, your face, the face, chest of a friend, your mom, your dad, that’s why you never touch a gun, never play with it because it could go off and you could kill someone, seriously hurt them, connecting a visual with what to do if they find, see a gun. Finally citizens in this country can own guns, either as antiques, collector’s items, or to hunt game with, as a protection for self, livestock against predator animals, as a precaution against home invasion, other violence that could be perpetrated against everyone from single women on her own, a single parent with children to keep safe or a family prepared for any eventuality. Gun ranges can exist, allowing people to hone their skills before owning, solo operating various guns; what cannot happen, our present reliance on every individual gun user, gun owner to employ everyone else’s version of common sense. There have to be laws, guidelines, parameters and protocols regulating beyond types of guns available on the civilian market, monitoring what can and cannot happen on a gun range, who and who cannot be there whether it’s minors, foreign visitors here on visa’s who unlike the young women, had more devious plans. Elements that would be in place coinciding with the views of the American people, who in a democracy have choice, if it wasn’t for the NRA; hints the justifiable shaming by commentator Chris Mathews, hints others questions about social services.