BB gun play doesn’t warrant felony charge

Freedom New Mexico

For those who didn’t get the memo about society going stark-raving mad, the plight of a 10-year-old in Lafayette, Colo., should bring them up to speed.

The boy, whose name we will not reveal, played on and near the Alicia Sanchez Elementary School playground late in March. He and some friends pretended they were cops.

As reported by the Boulder Daily Camera, a friend hid a BB gun in a gutter near the playground and pointed it out to the boy in question. The boy picked it up and carried it onto the playground, where he and other boys continued playing cops.

Two boys rode by on skateboards and asked if the gun was real. The boy said it was a toy and showed them BBs in the chamber. The boys ran from the scene and reported the toy gun to school officials the next day. They believed the boy had targeted them from afar, even though they felt safe enough to approach and ask him questions.

The boy should have been in trouble. He had no business walking onto a school playground with a BB gun. The boy’s mother should have been called to school. The boy should have been suspended for a short time. The principal should have delivered a stern and frightening lecture. Someone should have said “you could shoot an eye out.” At age 10, children can be taught the proper use of BB guns, including the part about staying away from schools.

But those aren’t the type of consequences this 10-year-old suffered.

Instead, the boy’s mother and police were summoned to the school. The mother was told her son would go to jail. The boy panicked and bawled. He grabbed his mother, held her tight and screamed “Help me, Mommy.”

Then cops hauled him away in handcuffs as other students looked on. He was booked into jail on two felony charges and a misdemeanor. He was held in juvenile detention for two full days, deprived of his home and family.

We repeat. The boy is 10. It was a BB gun. He harmed no one.

So which stands to hurt society more? A young child’s unwise decision to bring a BB gun to a playground, or the excessive traumatization of that child? Of course, the latter will hurt us more. The treatment he received — the treatment due a common criminal — is tantamount to child abuse.

Boys have forever played with BB guns. In the classic move “A Christmas Story,” nine-year-old Ralphie Parker has only one wish for Christmas. He wants a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock and “this thing that tells time.”

Each time Ralphie asks, some overprotective adult says “you’ll shoot your eye out.” It’s a line that mocks society’s irrational fear of boys with BB guns, in a satirical manner. Most boys with BB guns never take out an eye. Even the worst, most exaggerated BB gun injury and death statistics show the guns as safe — especially relative to skateboards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found 39 deaths over 10 years that were caused by all forms of air guns, including the professional high-velocity variety. A 2006 study by Skaters for Public Skateparks — a skateboard advocacy group — found that skateboards cause one death each week in the United States, which means they may cause more than 500 deaths over 10 years.

Toward the end of “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie gets his BB gun and life goes on. The movie concludes with Ralphie taking the gun to bed on Christmas night, with a narrator saying it was the best present he would ever receive.

A modern remake of the movie would feature society gone mad, with boys who run for their lives at the sight of a Red Ryder. In the closing scene, Ralphie would cry himself to sleep. Behind bars.