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VIEWPOINT: Vernon paintball shooting experience enough for now

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere
FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2013, file photo, firearms training unit Detective Barbara J. Mattson, of the Connecticut State Police, holds up a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, the same make and model of gun used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook School shooting, for a demonstration during a hearing of a legislative subcommittee reviewing gun laws, at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

While some may receive “bumps” on their birthday, my son got a welt or two from paintballs. 
For an early birthday gift, we recently took him and several of his friends to the Vernon area for an afternoon of paintball. 
Despite the odd welt, the paintball party was a great success.

As someone who once had a bit of an affinity for guns (kids in my neighbourhood would often play “guns” with non-firing toys), it was a lot of fun to watch – even though the rain arrived when we did, and didn’t let up until we were done. 

Firearms were a thing in my household growing up. My dad was an avid hunter, and had a rack of rifles and shotguns. When quite young I had a wall of toy guns, several of the realistic variety that are not sold nowadays. In my early teens, dad picked up a shotgun and a 30-30 for me, hoping I’d get into the sport. We also had a .22 rifle. While we'd take them out target shooting, I never got into hunting. Still, I looked forward to going to the gun shows in Kamloops. 

After my dad passed away, all our firearms were sold. This was well before my son was born.

Despite my own upbringing, neither my wife nor I wanted firearms in the house with our child. Eventually he got a foam dart gun or two, and then some futuristic laser tag guns, but real firearms have remained a no-go.

Perhaps this had to do, at least in part, with all the stories coming out of the U.S. over the past decade or so about mass shootings involving youth and children. 

When I was a kid, the leading causes of death in the U.S. were congenital anomalies, sudden infant death syndrome and respiratory distress syndrome (1980, U.S. Center for Disease Control). Recently, I was taken aback when I heard over the radio that today, the number one cause of death for U.S. children and youth, ages 0-24, are firearm fatalities.

In October 2023, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) reported firearm fatalities had increased by 87 per cent over a 10 year period, with 1,311 deaths in 2011 and 2,590 in 2021. 

“In 2021, among children who died by firearms, 84.8% were male, 49.9% were Black, 82.6% were aged 15 to 19 years, and 64.3% died by homicide,” reported the AAP. 

The above stats weren't the actual story. The story was that this year, survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting are graduating. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 students (the youngest of them age 6) and six staff members were killed at the Connecticut K to Grade 4 school by Adam Lanza, who murdered his mother with a .22 rifle before going to the school.
Using an AR-15, Lanza reportedly fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, claiming the 26 lives before taking his own with a handgun. 
While this was one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, it may have been shadowed by related conspiracy theories, including the massacre having been orchestrated by the U.S. government to promote stricter gun control laws. 

As painfully frustrating as the number of people whose lives are now lost annually to firearm fatalities, is a culture that prioritizes profit and individual interpretations of an outdated amendment over taking actions necessary to prevent the above statistics and mass shootings having become a daily occurrence in the U.S.

Certainly, there are other nations where people's enjoyment of firearms and shooting are tempered by effective gun laws, where "gun cultures" exist yet mass shootings are very far from the norm. 

These days, while still interested in firearms, I'd rather spend my time and money on other things. As for my son, for now he seems content with his paintball experience and his various loadouts he uses in Call of Duty to whoop my arse. 



Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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