A Lesson For New Gun Owners

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

...and old ones too. Murphy is always around. Be safe, be safe, be safe. Get training from a competent instructor if you lack experience. Practice often. Store your firearms safely. ==================================================================

Sunday March 28, 1999 11:42 a.m. EST

Family Insists Shooting Will Be a Lesson to Others Who Trust Their Kids SHELDON, N.D. (AP) -- Even with 21 shotgun pellets still under his skin and a hole the size of a silver dollar in his back, young Frank Wall's energy is enough to make his mother roll her eyes and sigh.

She coaxes and finally orders the 10-year-old to a chair in the family's large farmhouse.

``Now you sit still and answer his questions,'' Bea Wall says, pointing her son toward a reporter at the kitchen table. ``Consider it part of your punishment.''

She snags Frank's 8-year-old brother, Nicholas, by the shirt as he tries to sneak through the kitchen. ``You too,'' she demands. Nicholas sulks but climbs onto a stool at the counter.

Two weeks earlier, Alvin and Bea Wall's two youngest were involved in something these strict but loving parents never imagined would happen.

While Mom helped pull a neighbor's tractor from the mud and Dad was at a livestock auction, Frank and Nicholas took a hunting rifle and shotgun from their father's gun case.

And as they later admitted they had done at least once previously, Frank practiced loading bullets into the hunting rifle while his little brother rested the 12-gauge shotgun on a chair.

But this time, the unthinkable happened. Unaware the shotgun had a shell in it, Nicholas pulled the trigger.

The blast struck his older brother in the left shoulder, tearing a 4-inch-wide, 8-inch-long canyon halfway across his back and splattering flesh and blood around the kitchen.

Today, the skinny boy with dark, matted hair is mostly recovered; enough at least to chase his brother through the house again. Doctors stitched up most of his wound, but left one gaping hole open, stuffed with gauze, so the flesh will grow back and heal properly.

Thankful their two boys are alive, Alvin and Bea Wall are also stunned by the kids' actions, and they are bent on making the incident an example to others.

The lesson for kids: This is what can happen when you play with guns.

For parents: We trusted our kids as much as you think you can trust yours.

``We never, never imagined they touched the guns when we weren't around,'' says Alvin Wall, a farmer near the tiny town of Sheldon, about 50 miles southwest of Fargo. ``And then to find out this wasn't the first time. It was a shock.''

In rural areas like this, almost everyone has at least one or two guns for bird or deer hunting. They are looked at less as weapons than as essential tools. As with any hazardous tool, parents try to instill in their children the common sense to stay away from them.

As punishment for having not done so, the Walls have decided young Frank - and maybe even Nicholas eventually - must share the story with other youngsters. Schools, clubs, hunter safety classes. Wherever. He must admit to his actions and show the consequences, including his scar and the blood-soaked denim shirt. Mom - only half joking - insists he must also cart around the door to her dishwasher, pockmarked from shotgun pellets.

The idea of telling the story doesn't sit well with young Frank. It's all so embarrassing, he says.

His dad steps in with stern words. ``You're going to have to do it every year until you're 21, so you might as well start practicing,'' he says.

Frank lowers his head, recognizing the seriousness in his dad's voice.

``If I have my say, you will go to the schools along with your bloody shirt if we have to handcuff you,'' his dad continues. ``There has to be some good to come out of this, Frank.''

It started two weeks earlier on a Thursday afternoon when the youngest of the Walls' eight children were on spring break from school. Alvin Wall was more than 100 miles away at a livestock auction. Bea Wall had just received a phone call from a neighbor, asking for help freeing his tractor from the mud.

She left Frank and Nicholas at home with a list of household chores.

Frank says his mom was barely out the door when he turned to his little brother and motioned to the gun cabinet.

The Walls kept ammunition for their guns locked away separately, but Frank and Nicholas had found a shotgun shell and two rifle bullets elsewhere.

As Frank tried to load the rifle, one bullet got jammed in the chamber and the second fell to the floor. He bent over to pick it up just as Nicholas pulled the trigger on the shotgun.

``It felt like a bee sting at first,'' Frank says. ``I thought I'd gotten hit by just one BB or something.''

Frank ran outside and get into the family truck, believing he could drive down the road and find his mom. Mom, however, had taken the keys.

He ran back inside and, with the help of his little brother, jumped in the shower, still convinced his wound wasn't that bad.

``I still thought maybe I had only one BB in me,'' he says. ``Then I heard `ping, ping, ping, ping.' It was all the BBs falling into the shower.''

Nicholas dialed 911. On another phone line, Frank hit the ``redial'' button. At the other end, family friend Lynn Wolff heard a tiny voice say, ``I'm shot.''

Wolff raced to the house 10 miles away. About that time, state Game and Fish Warden Tim Phalen was headed home from work when he heard the call over his radio and headed straight to the Walls' house.

On the kitchen floor, he found Frank lying on his stomach, his younger brother pressing a blood-soaked towel to Frank's back. At one point, Nicholas actually had stood on his brother's wound, trying to apply as much pressure as he could to stop the bleeding.

Frank was conscious, whimpering slightly. Nicholas, Phalen says, was obviously scared, but remarkably calm.

``Frank's brother was more worried about making sure Mom knew they were going to be at the hospital,'' Phalen says. ``He was saying, `We've got to leave Mom a note.' So he grabbed a big pad of paper and was asking me, `How do you spell hospital?'''

As Frank was loaded into an ambulance, Wolff raced off to find Bea Wall.

``He drove up to the gate, got out of the car and came trucking across the field,'' she says. ``As calmly as he could manage, he told me Frank had been shot but was still talking.''

The two raced back to the Wall farm, just missing the ambulance. At the house, Bea saw the blood trail leading to the truck and the pools of blood on the kitchen floor. In the shower, the drain was so clogged with buckshot and her son's flesh that the water had backed up.

At a hospital 30 miles away, doctors removed as much of the shot as they could and stitched Frank up. His father, paged in the middle of the livestock auction, sped home.

X-rays still show 21 small pellets under the skin on Frank's back. Some will be there for years before working their way to the surface.

The pellets, along with what will become a large scar, will be reminders of what Frank and Nicholas recognize as the stupidest thing they ever did.

``Curiosity,'' Frank says, struggling with the big word, ``killed the cat, and it almost killed Frank and Nicholas.''

For their parents, and even Phalen, a game warden for 12 years, the shooting was a rude awakening.

``I've got two little kids, too,'' Phalen says. ``The first thing I did when I got home that day was to hug them and say, `You know never to touch the guns, right?'''

Phalen keeps most of his firearms, even his boys' BB guns, locked in a gun vault with the ammunition stored elsewhere.

But he says even that is no guarantee against childhood curiosity.

``No one ever thinks their kids would do such a thing,'' he says. ``As much as you want to believe that, kids are kids and they are curious.''

By JOHN MacDONALD, Associated Press Writer

-- (li'ldog@ontheporch.com), March 28, 1999


My take on this is that the parents didn't instill enough respect for firearms into the boys at an early enough age, and didn't let the boys use and handle the weapons to understand just what terrible damage they could do. I cannot imagine keeping guns and ammunition in a home with children under those circumstances. My father took me to the range from the time I was six years old, and he was letting me shoot a .22 by the time I was seven. At eight I was given my own bolt-action .22, and ammunition for it, which I was allowed to keep in my closet (unloaded, of course). By twelve, I was allowed to have a pistol (which is of course illegal to do now). Gun safety was drilled into my head by my father, and I am grateful to him for his being so hard-nosed about it. I have never had an accident with a firearm because of the respect for them that he placed in my young mind. I knew two people in my school who had shooting mishaps with their parent's guns, and both times it was because the parents told the children absolutely nothing about them except "don't touch". YOUR KIDS WILL FIND YOUR GUNS, and a trigger lock or gun safe isn't the answer... the best solution is to teach them that guns are dangerous, and instill a healthy respect in them by taking them out and letting them shoot your weapons and showing them first-hand the damage they can do.

-- sparks (wireless@home.com), March 28, 1999.

Adding a bit more:

You cannot kidproof guns, but you can gunproof kids. The NRA has an award-winning safety program (Eddie the Eagle) which is great- the message it teaches kids is that if they find a gun, they should not touch it, should leave the area and tell an adult. No matter how safely you store your own firearms, there's no guarantee your kids won't find one somewhere else- hidden in a friend's home, abandoned on the street or whatever. They should know what to do, and it's your responsibility to teach them.

Kids are curious about guns. They are featured in movies and on television frequently (and just as frequently handled in an unsafe manner, I might add). The bad examples are everywhere, and kids who are not taught better will follow them. It is critical that you learn good skills, and critical that you teach your kids responsibly.

Note that this ten-year-old was going to "drive down the road" to find his mom. How many of you let your pre-teens drive (I know, I grew up on a farm too)? Handling a gun requires pretty much the same level of responsibility and maturity as driving, and a skill set that takes approximately the same amount of time and practice to develop. It doesn't come easily. It only takes a split second of carelessness or inattention for tragedy to happen.

With all the unfamiliar and potentially dangerous things you might now be bringing home (and this includes kerosene lamps, heaters, candles, and woodstoves that can burn down your house, wringer washing machines that can wring fingers and arms as well as laundry, saws and axes that cut flesh even easier than they do stovewood) please be careful.

-- (li'ldog@ontheporch.com), March 28, 1999.

Thanks, li'l dog.

We're about saving lives here, aren't we? So for every post encouraging gun ownership, there oughta be a reference back to this warning or a similar story.

Most gun deaths still happen to family members rather than to the intruders the guns were supposed to protect that family against. Let's not be the indirect cause of more deaths.

y2k Macho vs. y2k humility. Which will it be?

-- jor-el (jor-el@krypton.com), March 28, 1999.

My father never locked up any of his guns, all of us kids knew where they were, but we wouldn't even consider touching them much less handling them.

"We're about saving lives here, aren't we? So for every post encouraging gun ownership, there oughta be a reference back to this warning or a similar story."

This sounds nice and to a point I heartily agree. However, at some point a person has to assume that adults will act like adults. I they don't, think of it as evolution in action. Example, for every post on kerosene lamps there does NOT need to be a disclaimer about fire, fire extingushers, not using gasoline, Everclear, or worstershire sauce instead of kerosene, do not drink the kerosene, do not operate lamp while turned upside down, etc.

"Most gun deaths still happen to family members rather than to the intruders the guns were supposed to protect that family against. Let's not be the indirect cause of more deaths."

Disagree with first sentence, agree with second. The gun deaths family members myth is cooked up like this. Instead of compiling the statistics on just family memebers, the % is derived from "family members and aquaitances". Please note that two people dealing drugs qualifies as an acquaintance. Please also note that a HUGE % of gun deaths involve drug deals that went sour. Also, note that drug dealers traditionally do not purchase guns from your friendly neighborhood gun retailer. The same technique is used to arrive at the high percentage of guns deaths of children. If a 20.5 year old drug dealer gets killed while trading, this is chalked up to another "child" being a victim of gun violence etc.

-- Ken Seger (kenseger@earthlink.net), March 28, 1999.

My dad gave me my first rifle when I was 7. It was a single shot, bolt-action, Winchester .22.

He wouldn't give me live ammo or let me shoot it until I could demonstrate that I could carry it in and out of the house without "shooting him". "Shooting him" meant that I had pointed the gun near him while carrying it. One day, I "shot my dad" 17 times. I was horrified. I cried a lot on that day, and on many others.

It was a long time before I got live ammo. I am now 37 years old. I shoot well, and often, and own a variety of guns. I load my own ammo because it is better ammo than that which I can buy. I do not tolerate bad gun handling. I cannot. I don't even like having the barrel of a disassembled colt 1911 pointed in my direction.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. In my opinion, my Dad did it the right way. Teach your children to respect firearms, and they will not only respect firearms, they will respect you.

-- Scott (duhelmet@aol.com), March 28, 1999.

All these kids shooting each other "accidentally" these days is either deliberate or stupidity ("evolution in action").

I am old enough so that when I was a youngster (eleven, twelve, early teens), I could go into a hardware store and buy all the .22 ammo I wanted -- no questions, no ID. I could shoot the thing without a chopper and half-dozen sherrif's cars after my ass.

I had cowboy (play) pistols when even younger (less than ten years old). My dad taught me how to shoot a .32 revolver in the basement.

I saw plenty of "shoot-em-up" cowboy movies. Yes, I was subjected to on-screen "violence" even before television.

But, somehow I managed to learn the difference between play guns and real guns.

What all these anti-gun, do-gooder, crybaby, pussies are telling me is that the present generation is obviously about 50 points less than IQ than mine? Or what?

-- a (A@AisA.com), March 28, 1999.

Fifty points less than yours? Lessee, that would be an IQ of what, 9 - 10? I'm not sure that's possible...

-- Y2K Pro (2@641.com), March 28, 1999.

I am a fairly new gun owner (last year) and I have young kids. My approach has been that there is nothing to hide and that guns would never be 'forbidden fruit' in my house. Anytime my kids want to see my guns I take them out of the safe and show them (making sure the first thing they see me do is check the guns to make sure they aren't loaded).

I show them my targets when I come back from the range and I've taken them to the shotgun range for some practice trap with a .410. I wanted to make sure they _know_ that there is a difference between what they see on TV and what a real firearm will do, and I think (I hope!) I've succeeded. Shooting, to my kids, has become "just another thing Dad does"...


-- tech32 (tech32@nomail.com), March 28, 1999.

Y2k pro -- you just demonstrated an IQ of 9 or 10 is possible.

-- A (a@AisA.com), March 29, 1999.

My father-in-law raised my wife and her sisters (who were step-'s but nobody counts it) that guns were tools, and that accuracy could be fun. My wife grew up with a fair number of weapons in teh house, from the french trading musket that dad took a woodchuck with at 400 yds (had to step around teh cloud of smoke to see the ball hit the chuck, and it probably only pised him off, at that distance), to the personal weapon of TR's first lt. on his charge up San Juan Hill, to the matched pair of Camp Perry Pistols on the mantle. Both of which, I am reliably informed had a quarter taped to the front of teh barel for balance (hi hi).

Her dad's first wife won one for her second place, Women one year and his was a gift for loading all of the match grade ammo used that year.

they were all taught how to uses firearms correctly. One of the best stories is about her sister, who at 7, would tuck the 12ga into her armpit, fire it, dust off her posterior and go inside and ask for another shell.

The ONLY solution is to gunproof the kids, starting at 5 or 6, depending on the maturity level of the kid. [tempting ad hominem attacks deleted before posting]

Chuck, who has several pieces around the house, all ready to go if needed.

-- Chuck, a night driver (reinzoo@en.com), March 29, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ