Thursday, June 16, 2022

The Pellet Gun Incident(s)

When your parents get older, they may enter a second childhood. Sadly, this means they have to enter a second adolescence first!

In my previous posting, I posited that it wasn't such a bad idea to gently misdirect your parents away from conspiracy theory videos and towards knitting videos.  Grandmas should be knitting sweaters for the grand-babies - not making Molotov cocktails in the garage for the insurrection.

And I have some experience with this.  My parents, as they aged, started to lose their minds - as we all do as we get older.  Perhaps that is one reason why old people should not be running the government.  Neither should young people, for that matter - they tend to pine for impractical pie-in-the-sky ideas like "guaranteed annual income" without thinking of the obvious consequences.  There is a reason the Constitution requires the minimum age for Presidents to be 35.

And as I look back, my peak years, in terms of earning power and cognitive ability, were in the 30's and 40's.  This blog is a diary of my slowly deteriorating cognition.  Within a decade, I will be writing single-word essays such as "Covfefe."

Toward the end, both of my parents regressed into childhood - acting like grade-school kids and eventually as infants - unable to care for themselves and soiling their diapers.  It is the inevitable decline we must all face, unless you are lucky, like my neighbor who just took a nap one day and never woke up.

But before they entered their second childhood, they entered their second adolescence.  When I was a teenager, they were in their 50's and boy-howdy did they get as randy as teens - they both had girlfriends!   Their behavior became more irrational - they started drinking a lot and dressing funny. "I'm just trying to express myself!" they claimed - even as they were dressing just like the rest of the AARP set.  Fortunately, they didn't go Goth.

When they moved to Maryland, my Dad bought a pellet gun.  Ostensibly, this was to shoot at squirrels and raccoons who were raiding their sun-seared vegetable garden.  My neighbors are going through this phase right now - thinking it would be cute to plant some tomatoes and peppers.  The deer ate the plants right down to the nub, so they are investing hundreds of dollars on screens and nets and deer repellant to grow $5 worth of tomatoes.   And when they are ripe, the racoons will gnaw through the netting and take one bite out of each tomato.

I know this, as I tried to grow a vegetable garden in New York, with similar results.  I think we got a pepper out of it.  We saw juicy tomatoes almost ripe on the vine once.  "We'll pick those tomorrow!" we said.  The next day we went out and it was like they never existed.  Growing a vegetable garden requires a lot of work and patience and a lot of equipment to keep out the critters, who for some reason are very persistent.  I guess they don't like starving for some reason.  Funny thing, that.

Anyway, they plugged a squirrel or two, and maybe a bird - which is probably illegal.  But one day, the guy who sold them the property showed up and started digging on the edge of the property.  The guy had bought about 30 acres of land and divided it up into six, five-acre lots.  He sold them all, so he had no real interest in the property anymore, particularly from a legal standpoint.  But he had made a "right of way" for the property owners so the landlocked lot owners could launch a boat or watch the sunset.  And he was upset that my parents had planted some plants along the right-of-way, although he was no longer a property owner and was in fact, trespassing.

Well, an argument ensued and from what I can tell, Dad started whacking the guy with his shovel ("He started it!" he said - remember what I said about reverting to teenagers?) and then Mom comes out waving the pellet gun, which was a realistic looking thing that from a distance looked much like a real gun.  The Police were called and everyone was arrested and suddenly I'm now the Dad having to bail out my teenage children and appear before the judge promising that it was just senile indiscretion and that they deserve a second chance.  The roles, they have been reversed.

But it didn't end there.   I told Dad to get rid of the pellet gun - throw it in the bay before they got into more trouble.  But he decided to keep it for "protection" which is idiotic as you'd be hard-pressed to kill or subdue someone with a pellet gun unless maybe you shot them in the eye and got lucky and it penetrated their brain.  Even then, not likely - I have a friend who shot himself in the head with a .357 Magnum and he's still breathing, albeit with one less eye.  Amazing what surgeons can do these days.  Our medical care exceeds that of any other major country in one area - treatment of gunshot wounds.  Take that, socialist medicine!

His theory was, if someone broke into the house, he would wave the pellet gun around, and like on television, the perpetrator would cower in acquiescence until the Police arrived and took him into custody.  Dom-Dum!  They've been watching too many episodes of Law and Order.  The reality of "self protection" is that even if you have a real gun, there is a good chance that the wired meth-head who is coming through your bedroom window will take it from you and shoot you with it.  In self-defense, there is draw, aim, and shoot - and shoot to kill.  There is no margin for error, either.   You hesitate, you are dead.  You make a mistake,  you kill an innocent person - such as a family member.

It is hard enough with a real gun.  With a pellet gun?  You are going to have your ass handed to you on a platter.

Anyway, their place was out in the country and the locals had been hunting for deer there for over a century.  So they wandered onto the property with their deer rifles, looking for food.  Granted, you are not supposed to hunt within X yards of a domicile (500 yards?) so they were not only trespassing, but breaking the law.   But the completely wrong thing to do was to confront them, waving around a pellet gun aimed at their head.

As I explained to my parents (sigh), if the hunters decided they were "in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm" they could have shot my parents dead and faced no consequences whatsoever.  Not even charged!  It is self-defense, period.  It doesn't matter if the gun wasn't real, so long as they thought it was real and realistically believed they were about to be shot with it - which was a reasonable belief at the time.

Hell, even if they were charged with manslaughter, who cares?  You're still dead.  I mean, I guess I could have tried to sue these flat-broke watermen for wrongful death, but even then, I would probably lose even under a "preponderance of the evidence" standard.   Pellet guns are just trouble, period.

I suppose even if they knew it was a pellet gun it might be justifiable homicide.  Some of these guns, powered by CO2 cartridges, can really fling a .22-sized pellet with considerable velocity, particularly at close range.  Someone says they are going to shoot you with a pellet gun - or even a taser - don't you have the right to say, "I don't think so!" and neutralize the threat?  Remember, the standard for self-defense is "fear of imminent death or great bodily harm."   I don't think the law requires you to be a punching bag or a pin-cushion.

Now recently - and in the not-so-distant past - there have been incidents where people have been shot and killed for waving around pellet guns.  There was one in Canada, as I recall, recently, where someone was walking around with an air rifle and ended up getting shot by a cop.  In another celebrated case, a young boy was pointing a pellet gun - with the orange tip removed - at people and was shot by responding officers.

And in both cases - as well as others - people online piled on about how "It was just a pellet gun, man!" and that the shooting was unjustified.  And maybe it was - maybe not.  I wasn't there - and neither were they.   Kids with guns kill people.  Someone carrying a rifle down a city street is up to no good, particularly in gun-shy Canada (I suppose in Texas, it is an everyday occurrence).

And many of these guns are frighteningly realistic - such as the BB gun shown above, which looks like an automatic pistol.  If you wave one of these around or point it at someone, and they have a real gun, you can pretty much expect to be shot - whether the person is a policeman or not.  The police aren't going to say, "May I see that weapon for a moment?  I need to determine whether it is a real gun or not, so I can decide whether lethal force is authorized and necessary."

By the way, this all goes the same for replica weapons as well.

We are so quick to judge in this country - and start a torch-and-pitchfork parade.   A vet tells a customer that it will cost $10,000 to heal their dog, which they cannot afford.  The owner surrenders the dog to the vet, who then heals him.  The former owner now wants the dog back - such a crime!  Such a click-bait story ideal for a Sinclair television station to publish.  The real story is more nuanced - but that doesn't get reported until days later.  Meanwhile, the vet is getting daily death threats, likely from teenagers on the Internet.

You point a pellet gun at someone and threaten them with it, that's assault, and like my parents, you will end up in jail.  By the way, that wasn't the first time for my Mom, who decided that since she was in "First Class" she could smoke on an airplane.  She got to meet some FBI agents when they landed.  Such fun.  Fortunately that was before 9/11 or she would really have been in the shits.  But again, second childhood or more precisely, second adolescence.

If you point a pellet gun at someone holding a real gun, whether they are a police officer or a hunter or an ordinary citizen or even a burglar, the consequences are more dire by a factor of 1000.  You will likely end up dead and the shooter will not even be charged (except maybe the burglar, but hey, you're still dead, eh?).

I am not sure what a legitimate reason for owning a pellet gun is.  I guess you could target practice with it and plink old tin cans for fun.  Make sure your neighbor's house isn't downrange, of course.   You could shoot squirrels or Iguanas, but the latter are very hard to kill.  It is legal to shoot these in Florida now, but I recall an "outrage" story a few years back when a dead Iguana was x-rayed and found to have a dozen pellets in him, along with a .22 caliber bullet which finished the job.  You can shoot an Iguana with a pellet gun and he will just look at you and say, "That all you got?"   Don't ask me how I know.  It wasn't my pellet gun.

Shooting songbirds is, of course, illegal, and could get you into a ton of trouble.

Many parents buy BB guns and pellet guns for their kids, convinced they are "safe" for children and adolescents.   Of course, you can still shoot your eye out with it, or a friend's eye.  I remember in Kindergarten (!!) a kid named "Dirk" who used to eat paste and put crayons in his ears.  I was invited to his house once and he had a BB gun (!!) and we went up to his killer treehouse and he plinked at squirrels.  He was kind of spoiled rotten and the elevator didn't go all the way to the top with him, I'm afraid.  When I got home, I excitedly told my parents about the BB gun, which was a mistake, as I was never allowed to go to Dirk's house again.  Probably for the best - I still have both eyes.

Another friend of mine, who was kind of goofy - I wrote about him before, throwing rocks at streetlights - he thought it would be a swell idea to shoot his pellet gun at passing cars.  And in another brilliant move, he decided (at age 15) to do this right in front of my house.  Needless to say, he blew out someone's side window and the State Police were called.   He ran away and wasn't charged and my parents were pissed off to be sure.  Of course, the motorist was terrified - a side window suddenly exploding - he thought he was being shot at with a gun, which of course, he was - a pellet gun.

So pellet guns and BB guns for kids and adolescents is probably a bad idea as well.  That little kid in Chicago got shot playing with a realistic BB gun in the park, pointing it at people.   For some reason, people are quick to blame the Police but no one bothers to ask why a 10-year-old has a pellet gun in the first place, and has so little training as to go around pointing it at people.  Then again, my friend did just as stupid at thing, five years older, shooting at parked cars.

Sadly, it points to an utter lack of proper firearms training.  Giving a kid a BB gun or a pellet gun without some supervision and training is a recipe for disaster.  And if someone isn't responsible - as my friend wasn't  and as my parents weren't - it is a bad idea for them to have a gun of any sort.

But overall, I think pellet guns are a bad idea.  At the very least, if you are going to get one, make sure it is bright orange and labeled "pellet gun" in inch-high letters.  But even then, there may still be trouble.