Over the Hill

Gun safety is important for boys to learn

Special to The TribuneMay 9, 2013 

Phil Dirkx

A headline in the May 2 Tribune said, “5-year-old shoots sister to death.” A boy had killed his 2-year-old baby sister in rural, southern Kentucky. It reminded me of the shooting in 1984 west of Paso Robles where a 14-year-old boy shot and killed a 13-year-old boy.

The Kentucky shooting happened as Kristian Sparks, 5, played with his .22 caliber, child-sized rifle. It was given to him last year. His mother, Stephanie Sparks, was on the front porch of their mobile home when she heard the shot. She found little Caroline shot in the chest.

The county Judge Executive, John Phelps, said hunting and shooting is common in most rural areas. “There’s probably not a household in this county,” he said, “that doesn’t have a gun.”

Kristian’s gun was made by Keystone Sporting Arms of Milton, Pa. Its website said that in 2008 the company turned out 60,000 child-size rifles.

The county coroner said the shooting death was ruled an accident. That makes it like the 1984 shooting near Paso Robles. At first our sheriff’s deputies also decided that shooting was accidental. They concluded David Bigelow, 13, of Paso Robles was accidentally shot by his 14-year-old “friend” as they camped out all night together.

But David Bigelow’s father, Jim Bigelow, doubted it was accidental. He had been a parole agent for the state Department of Corrections. He did his own investigation of the shooting, and in his own words, he “interfered and raised hell.”

Eventually the authorities changed their minds. The 14-year-old was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. It was also reported that he had once shot his younger brother, who survived that wound.

Something about guns appeals to many boys. Actually, young male humans seem to be attracted to anything that shoots projectiles. When David joined the fight against the Philistines he rejected armor and a sword.

Instead, David carried only his sling and five smooth stones when he faced Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior. As Goliath charged, David loaded one smooth stone into his sling and slung it with such force that the stone sank into Goliath’s forehead, and felled him.

As a boy I made slingshots with tire inner-tube rubber and forked sticks, but my favorite weapon was my Daisy Lightning Loader BB gun, with which I shot at birds, squirrels, and sometimes other boys. I loved it. I slept with it in my bed until it fell out and broke its stock.

Oh, for the good old days when the National Rifle Association concentrated on gun safety. Boys need lots of that.

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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