Over the weekend, I found myself engaging in several conversations regarding the unfortunate loss of life. It was extremely sad news to hear that a child lost his life as a result of playing with an airsoft-type pellet gun by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio. There were many errors at play that led to this unfortunate incident. The obvious is poor communication. The “C” in C-STEM. Poor communication on part of the pellet gun manufacturer, 911 dispatcher, police officer, and parents of the 12 year old boy.
It is seemingly unreasonable to not hold manufacturers of pellet guns that look like real guns accountable for the lives that are unknowingly placed in danger. A news channel covering the story has shared that the type of pellet gun the child had in his possession generally has an orange tip at the end of the barrel indicating that it is not a real gun. I would have to argue that such a minimal indicator is not good enough. Why not an orange safety tip and orange handle? Why not regulate so that pellet guns cannot be manufactured in black or chrome?
The news reported that the orange indicator was not present on the pellet gun and according to experts made it look no different than a real gun. There must be some sort of liability on part of the manufactures designing, building, and selling pellet guns in stores for children. Many of us have purchased toys that have hazardous warning labels on them. I am curious to know if there was a hazardous label on the pellet gun that provided a warning regarding the dangers of removing the orange tip as it could easily be mistaken as a real gun by law enforcement; pointing or aiming the pellet gun at another person or living thing may alarm people around you and place your life at risk; and/or carrying the pellet gun as a weapon may cause someone to feel threatened.
Many of our public servants work hard at developing policy to regulate gun control with NRA. I think it is time for our public servants to work just as hard to regulate pellet gun control with manufacturers. There is an organization called “Mothers Against Drunk Drivers,” and I think this is a fine time to start “Mothers Against Pellet Gun Manufacturers”. It is time that the manufacturers effectively communicate the proper message with the use of pellet guns and design them such that there is no question that it is not a real gun.
I cannot stress the importance of developing the communication skills of children. Because if we fail to do so, they grow-up to be adults that lack effective communication skills. As part of this unfortunate situation, there was a dispatcher that failed to effectively communicate the alleged situation to the officer as it was reported by the 911 phone caller. The individual that made the 911 call obviously wanted the police to know that there was a possibility that the gun could be a fake. However, the dispatcher failed to convey that information to the police officer which heightened the severity of the situation. The dispatcher did not ask any clarifying questions of the 911 phone caller as to why it was believed that the gun could possibly be a fake or if the child was pointing the gun directly at people or if there were other people in the area that were obviously at risk. In the police officers response, it seemed completely evident from viewing the video that the officer did not communicate effectively with the child to gain control of what was perceived to be a threatening situation by the officer. Not to mentioned that the officer perceived a 12 year old boy to be a 20 year old man. As it relates to the parent(s) that purchased the pellet gun for the child, I am curious as to how they communicated with the child the proper way and place to use the pellet gun. As it relates to the school the child attended, I wonder what type of social emotional and character building activities/courses/programs/learning was offered to instill the level of discernment, character, thoughtfulness, and consideration that was needed to help him regulate his behaviors, be conscious of his environment, and aware of how people might perceive his actions.
In closing, I sincerely believe that it takes A Village to raise a child, I am equally curious as to what prevented the person who made the 911 phone call from making an attempt to speak with the boy about his public actions and handling of the gun, after all the 911 caller did not sound frightened, panicked, and even indicated that the gun was probably fake. Further, what prevented the caller from sizing up the situation and exploring options to intervene? I am not saying that anyone should put their life in danger, I am just wondering if the 911 caller ever considered becoming The Village for the child. It is obvious that he needed one.