Why does a child have a bucket list?


I am sure that almost everyone in the US has heard about the bizarre case where a nine-year old child at a shooting range was allowed to fire a Uzi submachine gun in the fully automatic mode (where a single pull on the trigger will allow the gun to fire repeatedly until the trigger is released) and ended up killing the instructor who was supervising her.

High-powered weapons have strong recoil and it is hard enough for an adult to control them. For parents to allow a small child to handle such a weapon shows how absurd the gun-fetish in the US has become where even common-sense restrictions are considered controversial. As satirist Andy Borowitz says:

Across the United States on Wednesday, a heated national debate began on the extremely complex issue of children firing military weapons.

“Every now and then, the nation debates an issue that is so complicated and tricky it defies easy answers,” says pollster Davis Logsdon. “Letting small children fire automatic weapons is such an issue.”

Logsdon says that the thorny controversy is reminiscent of another ongoing national debate, about whether it is a good idea to load a car with dynamite and drive it into a tree.

What struck me about this story was a bit where the owner of the shooting range explained why the child wanted to fire such a weapon.

“This was a very mature young lady, and something she wanted to do … It was something high on her bucket list to do.”

A ‘bucket list’ is supposedly a list of things that one wants to do before one dies. Although I hate that term for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on, I can understand it being applied to the wishes of old people who feel they are running out of time. Why would a nine-year old have such a sense of imminent mortality that she would create a bucket list?

Comments

  1. dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!" says

    Why would a nine-year old have such a sense of imminent mortality that she would create a bucket list?

    Well if she didn’t before…

  2. says

    I hate that term for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on

    It implies that one has a bunch of things they’d do only if they knew they were dying soon. If the things on the list are so important, the time to do them is when you’re alive and well and able to savor them – not as some last-minute thing.

    The only thing left on my bucket list is: Die.

  3. Chiroptera says

    For parents to allow a small child to handle such a weapon shows how absurd the gun-fetish in the US has become where even common-sense restrictions are considered controversial.

    I agree. At the same time, these same people would undoubtably refuse to allow their small child to have a beer even with supervision. Well, you also refuse to allow them to use fire-arms for pretty much the same reason. It’s freakin’ dangerous for someone that young!

  4. Chiroptera says

    Although I hate that term for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on….

    I’ll tell you why I hate the term. I can sympathize with people who are elderly or just recovered from a serious accident, suddenly realize that they are mortal and there are some significant things they’ve always wanted to do but always put it off for silly, mundane reasons. “Bucket list” seems to reduce that to just some silly to-do list that one checks trivial things off for no other reason than to go through a list.

  5. Bweeng says

    “Although I hate that term for reasons that I cannot quite put my finger on”

    I can put my finger on it. I’d never heard the term used before the movie but now everyone throws it around like we’ve been using it all our lives. Just one example of many. We Americans seem to love the hip and trendy.

  6. Ed says

    I like the concept of a bucket list because it calls attention to the common habit of putting important actions or strongly desired experiences off until it’s too late.

    Not that little kids should fire guns. What an awful thing to happen.

  7. lanir says

    I hope the girl is able to get counseling after this. In the midst of all the adults ducking and weaving to get out of being responsible, with everyone scrambling to say no one did anything wrong, it seems pretty likely she’ll end up blaming herself even if nobody else does.

    I learned about guns at around that age shooting at a family friend’s improvised range out in the country using a .22 rifle. My dad was ex-military and the county sheriff was a friend so he was there as well. I never got to be a good shot and I’m not into guns or even all that comfortable around them now. But I learned the most important thing there: respect for firearms.

    Why does that seem to be such a rare quality among people who are pro-gun? Even some police officers now seem to not know the basic rules of firearm safety like “don’t point a gun at someone unless you intend to shoot and kill them immediately.” This is stuff I understood was vital to my safety and that of everyone around me before I was twelve. It’s not rocket science.

  8. Paulo Borges says

    The bucket list just adds to the amount wrong things that perplex me in this depressing event. This is so wrong in so many ways.
    Maybe the bucked list is just seen as a wish list since it has been made popular by movies, however the spectre of imminent end of life associated to it is still in the back of my mind.
    The lousy excuse that children need to know how to operate a weapon in order to be safe from it, is depressing in the least. Has anyone ever tried the method used on me by my parents a long time ago: don’t touch it, call an adult!
    Although not agreeing with it, can understand the US gun culture, however automatic weapons are for military and maybe, in specific cases, for police, not a toy to enjoy a family weekend.

  9. Francisco Bacopa says

    I should point out that many adults have a lot of trouble handling sub-machine guns at full auto. They were not really designed for killing, but for suppressive fire in the trenches of WWI. They are more about frightening than killing. It’s hard to keep them on target after the first few shots.

    There have been a few people who have become masters of the SMG, mostly in Russia during urban combat in WWII. Everyone else died while providing suppression fire. Urban attrition will do that.

    I am not a gun person. I have never fired a gun, though I come from a gun owning family. I know more about guns than this deceased instructor. If I owned a gun rage where someone could fire an SMG for the first time, they would have to do so with their hands sticking through two holes in a Lexan shield.

  10. Matt G says

    The guy doesn’t really understand the definition of bucket list. To him, it’s just “things I want to do in my life”, with no emphasis on the death thing.

  11. John Morales says

    Well, military battle-axes might be a bit heavy for a 9-y.o. child, but surely a bit of play practice with a military dagger would not be amiss?

    (Poison blow-darts?)

  12. sigurd jorsalfar says

    I don’t understand the controversy here. I think it was noble of this instructor to risk his life like that in order to help a dying girl fulfill her last wish.

  13. hoary puccoon says

    I don’t mind the term bucket list, but I’m very put off by this idea that if you have the money, you can do anything– strength, fitness, and other personal attributes don’t enter into it.

    So, if you’re rich enough you can–
    fire an Uzi;
    drive a sports car at 100 + mph;
    climb Mount Everest;
    sail single-handed around the world;
    and be treated as a cherished friend when visiting countries where you know none of the customs, and don’t know the language they speak– or even *what* language they speak!

    Invariably, some people end up hurt or dead, finding out too late that money isn’t all it takes.

  14. says

    In the midst of all the adults ducking and weaving to get out of being responsible, with everyone scrambling to say no one did anything wrong, it seems pretty likely she’ll end up blaming herself even if nobody else does.

    That’s a very good point. She probably won’t feel comfortable blaming the instructor, since he was only giving her what she thought she wanted — but that’s where the blame clearly lies in this case, with the instructor and probably also the owners of the venue who chose to stage an event of this sort and allow kids into it.

    If no one else wants to say it, I will: the instructor should not have allowed a nine-year-old to handle a fully-automatic weapon — there are other kinds of firearms, actually used in what the NRA calls “legitimate sportsmanship,” more appropriate for kids. (Whatever happened to BB guns?)

    And if the instructor absotively posolutely HAD to teach a kid to use an Uzi, he should have had him/her holding the gun with both hands, and assuming a proper stance to account for the kick. I saw the video, and the instructor did neither of these things. I hate to blame the victim, but in this case, the instructor was a moron, and is dead as a result of his own mistakes. Better to blame him than to blame the OTHER victim, a child who was poorly taught and now has to live with an unintentional act of homicide.

  15. leni says

    Matt G:

    The guy doesn’t really understand the definition of bucket list. To him, it’s just “things I want to do in my life”, with no emphasis on the death thing.

    Doesn’t “in my life” just kind of imply “before I’m dead”? Why emphasize it, you morbid weirdo 😉

    ***

    I mostly just think of it as ” Neat things I would like to do or see, but am currently too poor and/or busy to do. Hopefully I will get to do them later.”

    I would also add that for me, they are special things that I will realistically only get to do once. For example: I want to go parasailing with that guy who has the trained vultures that fly along. This has to go on a to-do list because it’s not happening next week. Or even this year. It’s not likely to happen more than once (too far away and too big of an expense for me).

    Anyway, I’m a pretty death obsessed person, speaking of morbid weirdos. For me, the emphasis on death is just always there. Thinking about the wonderful things I’d like to see is kind of a nice momentary reprieve from that.

  16. leni says

    Woops, got sidetracked and forget to mention that I think it’s kind of awesome for a kid to have a bucket list. Not because they are thinking about death, but because they are thinking about life.

    Maybe “shoot a large automatic weapon” is one you should put off until adulthood. Normally, that’s what parents or other concerned, responsible adults are for. I feel so bad for that kid :/

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