Drive By Shootings
Social Paintball

Drive By Shootings

The other day I was talking to one of my old-time teammates (we were both members of a 15 player pump team known as the Werewolves of NJ/PA that was selected as one of PBX3’s Top 50 Teams of All Time – you may never have heard of that team, but the boys and girls of our era sure knew who we were!) about the recent drive-by shooting spree that took place out in Nevada.

For reasons not even known to themselves, three teens (18, 17 & 16) went out driving and shooting unsuspecting victims, even going so far as to luring a pedestrian over to their car so they could shoot him in the eye. (According to news reports, the victim has approximately 25% vision in that eye right now.)

Drive-bys are not at all uncommon, a sorry state of affairs that I can attest to from many years of receiving news updates and alerts, some of which make it onto the front page of 68Caliber.

Several years ago I began a news category on the website titled ‘Paintball Crime’. I do not exaggerate at all when I say that I had at least one story a week in that category and, could almost have published a new one every day of the week. In fact, stories about the misuse of paintball guns became so common and numerous that I stopped publishing those kinds of stories: it was coming to dominate the news on the site, which made it boring and the last thing I wanted to do was desensitize people to such crimes. Paintball Drive-bys SHOULD be shocking, disgusting, terrible news, not a common, everyday experience.

So I changed 68Caliber’s policy, opting to only publish the truly stand-out drive -by story. If you think about it, that itself is a majorly negative statement about the game right there – that there should even be such a thing as a drive-by shooting story that is so heinous and awful that it stands above the common, run-of-the-mill drive-by story.

When the events in Nevada began to unfold, I consciously decided not to publish it. At the time the story broke, all we really knew was that three teens had been arrested for drive-by paintballing. Yawn. Boring. Instead, I opted to publish a different drive-by shooting story, one in which someone had apparently used eight puppies for target practice. (Sorry folks, but in my book shooting puppies trumps shooting people.)

While discussing this turn of events, Aden (my buddy, one of the best shots the game has ever seen, an excellent tactician and a resident of NV) wondered, as we all do when hearing of these kinds of incidents, what motivates people like this to do such STUPID things (yes, cruel as well, but even a five year old is capable of understanding that in this day and age YOU WILL GET CAUGHT, so stupid trumps cruel, just like puppies trump people).

Yes, they’re teenagers and teens are by definition idiots (it is a known medical fact that their brains have not yet fully formed, particularly the more evolved regions that are involved with higher-order functions like making smart decisions and impulse control) – so teens take no offense, you will (hopefully) grow out of your idiocy.

But shooting people (or puppies or kittens), as opposed to windows, cars, street signs or even tombstones, goes a level beyond. It ratchets the idiocy component up to moronic levels, even to the point of prompting one to suspect brain damage or at least a glue- sniffing addiction, if not multiple generations of incest in the family tree.

Aden and I talked for a few minutes, discussing the differences between property assault and person assault and how utterly stupid it is to engage in the latter, when Aden asked me if I had seen the television report in which they showed the gun that had been used in the attacks. I hadn’t, but from his description, it was apparent that it was not the kind of gun you’ll find in the hands of a regular player.

It was a generic-looking blue something or other with a gravity feed hopper and a CO2 tank – probably one of those guns you get in a package deal at the larger box stores.

Aden made the statement that he didn’t think that most drive-bys were committed by regular players. He said that he didn’t think that anyone familiar with the game would do such a thing (at least not people – or puppies) and that was the point at which everything clicked into place.

Aden said that he thought that it was a good bet that these were kids who’d gone out to play paintball, got their butts kicked and are now seeking their revenge on the only ‘players’ they can compete well against – unarmed, non-playing civilians who can’t shoot back.

“I know one thing for sure. If they went to play at a commercial field with that gun, they absolutely got their butts kicked!” Aden said. Both of us were laughing pretty hard at that point.

Which was probably inappropriate given the subject matter, but after nearly three decades of involvement with the game (we both started playing in 1983), you find that there is almost always a sadly humorous, if not ironic, twist to this game.

But that’s beside the point. As we continued talking, it became pretty obvious that we’d hit on a kernel of truth; a pretty good theory that may account for a decent percentage of truly violent drive-by shooting behavior.

Without a theory, you’re powerless to affect change. With a theory, you can at least test things out and begin to refine the process. So here’s the theory: assaults against people with paintball guns may very well be committed in large part by disgruntled and humiliated first time or infrequent, players. The kind of player who goes out to play for the first time ever and gets shoved onto a field with so-called experienced players, gets bunkered six times in five games, never gets an elimination, takes all kind of on-field smack talk abuse, is never given any meaningful instruction or assistance and leaves the field HATING everything about paintball.

Which means ( if the theory holds any water) that these violent drive-by shooting assaults are, in the long run, the fault and responsibility of field and store owners, as well as regular players.

There’s a pretty easy way to test that too, albeit one that I doubt very much the industry will be interested in participating in. All fields ought to be making their customers fill out waivers which require name, phone number, mailing address & etc. Field owners, managers and referees should note who is playing at their facility for the first few times of their paintballing experience and keep track of what kind of day that player had. If they had a lousy day and the following week a series of drive-bys starts up in the area, call the police and furnish them with the customer information. If those leads end up in arrests and convictions, we’ll know the theory is right.

Or, you all could simply stop allowing new players being taken advantage of, offer some serious instruction and classes, strictly segregate your players by experience and temperament (even when it means turning customers away because there isn’t a large enough group) and banning those regulars who seem to think that the purpose of paintball is allowing them to engage in semi-legal assault with a paintball gun at your facilities.

Either solution would work.

Photo Courtesy: QFamily

  • Justin

    I very much agree with your opinion about the younger “players” committing these crimes. up until you place the blame on the field owners or “regular players” but ill get back to that, I will admit that as a teen I may have shot the speed limit sign around the block with enough orange paint no one could tell it was 25mph, but that was before I played at a field instead of a friends back yard where guns were never chronographed and not everyone felt it was important to wear a mask when someone has a loaded marker. I have played at several fields in different states over the past 10 years and have yet to find a field that did not offer sufficient instructions as well as group players according to skill, at the very least ensure there is no over shooting going on, and i do realize that while i can only speak for the situations i have been in not every place or group of players will be the same. I simply have noticed that you left out the players who may have purchased a marker from a friend, or similar situation in which there is nothing to stop a minor from purchasing a marker, i know that most major stores require the buyer to be 18, but in all honesty that is not that hard to find a way around. I believe that most of these crimes are committed by those who have never played at a field because it is the love of the game, and hatred of negative press that keeps most players honest

    • http://www.bing.com/ Woods

      That’s a well-thought-out answer to a challenging qtuesion

  • Ben Chierici

    This stuff is killing paintball

  • http://www.68caliber.com steve davidson

    Justin,

    I too can only base what I know on my own personal experiences and those experiences tell me that there are fields and stores all over the country that do not do nearly as much as they need to when it comes to handling new players. I’ve seen the kind of bad management I mentioned at fields all over the country. Even some ‘name’ fields.
    I do understand that many fields have established a ‘survival’ mentality over the past couple of years, but what they really are thinking about is short-term survival, not long-term, because if they were engaged in long-term thinking, rather than trying to get any warm body they can in the door shooting as much field paint as possible (and damn the customer’s experience), they’d be concentrating on marketing & etc and continuing to employ GOOD customer practices – even when it means turning customers away.
    You are correct in that some of the drive-by problem might be traceable to folks who have no connection to paintball and/or come from a back-yard ball background (what we used to refer to as ‘renegade’ – for a reason), but the battle against allowing non-commercial field play was lost a long, long time ago and, unfortunately, with that lost battle went the overall sense of paintball community. (There was a time when I literally knew every single national tournament player in the country personally – and most of the major field owners and manufacturers.) Without a cohesive community, you are unable to affect change in a meaningful way and – sadly, paintball has no community that can reach out and touch everyone anymore.

  • Reiner

    Although I and probably no one else currently knows what percentage of paintball crimes are committed by disgruntled first timers verses regular players verses never seen a commercial field before types, I’m sure there are plenty of psychologists that will agree with you that people who are bullied will often take their frustrations out and “bully” others that they feel they could get away with bullying without much consequence.

    Not everyone getting “beat up” at a paintball field is going to feel it’s due to their lack of paintball playing experience and that it’s “just a game” and they should just “suck it up”. Let’s hope there is never any real connection made to people starting a life of violent crimes to getting beat up at paintball fields, just as there is a connection to getting beat up by bullies and getting beat up by abusive parents. I couldn’t even imagine what kind of devastating effects that would have on our game and our industry.

  • Jacob Haycraft

    People are ruining the sport of paintball

  • Streaks

    I’ve seen both sides here. I worked for a big paintball-only chain here in VA for a few years as a manager and, as an old school player (started in ’85), I was alarmed at the lack of education given. Not from a safety point of view mind you, stores and fields have to cover their own butts….even though it’s not always ENFORCED….but more from the point of basic questions and know-how. The one question for example, I got asked the most, was “why do you chill the Co2 bottles like that?”…..it’s basic science, but apparently people don’t realize that some gasses, when compressed, become a liquid. The biggest thing I’d see that put grey hairs on my head was people putting OIL IN THE FILL NIPPLES ON HPA TANKS…..please go read up on how a diesel engine works and then revisit the oily fill nipples idea ok? :) weapon< and puts down the person with the marker. Because it'll be a big shitstorm THEN oh boy! I personally am in support of putting an age limit of 16+ on paintball gear or ENFORCING that the parent be there at the time of purchase and, be made AWARE of exactly what they're getting into. And, while I hate to hedge on it, we the players and the sport as a whole have been outside laws and regulations, only flirting with them, for years now. Maybe we should think of the big picture and bring legal accountability into this sport by allowing a law or two to get passed that classifies our gear? I know some areas already try to classify them along with pellet rifles, and quite honestly I don't think that's a bad thing. Do I think it sux that we need it IMO? YES, should be that they're viewed for what they are, big kid toys. However, with people abusing our gear more and more, it will bite us at some point with some law makers get "fed up" with it and pass crappy bills willy nilly. Look at the one in Baltimore several years ago that almost passed and only through the actions of local paintballers did it get nipped in the bud. A town representitive had put a bill up that all air rifles, including paintbll markers, be BANNED from the city. This included the sale, posession and transfer of said items!!!! <– why? Because a relation of hers (or was it one of her friends?), got shot up in a drive by paintballing while waiting for a bus (was a little old lady), and this gal decided to "fix it so that wouldn't happen again" and she, oh, just so happened to sit on the board that makes LAWS for a major U.S. city!!!

    We are our sport, people judge the sport by our actions or INactions. We need to act and present ourselves accordingly!!