In reading The Star and The New York Times, I’m always on the lookout for examples of insightful writing and felicitous phrasing.

Here are three examples I have come across in the last few days.



The first comes from David Carr, The Times’ chief media reporter and columnist. He had an excellent online column about the impact of the TMZ video of Baltimore Ravens’ star Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-girlfriend, now-wife Janay Palmer.

Carr opened the column this way:

“The N.F.L., arguably the three most powerful letters in branding, bumped into three other letters — TMZ — and was thrown for a huge loss.”

It’s hard for a reader to resist a concise, catchy beginning like that, and I’m sure that the vast majority of readers who started that column stayed with Carr until the end.

And here’s how he wrapped it up:

“The influence of a site that was initially named after the Thirty Mile Zone — a shorthand used by the industry to describe the area around Hollywood — has grown to the 3,000-mile zone, a countrywide reach. There’s a reason for that. All the world’s a stage, as Shakespeare pointed out, and all the men and women merely players — they have their exits and their entrances, and by now we can be pretty sure that those players will be known, their deeds will become legend and consequences will ensue.”

It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it — writing like that, as well as the proliferation of video that is putting the lie to many high-profile people’s attempts to explain away reprehensible speech and behavior?


Sometimes a pathetic, losing, sports team offers richer prose opportunities than teams that customarily win.

Take Kansas City Star sportswriter Rustin Dodd’s account of the Duke Blue Devils’ 41-3 trouncing of the KU football team on Saturday:

“From a bookkeeping standpoint, it was the Jayhawks’ 25th straight loss on the road…But at this point, those are just numbers, like a metronome that keeps count of the program’s disarray.”

“Like a metronome…” What a wonderful, descriptive simile.

And here’s Dodd again, later in the same story:

“The Jayhawks, of course, entered the day as a double-digit underdog, so the fact they left Wallace Wade Stadium with a loss was not stunning. But this was a dumpster fire, the latest sign that the Kansas football program is not moving forward. If (Coach Charlie) Weis wanted to offer promise after two underwhelming seasons, if Kansas wanted to prove it was ready to make progress, if Kansas fans were ready to stem the tide of jokes and snark that flood the internet every Saturday, this was certainly not it.”

“Dumpster fire.” To me, that’s so funny it makes the loss worthwhile.


William Yardley of The Times recently wrote one of the most incredible obituaries I have ever seen. It was on Bob Crewe, a song producer and writer for Franki Valli and the Four Seasons.

Even though I have long been a big Four Seasons fan, I had never heard of Bob Crewe. Yardley’s obituary made me wish I had been aware of Crewe long ago.


1967 photo by Getty Images that ran with The New York Times’ obit on Bob Crewe, right, with Franki Valli and the other members of the Four Seasons.


Here’s how Yardley led off the obituary:

“Bob Crewe, who helped create a parade of indelible pop music hits, most notably for Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, including “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll” and Mr. Valli’s soaring anthem of adoration “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” died on Thursday in Scarborough, Me. He was 83.”

Personally, I couldn’t take my eyes off the phrase “soaring anthem of adoration.” They comprise a singular, dead-on description of that song, which even most millennials are probably familiar with.

Later in the obit, Yardley goes on to describe the song’s magic:

“Few of Mr. Crewe’s songs are more enduring than ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,’ which Mr. Valli recorded as a solo artist and which rose to No. 2 in 1967. Mr. Crewe, the producer, wrote the lyrics…The song begins with a whisper:

You’re just too good to be true

Can’t take my eyes off of you.

You’d be like heaven to touch

I want to hold you so much

At long last love has arrived

And I thank God I’m alive.

You’re just too good to be true

Can’t take eyes my off of you.

Then it bursts into the chorus:

I love you, baby

And if it’s quite all right

I need you, baby,

To warm the lonely night

I love you, baby

Trust in me when I say

Oh pretty baby…”

…I was almost in a trance after reading those words with the music running through in my head. And when I was finished reading, I jumped onto the Internet and YouTube to find that song, to hear that anthem of adoration again.

And now, lest you dismiss me as a perverse tease…here’s that song…

Oh, shit.

That was my first reaction when I saw, minutes ago, that Missouri Highway/Water Patrol Trooper Anthony Piercy referred to drowning victim Brandon Ellingson as a “bastard” when telling a supervisor how the drowning occurred.

Of all the things that Piercy did wrong in arresting Ellingson May 31 at the Lake of the Ozarks, calling him a bastard after the fact could be the worst.

It’s certainly a knife in the hearts of Ellingson’s parents, Sherry and Craig Ellingson of the West Des Moines area.

I should say…another knife in their hearts. This one just has an extra twist to it.

The last couple of days, The Star’s Laura Bauer has been poring through more than 400 pages of documents and several videos of conversations and interviews that the Highway Patrol finally handed over to her after weeks of stonewalling.

Before I give you the context of the “bastard” reference, I want to say that The Star should submit Bauer’s stories — probably more than 20 by now — to the Pulitzer committee.

Because of her coverage, the story has gone from the initial account of the 20-year-old victim possibly jumping into the water voluntarily to Piercy…

– putting the wrong type of life jacket on him after cuffing his hands behind his back

– getting irritated at Ellingson’s friends, who were nearby at the start of the arrest

– failing to secure Ellingson in the boat

– roaring away from the arrest site at speeds of up to more than 40 miles and hour, then slowing down when he hit high waves

– seeing Ellingson’s feet go into the water, after his body

– trying, with little urgency, to fish Ellingson out of the water with a pole

– jumping in and trying unsuccessfully to save him when it was too late

And now this, calling Ellingson a bastard in a telephone conversation with a supervisor about an hour after the drowning.

The Star first posted the story with this latest development at 3:25 p.m. today and updated it at 9:52.

The story says that the recently released final investigative report includes many conversations Piercy had that were captured on cameras from patrol boats that responded to the incident. “In those talks,” the story says, “he detailed everything from how intoxicated Ellingson was and how he tried to rescue the college student to his own speculation on how much trouble he was in.”

Here’s the kick in the stomach. In a taped, six-minute phone conversation with Cpl. David Echternacht, Piercy said, among other things, that he was physically exhausted from jumping into the lake to try to save Ellingson and nearly drowned himself.

He went on to say:

“I’m banged up a little bit, but I’m all right. I don’t know if I’m sore from treading water with the bastard, but I just feel spent. … I thought I had run a marathon.”

He’s sore, he’s wiped out. Oh, gosh…At the same time, a fine young man who happened to make a mistake by getting drunk and then getting behind the wheel of his father’s boat was lying dead at the bottom of 69 feet of water.

Later in the conversation, Piercy refers to Ellingson as “the poor bastard” — that time, at least, indicating some remorse that the young man lost his life.

Nevertheless, let’s set the record straight right here, right now: The bastard was not Brandon Ellingson, it was Anthony Piercy and only Anthony Piercy.


The most prolific commenter to this blog, John Altevogt, a Wyandotte County, Kansas, resident, has been calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to review the Ellingson case.

Until tonight, I had thought that was very unlikely. But with Piercy’s oral degrading of a young man who just died while in his care and custody, I think Altevogt just might be onto something.

Des Moines attorney Matt Boles, who is representing Ellingson’s family, said he believed a review by the U.S. attorney’s office was a possibility. Bauer quoted him as saying, “I do not believe at this point that anyone can definitively say this is done.”

The only positive development in recent days, as reported by Bauer, is that Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Ronald K. Repogle expressed his condolences to the Ellingson family and said his agency was reviewing all policies and procedures.

Bauer didn’t specifically say so, but I presume that includes state officials’ decision a few years ago to combine the Highway Patrol and the Water Patrol.

Piercy, an 18-year veteran of the patrol, was starting his second season of water duty. His primary responsibility was highway patrol duty.

Replogle told Bauer that since Ellingson’s drowning, highway troopers who had been working part time on the lake have not been permitted to patrol on the water by themselves.

Well, thank God for that, and thank God that Repogle will review the water-highway patrol merger. Reversing that decision seems like a foregone conclusion. It also seems like a foregone conclusion that Anthony Piercy is not long for the Highway Patrol.

Finally, if you’ve been reading my posts on this story, you know I’ve been giving Gov. Jay Nixon holy hell for not reaching out to the Ellingson family and for not ordering a review of the water-highway patrol decision.

Now, more than ever, this situation cries out for Nixon to go to Clive, IA, where Ellingson’s parents live, and extend his condolences personally. He needs to go there with his big, fat governor’s hat in his hand and say, “On behalf of my state, I am so sorry.”

As I said, I put a call in yesterday to Nixon’s chief spokesman, Scott Holste, to try to find out what, if anything, the governor planned to do about this case. As I expected, I have not received a return call.

…My number is still good, Scott. Call me any time.

We all know that speed kills on the roads, but a newly released video from the Missouri Highway Patrol clearly shows that speed, combined with recklessness by a highway patrol officer on water duty at the Lake of the Ozarks, killed 20-year-old Brandon Ellingson.

Early this morning, The Kansas City Star posted a two-minute, three-second video that attempts to recreate the wild, fatal, May 31 boat ride that Trooper Anthony Piercy gave Ellingson minutes after placing Ellingson under arrest for boating while intoxicated.

To me, this video is absolutely terrifying, but I urge you to watch it. A trooper who is playing the role of Ellingson directed the re-creation, telling the driver how fast to go and where to drive the boat. The video shows that, because of the height and shallowness of the boat seat, the trooper has to half sit and half stand to the right of the driver, who has a similar, high-rise, cutout-type seat.

During the recreated ride, the driver hits speeds of more than 40 miles an hour — as Piercy did — and the trooper who is playing the role of Ellingson holds on tightly throughout the high-speed part of the ride. With his right hand, the trooper grasps a vertical metal post that supports the top of the boat. With his left hand, he holds onto a small grab bar affixed to the back of the seat.

And even though he is anchored with his right and left hands — front and back — the trooper bounces and rocks as the boat races through the water, especially when it hits rough water.

It’s unsettling enough to watch this with the trooper holding on as he did. But imagine what it would be like to be in that trooper’s position with your hands tied behind your back! That’s the way it was the day that Ellingson died in Piercy’s custody: Piercy had cuffed his hands behind his back.

As a result, Ellingson would not have been able to grab the post that the trooper held onto. Moreover, it would have been very difficult, or even impossible, for Ellingson to grasp the short grab bar behind his seat. Even if he could have reached it, he probably would have had to stand up because, like I said, the bar is behind the passenger seat.

And, again, Ellingson did not have the benefit of an anchored chair or even a low bench, which would have put him lower in the boat and enabled him to brace himself with his legs.

Tellingly, in the video, the trooper playing the role of Ellingson can be heard noting that while he is seated, his feet are dangling above the floor of the boat. It seems to me that to have any leverage whatsoever, Ellingson would have had to stand up and lean back against the seat. In any event, his position would have been precarious.

With the benefit of the video, I’m convinced, more than ever, that Piercy, while going way too fast, hit a big wave, bouncing Ellingson right out of the boat.

The trooper told one investigator that he didn’t see what happened to Ellingson — that he turned and saw Ellingson’s feet going into the water. The reason Piercy didn’t see what happened, in my opinion, is that he had his hands full trying to maintain control of the boat in rocky waters. He managed to control the boat, but he lost his passenger…and his passenger lost his life.


At a coroner’s inquest last week — an inquest carefully orchestrated by the county coroner and perhaps other officials — the question of how fast Piercy was going did not come up. Never was mentioned. Piercy testified at length, but he was not asked, and did not offer, how fast he was going. As far as the six-member jury was concerned, he could have been going 15 to 20 miles an hour — which is about how fast he should have been going with a handcuffed, inebriated passenger who was at his mercy.

The Star has reported that records show Piercy was going 39.1 to 43.7 mph just before Ellingson went overboard. Ridiculous. Moronic.

Of course, driving too fast wasn’t Piercy’s only mistake; he also had put the wrong type of life jacket on Ellingson and put it on over his head, already buckled, when it should have gone through his arms…Predictably. the jacket came off shortly after Ellingson went into the water.

Remember, too, this is an officer whose experience was, for the most part, on the roads. He was working his second season on the lake. Plus, he was pissed off, apparently because, before he took off, one of Ellingson’s buddies jumped in the water and tossed onto the trooper’s boat a card bearing the rights of a suspect being placed under arrest.

So, what you had on May 31 was a trooper with a corn cob up his ass, driving way too fast, and seemingly not the least bit concerned about the well-being of his passenger.


After less than eight minutes of deliberation, a jury of Ozarks residents concluded that Ellingson’s death was accidental. A special prosecutor concurred and declined to file charges. The prosecutor, Amanda Grellner, said that in her opinion Piercy was negligent but not criminally reckless. The Star’s Barbara Shelly called the whole thing a whitewash.

In light of the video, I think this case borders on involuntary manslaughter. I think Piercy was, indeed, criminally reckless. I don’t know if an involuntary manslaughter charge would stick, but it is unequivocal that Anthony Piercy’s stupidity on several fronts caused Brandon Ellingson’s death.



There’s one other infuriating aspect to this case. Gov. Jay Nixon hasn’t had one word to say about it publicly. As far as I know, he hasn’t expressed his condolences to Brandon’s parents, Craig and Sherry Ellingson, who live in the West Des Moines area. Nixon hasn’t even said whether he will reconsider the decision a few years ago to merge the Missouri Water Patrol and the Highway Patrol.

Our governor has secreted himself in his office, just like he tried to do with the Ferguson blow-up, and has offered nothing to the public or the Ellingson family.

That is disgraceful, and, as a Missourian, I am embarrassed.

As many of you know, I am an experienced political activist. I promise you this: If Jay Nixon runs for another elective post, I will be working against him and contributing to whichever opponent I decide on.

Jay Nixon must go.

In the era we’re living in, no institution, no particular business and no pastime seems securely anchored.

If four of a dozen Atlantic City casinos close, it means casino gambling is in trouble.

If stalwart newspapers like The Kansas City Star, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The New York Times shed hundreds of employees in the space of several years and their advertising revenue plummets, the newspaper business is a shell of its former self.

And if the National Football League turns away in the face of players abusing their wives and girlfriends — and if scores of former players are walking around with badly damaged brains — even pro football could find itself on the ropes.

Now, I don’t care about casino gambling, so that pending crisis doesn’t bother me a bit. And having had a front-seat view of the newspaper business’s ebbing fortunes, I’m pretty much inured to that business’s predicament. (God help The New York Times, though, because I’ve got a significant stock-market bet on its ability to figure out how to succeed in the Internet Era.)

But this National Football League mess…whoa, that is an eye-opener.

As I was watching the Royals’ game tonight (“Big Game” James came through again!), I saw the NFL headlines scrolling along the bottom of the screen.

In addition to the newly released video of former Ravens player Ray Rice sucker punching and knocking out his then-girlfriend in a hotel elevator, the “screen crawler” carried more bad news: San Diego Chargers’ center Nick Hardwick is out for the year with a neck injury, and John Abraham, a “sack” artist for the Arizona Cardinals, is out for the season — and maybe forever — because, at 36 years of age, he is suffering from “severe memory loss.”

Thirty-six and his memory is shot!!! Holy shit, I wasn’t even married at 36…


Personally, I am going to try to not watch one minute of any Chiefs’ game this season. I’m off to a good start because last weekend I was in Louisville, Ky., for my 50th high school reunion and wasn’t the least bit tempted to even try to find out the score of the Chiefs’ game. (What? You say they lost and their best defensive player is out for the year with an ACL tear? I can hardly believe it.)

Over the years, I’ve gradually lost interest in the Chiefs, not just because of their string of bad years but also because the game-day atmosphere at Arrowhead — set by ill-mannered drunks, for the most part — has degenerated so badly.

I used to go to one game a year, but last year, for the first time, I didn’t go to any. And now, with the head injuries and the league’s mishandling of the Rice case, I’m ready to give the NFL the boot. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do on all those upcoming, cold November and December Sundays, but I guess I’ll start by going to even more women’s college basketball games than I do now.

You can put me in the same corner as Steve Almond, a Massachusetts-based writer who, in August, wrote an article titled “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto.” In the article, Almond argues that the sport “legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia.”

“If you really look at football, it’s very troubling on a whole bunch of levels,” he said. “I believe we’re at a moral crossroads, but change is gradual.”

A Boston Globe story about Almond’s boycott and the growing concerns about pro football quoted a fan named Irving Kurki, who said he’d come to the realization that “it’s wrong to be entertained by a process whereby people are injured and their lifespans are shortened.”

Kurki told The Globe that so far he had not suffered from withdrawal. “I was a smoker once, too, and I gave that up,” he said.

Well, I gave up cigars more than a year ago. Plus, being a former Catholic, I didn’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent for many years.

So, I’m steeled and braced. Put me on the bench, coach, I’m ready to sit out.







I could be wrong but I have very low expectations for the coroner’s inquest that will take place tomorrow, Thursday, in Versailles, MO, regarding the drowning death of Brandon Ellingson.

In all my years in journalism, I never witnessed a coroner’s inquest, but, nevertheless,  and I can’t imagine any startling revelations or determinations coming out of the one tomorrow.

As The Star’s Laura Bauer said in her back-to-back, front-page Sunday stories, six jurors will hear testimony, and they will be asked to determine the manner in which Ellingson died.

The Morgan County prosecutor, Dustin G. Dunklee, will take the jury’s determination under advisement and decide whether charges should be filed.

M.B. Jones, Morgan County coroner, told Bauer that the inquest would serve as an independent review of the case. Among the issues likely to be addressed, he said, were the type of life vest that Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Piercy used and how he put it on Ellingson. (He used the wrong kind and put it on incorrectly.)

Jones said jurors will likely hear more about the Highway Patrol’s water-safety protocols and procedures.

There are three reasons I’m not optimistic about the jury getting to the bottom of the case.


Dustin Dunklee

First, this is strictly a local affair where most of the players know one another. The jurors, who have already been chosen, may well know one another. This is a county of about 20,000 residents, so nothing like Jackson County’s 674,000. The prosecutor, Dunklee, is a local lawyer who was elected in 2010. He’s probably in his upper 30s and most likely has never been involved in a case of this magnitude. Moreover, Trooper Piercy has a higher-than-average profile locally, having been on the school board of the Morgan County R-II district since 2012.

Second, Jones, the coroner, hinted at a foregone conclusion in a quote he gave to Bauer:

“That boy shouldn’t have died. We can’t bring him back, but maybe we can make changes.”

I don’t know about you but it sounds to me like Jones thinks has already concluded it was an accident and that if Piercy was guilty of negligence, it didn’t rise to the criminal level.

Third, it appears that there were no witnesses to contradict Piercy’s assertion that Ellingson stood up, moved toward the side of the patrol boat and either fell or jumped into the water, as Piercy zipped along at who-knows-how-many-miles-per-hour over choppy waters.

(Side note here: I don’t know if Piercy is going to testify — Jones has said he intends to call four witnesses — but if he doesn’t, you can write the inquest off as a total whitewash.)

At least one of Ellingson’s parents, father Craig, told Bauer he planned to attend the inquest.

“These jurors, they need to put themselves in my place,” he told Bauer. “Would they want their son put in a boat like that, be treated like that?”

I think these jurors, while they might want to put themselves in Craig Ellingson’s place, will be more inclined to protect their own. This is the Ozarks; these folks stick together.

I love to see a reporter take dead aim on a subject and keep hammering at it until whatever mystery surrounds it has been laid bare.

That’s exactly what The Star’s Laura Bauer is doing on the case of Brandon Ellingson, the 20-year-old Iowa man who needlessly and shockingly drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks this spring while in the custody of a Missouri High Patrolman on watercraft duty.

Last Sunday, Bauer produced a 2,900-word expose on the case, essentially showing that, after taking Ellingson into custody for boating while intoxicated, Officer Anthony Piercy put the wrong type of life vest on Ellingson and put it on in such a way that, minutes later, when Ellingson was in the water, the life vest popped off his shoulders and he drowned in 70-feet of water.

Brandon Ellingson


That story was horrifying, saddening and maddening. It clearly showed that Piercy’s carelessness and failure to follow standard procedures led directly to the death of Ellingson, a bright-eyed, handsome young man who right now should be at Arizona State University working on his junior-year courses.

Bauer described last week how the Highway Patrol had stonewalled her, dragging its feet on her requests for official records and imposing a gag order on everyone involved.

Obviously, the Highway Patrol does not know better than to mess with Bauer, a fearless reporter who has done many groundbreaking stories in her 10 years at the paper.

Last week, after the first story was published, Bauer broke through the brick wall the patrol erected and was able to get some of the official records. She parlayed the new material into a 3,100-word story that led today’s paper.

Today’s story made me even madder than Part I partly because this time she also got an interview with Ellingson’s father, Craig Ellingson. I pointed out in a post last Sunday that, while that story was outstanding overall, it suffered from the absence of the voices of Ellingson’s parents. It deprived the readers of direct testimony about the agony that Ellingson’s closest relatives — the people who loved him most dearly — are enduring.

But Bauer made amends this week. Here’s what she wrote, in part, about Craig Ellingson.

“The last image Craig Ellingson has of his son is a photograph taken by a friend during his arrest on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. It shows him sitting in the back of Piercy’s patrol boat, his hands in his lap. Within minutes, Ellingson’s only son lay lifeless, his hands cuffed behind him, on the lake bed under 69 feet of water.

” ‘That picture haunts me,’ the father told The Star late last week. ‘(Piercy) was supposed to be taking care of my pride and joy. That’s what we pay him for, to serve and protect. And he didn’t do the basics. He wasn’t trained. He wasn’t properly trained at all.’ ”

“My pride and joy.” Of course. We understand.

And, yes, Mr. Ellingson’s son made a big mistake — probably got drunk with his buddies at a lake-side bar and then got behind the wheel of the boat. But the last thing he deserved was to end up dead after Piercy handcuffed him, put an improper life vest on him improperly and then speed off at a speed that the Ellingsons’ attorney alleges was 40 miles per hour, in heavy wake.

The Highway Patrol’s contention — at least before it invoked a gag order — was that at some point Ellingson stood up, moved toward the side of the boat and either fell or jumped into the water.

To that, Craig Ellingson said: “I know my son wouldn’t jump. He was going to Europe, never been in trouble. He was on an academic scholarship to ASU. He had everything to live for.”


It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Brandon Ellingson was bounced out of the boat because Piercy was going too fast in very choppy water. If you’ve ever been on the Lake of the Ozarks, you know that it can be very, very dangerous when the wind and waves are up. Many years ago, I foolishly ventured out into the main channel on a windy day in a 14-foot fishing boat with a 5.5 horsepower motor. It was a teeth-jarring, white-knuckled return to the marina.


Part II of Bauer’s report also focuses on the lack of waterways training that many land-based troopers got after the state Water Patrol merged into the Highway Patrol in 2011.

Piercy works part time on the water and part time on the roads.

It’s clear in retrospect that — regardless of how much money that merger is saving — it was a big mistake.

What is the cost of a young man’s life?

Piercy’s lack of experience and training on the water, combined with his carelessness, have forever cost Brandon Ellingson’s parents, relatives and friends the pleasure of his company and the joy of watching him advance in age and knowledge.

As Craig Ellison said, referring to that day and those terrible circumstances, “Brandon didn’t have a chance.”

You have heard, of course, about the 9-year-old girl who lost control of a fully automatic Uzi while shooting at an Arizona shooting range and killed her 39-year-old instructor.

I read The New York Times’ online story about it tonight and saw that it had already drawn more than 260 comments.

The Times runs about 25 comments per segment before you have to hit “read more” to get the next 25 or so.

I took the following comments just from the first page.

There’s no point whatsoever in me voicing an opinion or making an observation. Just listen to the commenters:


Dr. Marvin Denburg, Coralville, IA

It’s illegal for a child to buy cigarettes and alcohol but not illegal for a child to use an automatic weapon. Have we lost our sanity?

Texan, San Antonio

The best people now to publicly advocate for weapon safety are the 9 year-old, her parents, and the family of the dead instructor. They need to get busy advocating and show the courage this situation needs. I’ll defend any person with the courage to admit a deadly error and a desire to persuade an audience with authority and humility. When they get in front of a camera and say that the deadliest weapons never belong in a child’s hands, the viewers will believe them and later admire them.

Geoff, New York

If today was a typical day, almost 100 people died in automobile accidents in the United States. This unfortunate incident (the shooting death) is “news,” which means it is uncommon, perhaps unique. Every adult involved was there of their own volition. Even though the event reeks of irresponsibility and stupidity, it is difficult for me to get too outraged about it. There is simply too much stupidity around for me or anybody else to prevent.

Doug Terry, Maryland

Obviously, small children should not be handling and firing high-powered weapons. There is no good purpose to it. When (people are) older, the ability to handle a weapon overall is not a bad thing, just as being able to change a flat tire or put oil in a car could be part of one’s basic skills. There are plenty of exotic “adventures” that parents introduce their children to these days, and it seems to have gotten way out of hand. We need to come down to earth.

Mike Holloway, MA

These things are made for one purpose only: slaughtering people. Why not take your child to play with lethal drugs or gas? All the insane, silly retorts of the gun nuts serve one purpose only: to keep them from having to think and accept responsibility for all the blood.

Aymeri, Vancouver

Absolutely appalling, to say the least. Such parents shouldn’t be entrusted with rearing children. So learning to fire a gun is, well, just another game, is it? And we wonder why so many vulnerable youth, reared on a diet of violence in many guises (e.g., video games & all those ever present blockbuster, action-filled, brainless films – let alone lax gun access regulations) all too often turn to shooting.

Patricia Powell, Portland

The loss of life by accident or violence is always a tragedy. While many would be inclined to put this into the “pro-gun vs. anti-gun” category, I would vote for a larger lens. Placing a gun in the hands of a young, untrained child is placing an unconscionable amount of responsibility, whether stated or implied. It is no different than letting a 9-year-old drive a car without an adult’s hand on the wheel. To argue, “Who is at fault?” is superfluous. In the end, the child is the victim of the carelessness of all the participating adults. Sadly it is she, and she alone, who will bear the lifelong emotional and mental scars.

Clyde Wynant, Pittsburgh

When they write the obit on American “culture,” this should be in the footnotes. I can say with some certainty that the gun nuts amongst us will insist that this was just a “tragic accident” and that “____ percent” of kids with Uzis cause no harm at all! They will tell us it’s safer than driving to the grocery store or going to the beach. What they are unwilling to say is that a military weapon is not a toy, nor should young children be exposed to them.



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