Slap on the wrist not nearly enough for Reno middle school shooter

Bang! Bang! You're dead! As simple as when we were kids playing with cap guns or air guns plugged with cork stoppers. Bang! Bang! You're dead!

Today, kids are more likely to blow the back of someone's skull off and spill their brains like a cracked egg into a mug of beer. It's too easy. Just too damn easy. A gun in the hand is worth two behind the security of a display counter. Bang! Bang! You're dead!

The recent shooting at Pine Middle School in Reno by an eighth grader, James Scott Newman, just 14 years old, is further proof of how easy it has all become. It is also further proof of, at the same time, how difficult it has all become. Easy to take possession of a hand cannon. Difficult to understand where justice lies in all of it. Or maybe the key word is "lies?" Not as in lying down, but in not projecting truth.

Fourteen years old. Just a child. Just a child who found the gun (very easily I might add) in his parent's bedroom. Thanks Mom. Just a child who loaded the gun himself.

Just a child who selected - albeit randomly - his own victim(s). And just a child who tripped the trigger with his iddy biddy, yet irritable finger to fire off three adult-sized shots-five in total if you include the two blank chambers.

And by the way, the bullets just weren't any ole kind of bullets. Oh no ... these were bullets allegedly given to this 14-year-old as an ammunition collection by his father. "An ammunition collection?! For me?! Gee, thanks Dad. You're so smart. And generous too ..." I mean, why go for GI Joe when Daddy has the real thing that he's willing to hand out like pennies for a gumball machine. Hey Dads of Carson City and the world over: For this Christmas, forget about Santa's workshop, visit your nearby gun shop for the best in year-round entertainment for kids.

And when the DA's conclusion that the "... intent to kill ..." was difficult to determine, hence eliminating any impending charges of attempted murder, I say, "Huh?!" So if someone, anyone, below the age of 18 has the ability to seek out a gun, load it, take it to school or an ice cream social as sort of a coming-of-age show and tell, and fires off a few rounds while wearing a blindfold, killing ... umm ... Oh let's say a person here and there, but really didn't know their names, can be legally upheld as having no intent to murder? Ohhh, now I get it! No wonder why so many youngsters are packing cold metal as symmetry to their hot hormones these days.

Juvenile detention. What a punishment! "Mr. Newman! Mr. Newman! You get back here young man. Stop running in the hallways with that gun in your hand. The hallways of this school are meant for walking. Walk. Do not run, or else you'll get juvenile detention. Besides that, you might drop your gun. Do you hear me young man?! Do you hear me?!"

Juvenile detention? A lucky man's ... err, lucky boy's punishment for talking in class. The type of talk that comes in the form of a tiny lead cap that screams through air in a column of black powder from the express tunnel of a revolver's barrel. Juvenile detention?

WE just helped this kid to load his pistol in later life. "Need three more shells to fill that chamber? Here ya go son."

Juvenile detention. Why? Because the kid's a lousy shot? Because he missed hitting the vital areas of the two students he did manage to shoot? Did anybody think that maybe the reason why those two students aren't dead is only because the deafening blasts of the final three live shots were preempted by two empty rounds that perhaps caught the shooter by surprise, breaking his expectation and rerouting his aim?

If you load a gun and bring it anywhere ... anywhere in public ... place your feverish little finger on the trigger, pull back, and watch as the billows of high pressured air send metal scorching through the flesh of someone innocently standing in its way, you have taken aim ... direct aim ... on your own sentence. And it's not, in my view, anything that resembles detention, whether you are 14 or 114.

What do you think the parents of the two students who were injured think? Do you think they are calmly sitting back watching Judge Judy right now, and thanking our legal lords for the right and just laws we live by ... or is it, die by?

What happened at Pine Middle School is just a warning. One of thousands we seem to get more often than ever it seems. It can happen anywhere. That's the scary part. Anywhere, by anyone. In a movie theater. At a football game. Going to the store to buy a loaf of bread. Having lunch in a school cafeteria. Looking at the driver of the car next to you at a traffic light. Bang! Bang! You're dead!

• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at


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