Violence, hackers and holiday gifts


(Illustration by Dasha Zolota / Ryersonian Staff)

The holidays are nigh and while we all enjoy cocoa, snow angels and presents, it’s also time to reflect on the biggest stories of the school year and their central theme – violence.

If you don’t live under a rock, these names will probably sound familiar: Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby and Julien Blanc. The first was shot, the next two allegedly assaulted multiple women and the last promoted violent misogyny.

Recently, a 12-year-old boy named Tamir Rice was killed by police in a playground in Cleveland, Ohio, after brandishing a BB gun that resembled a semi-automatic pistol. The gun had its orange safety indicator illegally removed, but a witness who called police said the weapon was “probably fake.” There are no laws against carrying an airsoft gun in public in Ohio.

Suffice to say, deaths like this are needless and far too common. These events prompted outrage, policy reform and even hacktivist action.

Hacker collective Anonymous claimed to have crashed Cleveland’s city website in protest. They released a video statement blaming “lack of appropriate training” in the police department for this event.

Rice did not directly threaten police, nor did he aim the gun at them. But, when asked to raise his hands, he reached for the toy.Police shot him twice, at least once in the stomach. He later died in hospital. “The excuse that ‘we (sic) were feared for our lives’ is ludicrous when the victim was only 12 years old and only had possession of a toy airsoft gun,” said a masked announcer in the video.

Anonymous’s statements may be true, but ultimately it was an adult who put a realistic toy gun in a child’s hands. An adult designed the gun. Adults made them available for purchase. And a variety of adults had to be present for the transaction – the cashier, the credit card holder, the one who drove to the store.

According to Ohio law, airsoft guns aren’t considered firearms. Anyone can purchase them, but merchants do have the right to refuse sales. Suppose the 12-year-old did buy the gun himself. What rational adult approved that idea?

Research overwhelmingly suggests that young males behave impulsively. Starting in adolescence, males engage in risky behaviour. This is due to the reward portion of the brain outgrowing and outpacing the self-control portion of the brain.A 2006 study found there were 13,000 teenage deaths in the United States. Over 70 per cent of these deaths were attributed to careless behaviour, including but not limited to carrying weapons.

So, Anonymous, instead of crashing websites, be a dear and kindly remind people that giving kids toy guns may not be such a good idea? Fellow readers, with gift giving season upon us, please take into consideration what present, and what message, you’re spreading this winter.

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