While traveling to the East Coast, we stopped at a Portland playground on a very nice Sunday afternoon. Dozens of children, and as many parents, were busy playing.

One child caught my attention. He was about 8 years old and was holding a green toy automatic rifle that he was pointing and shooting at everybody. He shot strategically, used good aim and climbed higher to get a better view. His gun even made perfect firing sounds: “Tak-tak … tak-tak-tak-tak … tak-tak-tak.” He “shot” people in the distance and at close range. He even pretended to shoot at my 3-year-old child, just 3 inches from his face. He was good, seriously!

I watched this boy go on for about 15 minutes. By that time, he had “killed” everybody multiple times. My partner couldn’t take it anymore. She went to tell the child that this was not an OK game to play and suggested that he stop. He went to his mom. So now I knew who one of his parents was.

Later on, the boy began pretending to shoot people again. So I went to his mom to tell her that her child was acting like he was doing a mass shooting, which didn’t seem appropriate. Her response was: “It’s a toy,” “there’s no ammunition in it” and “that’s what kids do: play guns.”

Moments later, a man arrived, saying, “I’m the man, you can talk to me!” He really had good arguments: “You don’t talk to my kids, ever!” “You walk this way, out of my sight!” and “This is America, the land of the free.” He was aggressive, so I walked away. Though I was proud to tell him: “If I practice my guitar, I get better at playing guitar. What if I practice shooting other people?”

I wish I’d told him that he’s free from the Crown of Britain, and this comes with great responsibilities and need for intelligence. It does not mean he is free to behave like an idiot.

They left shortly after the incident. That’s when I discovered that their other son, who was about 3 years old, was a child I had earlier seen violently pushing other kids down the slides and almost injuring a young girl, while her dad was almost crying, “Are you OK, sweetheart?” No parent talked to him – except me.

Nobody went to cheer me up, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only parent who was uncomfortable witnessing a child rehearsing for a mass shooting.

Sébastien CoRhino Corriveau

Rimouski, Quebec

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