Mission: Scarily Possible

, , , , , | Related | February 23, 2018

I’ve been a player of airsoft — a contact activity and sport involving use of mid- to high-powered BB guns — for several years, and have acquired a variety of weapons to play with during that time. For the sake of both satisfying my own security concerns about having guns — even ones that can’t fire real bullets — loose about the house and also to keep my nephews off them when they come round, I have been locking all my gear in a secure gun safe for several years. This gun safe then has a separate lockbox inside it where I store magazines and my grenades — airsoft frag grenades like the ones I use function like true grenades but contain dried peas instead of metal fragments, painful but far from lethal. The keys to this gun safe and the lockbox hang inside a separate code-locked safe in another room of the house that also contains documents, passports, etc., and my partner’s more valuable jewelry.

Because I play airsoft, and because his father (my brother) is a firearms officer for the police force, one of my nephews has a slightly unhealthy obsession with guns, and in spite of several talks from his father and me on the dangers of guns, he persists in his interest in them. As such, on agreement with my brother, I never get any of my gear out whilst he’s at the house. Before I continue with this story, I should note that my nephew was seven when this story occurred.

My partner and I were entertaining and had my brother, his wife, and his two children visiting, plus my parents and maternal grandparents, for a total of ten people in the house. I thought nothing of it when my nephew announced he needed the toilet — we have a downstairs toilet right outside the lounge — and being in the thick of preparations for dinner and busy entertaining, none of us adults noticed his absence until his little brother, only three at the time, wondered aloud where his brother was.

Immediately suspicious, I went looking and noted with concern that the downstairs toilet was empty. I raced upstairs to check the room where the gun safe is kept, suspecting him to be there, and I was met with the sight of my nephew gleefully pulling the pin on one of my grenades.

Knowing the timers on my grenades are around the five-second mark, I closed the distance, swatted the grenade from his hands, and picked him up bodily to shield him from the blast with my own body, just about accomplishing this before the grenade blew up barely three feet from us.

Now, as I mentioned earlier in this post, the grenades are filled with dried peas; they’re not lethal, but with it that close and with me wearing slacks and a t-shirt they sure as hell stung, and I had an impressive scatter burst of small bruises across my back and the back of my legs later. Unsurprisingly, the noise brought my brother and father charging upstairs, and after they’d ascertained that we were both all right and my brother raged furiously at his son, they questioned my nephew as to how he’d gained access to any of my gear in the first place, and his answer amazed us.

Over about a six-month period, this seven-year-old boy had established that I kept all my gear in the gun safe, figured out that the keys were kept in the separate safe, and then, over several visits, tagged along, pretending to play, when my partner or I had gone to the safe to get something from it, and then he had memorised the code from watching us enter it. Finally, his plan had come to fruition and he’d got into the safe. After dragging a couple guns out, presumably to play with, he had opened the lockbox and pulled a grenade out. Very fortunately, this was when I found him, because even five seconds later I’d have been entirely too late to prevent him severely injuring himself.

Being fairly dumbstruck at this level of planning from such a young child, none of us really knew what to say afterwards, so we just sent him downstairs to his (unsurprisingly mortified) mother whilst we put the guns back and cleared up the mess the grenade caused as best we could. I changed the safe code, and opted to place the lockbox key in my wallet instead of back in the safe, and we continued the evening rather shaken, but fortunately all safe.

I’m sure some people will say we were idiots to let a child roam the house unwatched when we knew he had a gun obsession, but frankly no one expects a seven-year-old to plan out a way to get past three layers of security.

Fortunately, this event did finally convince my nephew that guns are dangerous, and now two years later, he’s much more interested in football and Pokémon than conducting secret agent operations behind our backs.

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