2018 has been a big year for paintball. Just not in the way we thought.
Gun-violence has put the public’s watchful eye on guns, and their likeness. You might think this is why publicity on crimes involving paintball markers is up….
But the reality is that paintball crimes really are up – it’s not just the media playing it’s usual game.
Which brings us here; amidst the biggest news year for this game that’s ever happened, getting ready to talk about how a weekend hobby became the centerpiece solution for gun-violence – to talk about paintball violence.
In this post I go over this violent trend, covering the different types of paintball crimes that are committed every year along with their criminal sentences – because a disturbingly tiny amount of people know how much jail-time attacking someone with a paintball marker can lead to – and they need to know.
We all need to know!
This could potentially stop future attacks, by making potential criminals think twice before pulling ANY trigger in a public space.
To start this public notice I’ll first be covering the biggest news story involving paintball in 2018.
How the growing problem of gun-violence created a growing problem of paintball violence
The amount of gun-related violence taking place today has motivated the public to take action against it.
Some of the actions taken have generally been positive: like walkouts and rallies in which the goal was to unify people and spread a message.
These protests work to drive awareness to the topic, and by most measures they are successful thanks to news publicity and social media coverage they garner.
However, some efforts have taken unintended turns, resulting in a massive increase in crimes involving paintball markers. So much so that the L.A. police department has reported a 3x increase for the year.
Over one weekend in Milwaukee, reports of paintball incidents reached 65.
The purported reason for this? A popular rapper, 21 Savage, called for “Guns Down, Paintballs Up” to reduce gun violence.
This gesture has been described as a misguided attempt in ending gun violence, due to the disastrous chain of events that followed – the destruction of property and life.
In the beginning, it seemed like a good idea: replace real guns with paintball markers, and settle feuds over a game of paintball.
You know, play-it-away.
And to be fair, some iterations of this idea have found success, like this “Balloons Over Bullets” event that brought kids together with a massive water-balloon fight.
But, even our beloved paintball can’t solve all the world’s problems…
In fact, few things can be the solution when self-control is left out.
In paintball, self-control comes in the form of following basic rules and upholding the sanctity of the game.
It comes from knowing how the game is intended to be played, and having the discipline to uphold oneself to its rules.
These sacred rules are what seasoned vets like Greg Hastings exemplify whenever they play .
You can see them in action when they play a match with new players, in which they exercise self-control so that the new players actually have “fun” and don’t just walk off the field dripping in paint.
This is hard to uphold when you have a bunch of players with no self-control, and lack of knowledge and respect for the games rules.
Without these things you do not have paintball.
Paintball is a game with rules.
Structure exists in this game so that it doesn’t become a grudge match of endless shooting.
Real Paintballing Centers take time to educate players on safety and rules, and have refs that enforce these rules so matches stay safe and fun.
Without rules paintball becomes war the same way martial arts becomes street-fighting.
Give a violent person a bat, and all you have given them is another way to hurt others.
In the end it seems the end result of the “Paintballs Up” movement is that more people are now aware of other ways to shoot people.
When played in the right environment it is an invaluable tool.
The game can help a person discover himself, which is why many organizations choose to play it.
You can find it used in youth camps for children and special needs groups like the disabled and troubled youth.
You can find it being used as a team-building tool for corporations and similar groups of the sort that want to put their teams through the ultimate test of courage and will.
You can even find major sports teams using it as a way to enforce comradery and bonding.
The one thread in common here, is that all of this takes place on fields where structure and control are upheld. They aren’t done as a free-for-all in the local city park amidst the public.
In the right setting, Paintball can be a great tool for self-discovery.
But as a way to settle gun violence? No way, and here’s why it doesn’t.
When there’s bad blood between players or teams – paintball turns violent. I can’t begin to tell you how many times bad blood has led to injury because someone wanted to harm another player.
all of which taking place away from an actual paintballing center, in the deep of the woods where structure and self-control is left unchecked.
In those backwoods scenarios your safety boils down to the trust you have for all the players – which sometimes isn’t enough.
Marker velocities get cranked all the way up, harder paintballs get used, soft-shots get made – where neck, sides, groins get purposefully targeted. Situations are setup so that players get singled out and outnumbered, which can be dangerous should things get carried away.
In those scenarios paintball becomes less of a game and more of a vehicle for harm.
So can paintballing on the streets solve gun-violence? No.
You need structure and self-control to do that. That structure is found on real fields where rules can be enforced.
This is why martial arts taught in a Dojo or class setting is successful in teaching self-control to troubled youth.
And also why you can’t just give kids fighting gloves and tell them to go at it…
What good can that accomplish?
Here’s a question:
What do $6,000,000 in bail fees and life in prison have in common?
They are the results of paintball markers and a lack of self-control.
Crimes against paintball are many: shooting pedestrians is one of them.
Without self-control, a lot of bad can happen.
Here I’m going to show you the sorts of criminal things that people without self-control use paintball markers for, and then we can talk about what can be done about it.
Vandalism – Random or intentional, vandalism happens when paintballs are shot at public or personal property.
This is the type of criminal offense that used to have a lower conviction rate as perpetrators got away due to a lack of incriminating evidence.
However, there does seem to be a significant boost in convictions related to this type of offense thanks to social media, which has opened the floodgates to evidence – oftentimes offered up by the perps themselves!
This is good because vandalism can create dangerous situations for others. It’s certainly not the victim-less crime others paint it to be.
This engineer makes an important point of the dangers of shooting street signs. At night they are reflective, and sign that is shot with paint loses it’s reflectance, posing a threat to drivers.
Aside from creating dangerous conditions, vandalism can come with serious charges. If the vandalized property is found to be federally owned then the offense can classified as a felony, which comes with a 1 year minimum prison sentence.
Drive-bys – One such example took place in Anchorage Alaska, in which frozen paintballs were used to shoot a man in the face.
In most cases these incidents happen as ‘sprees’, in which a group of individuals in a car will drive around shooting multiple unsuspecting pedestrian on the sides of roads.
The majority of these reported attacks take place at night, with a smaller amount happening during the day.
Attacks – Pranks gone wrong and hate-crimes fall into this category.
The targets of hate crimes are often of different race that the attacker, or in this incident of different sexuality. For whatever reason attacks involving different races and sexual preferences are often found to be hate crimes.
Recklessness – Sometimes the only target is friends, which can result in an accident.
In these cases the suspects are charged with reckless endangerment.
The people committing these crimes are NOT real paintballers.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that most paintball-crime cases involve teenagers to young adults.
In most cases it happens in a group, which indicates this is a result of group-think and/or social pressures of peers.
Why teenagers and young adults?
As a younger person it’s easy to get caught up in an idea and lose sight of the bigger picture. At these ages there’s a higher susceptibility to give in to social pressures or to rebel and act out against authority.
The need to rebel is a characteristic commonly associated with teenagers, which is attractive to them because to an under-stimulated teenager it becomes a source of excitement. It is a result of not knowing how to act out or deal with thoughts in a positive way.
But does this mean all young adults are bad? No way. In fact, the largest demographic in paintball is teenagers and young adults, and they definitely aren’t the ones driving around shooting pedestrians… which brings up the next point I want to make.
Another worthy point is that rarely is it ever an actual hobbyist paintballer committing these crimes, as they know better.
This isn’t a surprise, they get their excitement from actually playing on the field, and doing anything that could potentially take them away from that is a risk not worth taking..
They are consumed with the sport, spending most of their time talking about it with others, and doing anything they can to grow the sport by getting friends and family involved.
They also are the first to defend their sport whenever it comes under attack.
What would a die-hard paintballer have to gain from shooting bystanders on the street? Nothing. It goes completely against their principles because they operate to protect the name of the sport they love.
To give you an example Here are some fans actively involved in the sport defending it after the recent explosion of incidents across the country.
Paintball businesses are using negative press as a chance to invite people to their fields.
When negative publicity for paintball happens, the community always jumps in to defend it.
A field investor, Evan Money, published a response to the negative press he says is being perpetuated by news outlets. The solution he recommends is that field owners step in and share their side of the story with the news media.
You can see this happening right here: this field owner shared a positive message of how his fields offer fun and safety for players. This is similar to the message I shared above – that field’s provide structure and enforce self-control with rules and refs.
Even employees are chiming in. This one offered his insight, saying that the attacks looked more like backyard ballers than the weekly players that make local field’s their homes.
This is a great way for field owners to use negative paintball press to increase exposure for their paintball business. It’s unfortunate that crimes involving paintball markers happens, but it’s also unfortunate that more influencers aren’t stepping forward to defend the community and game.
Another way we can protect our sport from future crimes, is by educating paintball marker owners on the severity of using them for criminal offenses, which is what I want to cover next.
Attacking people and property with paintball markers can result in serious jail-time.
In the case of paintball crimes, the types of charges are fairly mixed, and largely depend on the state which they take place in, the age of the perpetrators and victim(s), and the intention behind the crime.
In the case of hate crimes such as the Anchorage paintball attacks, the 19 year old offender received 6 months in prison, a fine of $6,000, and 300 hours of mandatory community service.
His charges were a result of the extent of his crime and that he was an adult at the time, which allowed him to be charged with the full extent of the law.
Those that are considered juveniles are protected by law; names often do not get released and neither does the sentencing, usually… but in the case of the juveniles in the anchorage paintball attacks: the High school they attended suspended them.
This is just one example. There are countless others. In my research I found a couple repeated, ranging from simple misdemeanors to prison-sentencing felonies.
Here are charges associated with paintball crimes:
- Second-degree assault as a hate crime
- Committing hate crimes
- Aggravated harassment
- Criminal possession of a weapon
- Criminal tampering
- Misdemeanor assault
- Vandalism of federal property
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Aggravated mayhem
- assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury
Time spent in prison is what these can earn you – even life!
The injuries sustained by those attacked influence the heaviness of the charges.
Race, age, and disabilities can escalate the seriousness of the crime, which if found to be a hate crime can come with serious punishment – jail time.
In New York 3 young adults shot Jewish neighborhood patrol volunteers, and faced felony charges. I couldn’t find anything on sentencing but felony charges can result in a minimum of 1 years in prison, so it couldn’t have been good!
If not found to be a hate crime then in most cases first time offenders get lighter sentences, as do juveniles, but those found to be hate-crimes appear to get hit by the book – with no leeway whatsoever.
In the state of California 3 people may spend life in prison for shooting a senior man’s eye out in a drive-by paintball shooting near an elementary school. This is an example of the seriousness of the crime, and hopefully will deter anyone reading this from doing it. It’s not worth it!
Sometimes it doesn’t matter if the crime is successful because in some cases intent to do injury is enough to receive punishment.
How to Prevent Paintball Crimes
If you are concerned someone you know may participate in paintball crimes, here are some measures you can take to possibly prevent it..
This section is helpful to parents of kids who own paintball markers, and exhibit signs of poor self-control.
Talk to Them – Do you know your kid? Know what they do in their free time? Know what kinds of friends they have and the kind of antics they get into? Knowing this is not only effective parenting but also
Show The Victims Side – Showing them videos of people attacked by paintballs may help them emphasize with the victims. Any time you can put a real face to a crime and show the impact of it you create a deeper connection with the audience for it. You can also take the scare approach and show them the criminal charges the 19 year old faced in Anchorage paintball attacks I talked about earlier.
Take Them to a Local Field – Put gear to use and keep it from being idle. If your child is unable to play with their marker then they may find ways to do so on their own. This is when friends get involved and peer pressure becomes an issue. Rather than allow this to happen, make sure your child gets adequate amounts of time at a local field where they can learn about proper paintball marker safety and get insight from veteran paintballers..
Take Their Gear Away – If you are a parent, and you see irresponsible behavior after trying the measures above, then it may be time to remove them of their gear by either taking the tank and marker, or selling it altogether. You’d be doing us all a favor.
Remember, these crimes are not victim-less, and social media makes the effects far more reaching than normal. It isn’t just the people involved in the crime that are negatively affected, but also friends, family, business owners, and hobbyists of the sport.
It’s bad vibes!
It may never completely stop, but something can still be done about it.
You just read the only guide on this on the web. I hope it helped give you a better understanding of what’s happening, why it happens, and how it can be prevented from happening.
I wanted to do this guide after reading the endless amount of crimes that misused and misrepresented my favorite hobby – dragging it through the mud.
Is this guide enough to deter future crimes?
I hope so… but probably not. One person can only do so much.
But, if we share it enough then maybe it stands a chance of getting seen and heard.
If you care, please share this with everyone you know to help put this in the hands of people that need to see it.