On January 22nd, the Patch reported on a string of vandalism in Monroe, CT. The vandalism consisted of a few paintballs being shot at about a half dozen households and a few automobiles. The paintballs were all of the same color and it is believed all incidents were the same vandal. As a player of 13 years, an owner of Danbury Action Sports and a third year law student, I can speak frankly on the issue.
First, let me start by addressing the vandals and anybody else who has considered engaging in similar deeds. Do you understand how stupid your actions are? Vandalism a criminal misdemeanor, and defacing property makes you liable for the damages you caused. Further, driving with a fully assembled, fully loaded paintball marker in the cabin of an automobile is a semi-automatic firearm charge in Connecticut. This is a felony, punishable by a minimum of 1 year in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
The first thing parents need to understand about paintball is that it is illegal for those under 18 to purchase paintball markers. So, every time you hear of a young kid vandalizing with his paintball marker, that’s a marker his parents bought but never regulated. The second is that paintball is safer than golf. When wearing eye protection, there is nowhere you can get hit with a paintball that will cause permanent injury. It is the best way to get your child away from that computer or video game console and into the great outdoors for some fresh air.
I hope the community understands that paintball is not about shooting homes, cars or street signs. It is a game of mental skill and physical ability….a Sport. It is not about war simulation or killing. It is illegal and highly unethical to produce red paintballs. No field or shop would ever consider carrying them even if it wasn’t. Sure, there are some paintball markers that look like real guns, but most of these were originally design for military and police training. The highest quality paintball markers look like toys and could never be confused with a real gun. They are tools of the trade, just like cleats, baseball bats and motor-cross bikes. Finally, 99% of paintball players would never expose our sport to the bad media associated with vandalism or injury to innocent people for fear of losing what we love. Please, do not judge us by the actions of a few rotten apples.
The solution to this vandalism issue is relatively simple. Players need to respect the sport and understand that even if you didn’t get caught doing something dumb, it still reflects negatively on the sport. The paintball community needs to self-regulate, as peer influence is usually strongest. Parents need to regulate the gifts they give their children because even if your child is obedient, their friends often gain access to their “toys”. The community needs to keep an open mind and take action against violators of the law, not a community of athletes simply looking to engage in their favorite pastime. The magic elixir in this case is exposure and understanding for the sport of paintball, and this we can all work on.