Who needs parents?

Last night I did something I hardly ever do and flipped innocently through the TV channels. An annoying story caught my attention -- involving some local high school kids who were caught horsing around with disposable cameras they'd modified into low-powered stun guns, and who now face felony charges

Some of the comments I heard on the TV report struck me as classics in cluelessness, so I checked them out online this morning:

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. -- Two Macomb County teens may face felony charges after one teen built a homemade stun gun and the other brought it to school.

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said a 13-year-old boy found instructions on how to make a stun gun out of a disposable camera and some hardwires off the Internet.

The boy gave the gun to his 18-year-old friend who brought it to Dakota High School and showed his friends.

"He didn't think it was much more than a gag, but what he didn't realize is he could be charged with a felony," said Hackel.

Investigators said the school called the Sheriff's Department after they learned the student was using the homemade stun gun to shock students.

Nobody was seriously injured.

Apparently they were amusing each other, with the students consenting to the shocking. When I was a boy, boys who did things like that got hauled to the principal's office, and later had to reckon with the wrath of an angry father. That was the public reaction by adult authorities; their private reaction would have been to roll their eyes and say "Boys will be boys!"

Nowadays, things like this have become a huge police matter involving felony charges.

And instead of facing the job of disciplining their unruly brats, parents are blaming the Internet:

Macomb County parent Larry Beard is disappointed that students can find such dangerous recipes online.

"What are they going to come up with next," said Beard. "You are fighting tooth and nail against this thing but it's a lot bigger than any of us."

The school district said it is deciding whether or not the students will be suspended.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's department has turned the case over to the prosecutor's office, which will decide if the student's will face felony charges.

What are they going to come up with next?

There is nothing new about this. In fact, I post about it five years ago, and offered a flippantly sarcastic conclusion:

We definitely need mandatory background checks plus a fifteen day waiting period.

And sales to minors should be strictly prohibited! I "shutter" at the thought!

How any of this is "a lot bigger than any of us," I'm not sure. But in another version of the story, the finger is pointed at YouTube:
The makeshift stun gun was found Monday at Dakota High School in Macomb Township, where an 18-year-old student zapped willing friends as a joke. Word got to school administrators, who confronted the student and confiscated the device.

Macomb County deputies tracked the device back to a 13-year-old who learned how to make it on YouTube.com.

Hackel said neither student meant to cause real harm.

"They thought it was a prank," he said. "We want to warn kids that this isn't funny and warn parents that they need to keep a watch on what their kids are doing on the Internet."

What they're doing on the Internet is watching these videos (as I did five years ago).

But buying a disposable camera, modifying it, taking it to school, and horsing around with it? These are independent actions, and "the Internet" is no more to blame than would a book showing how to make Molotov cocktails be to blame if the kids found bottles, filled them with gasoline, stuffed them with wicks, lit the wicks and then threw them at cars.

Both teens could face felony and misdemeanor charges first for having an electronic weapon, then for bringing it near school property, the sheriff said.

One of the students has also been suspended, but Hackel wouldn't identify the school.

"To me, this is not a school issue," he said. "How do you prevent a kid from bringing a camera to school? This is a parenting issue."

Yes, it is a parenting issue, but who is the parent? The biological parents of an individual child, or the state?

A lot of people talk about a lack of accountability, as I did yesterday in the context of parents who sit around and let their children eat lead. The less accountable people become, the more the heavy hand of the state gets involved and takes on accountability which was once that of parents, in the process taking away freedom from everyone. Lack of accountability grows, and fuels the process.

Is individual accountability being destroyed by the state? Or is the state stepping in and intervening because of a lack of individual accountability? Or both? I don't know, but there seems to be a direct relationship between the lack of parental accountability and the state becoming the parent, not just of children, but of adults. Adults who don't want to parented by the state are finding that there's no way to opt out.

I suppose disposable cameras can be banned, along with 1/8" pipe, which as this video shows, can be used to make .22 caliber zip guns:

And now that I think about it, wire can be used to garrote people; piano wire, and guitar strings, or just plain old hardware store wire. That innocent-looking guitar string in your kid's pocket could very well be a deadly weapon!

The things people do all because of the Internet!

Where are their parents?

posted by Eric on 05.13.09 at 11:38 AM


I built almost the exact same thing back in middle school. I extracted the charging circuitry and the capacitor of a disposable camera, soldered 20-gauge wire to the capacitor, and packaged the whole thing into a gun-like object, with two wires at mouth of the "barrel". It would charge with a AAA battery, and deliver a 220V, 400pC stun.

I never got in trouble for it, but I was living in more reasonable times, in a more reasonable country. (Firecrackers with half-an-ounce of black powder are still legal there...we used to use the tubes of stop-signs as impromptu vegetable mortars.)

I'm glad to see the capacity of adolescent males for old-fashioned dangerous fun is still alive despite the best efforts of meddling nannies.

altoids   ·  May 13, 2009 12:10 PM

ohfercrissakes. I'm glad my children are all grown, but now I'm fearing for my grandchildren and silently hoping for homeschooling.

But I remember when this "zero tolerance" started. It's been around a long time and has just got more and more ridiculous.

I well remember sitting in the principal's office with my son when he was in trouble for fighting. He defended himself and his property (some guy decided he liked my son's shoes and grabbed them in the locker room).

The principal was considering suspending my son for three days. I told him that would be fine with me as it would give us an opportunity to take him on a mini-vacation to reward him for defending himself.

I hate that it's so fashionable to be punitive.

Donna B.   ·  May 13, 2009 2:44 PM

Try linking the banning of piano wire with reproductive rights and equate its ownership with racism. Think that's stupid and can't exist.

Take a look at this:


Robert   ·  May 13, 2009 9:45 PM

About 5 years ago some boys (yeah go figure) were playing "keep away" with a necklace they took from my then 13 year old daughter. She slugged one of them and got her necklace back.

Fortunately the school folks were sane and she just got a talking to from them. She got an "atta girl" from me.

M. Simon   ·  May 14, 2009 8:24 PM

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