I am surrounded. There is no escape. Once a place of solace, my humble local supermarket is now overrun. I feel thwarted. Ambushed by the sight of the high-tech gadgetry and militiaous ammunition, I hang my head in resignation…
Guns were always part and powder of growing up on a farm. Sometimes, after all the usual supplies of silver, veterinarian-administered-medication bullets had been exhausted, only one humane option remained: a swift, gun barrel stun to the dairy-cow cranium.
The closest my brothers and I ever got to seeing our 12-gauge shotgun was from behind the triple locked, jail-strength-iron-latticed walls of our pump shed. Still, the proscribed intrigue coupled with the rare reverberent sound of a late night spell of bovine euthanasia, was enough to spawn years of intermittent, creative endeavors to build replicas of this detained weapon. Disheveled hay bales enveloped in old sheets became make shift targets. Poly’ pipe and metal tubing mirrored the barrels. And finger moulds of latex gloves fastened with elastic bands onto the pipes proved to be the most effective means of sending innocent rodents and summertime cicadas to their premature demise.
It doesn’t take too many conversations with Mike – our neighbour from the Deep South of the United States – to understand how insidiously pervasive both the loss of life and ones’ sense of liberty can be on the psychology of those living in communities affected by ongoing gun violence. In 1996, Australia realised its worst semi-automatic gun massacre. In just 8 seconds an average, workaday cafe was turned into a blood bath with 12 innocent lives lost. Another 8 lives were stolen in a subsequent, seventy-five-second burst of callous firing. In a little over half an hour, the once peaceful town of Port Arthur (Tasmania), was changed forever. Permanently scared with the devastating memories associated with the tragic loss of 35 of it’s citizens.
Outraged by the senseless acts of the gunman, the newly elected leader of the conservative party, John Howard, launched an audacious offensive on the pre-existing gun laws. Holding firm to the cause, revolts from country parties and state governments were forestalled following a final-straw threat to hold a nationwide referendum that would have seen state-based licencing and semi-automatic weapon regulation relinquished to the federal government. Over the next twelve months, state controlled legislation would be changed to make it harder for the average Joe Citizen to obtain and keep a gun and over one million semi-automatic weapons would be surrendered as part of a revolutionary Gun Buyback Scheme.
While there is much ambivalence in the academic community as to the universal effectiveness of the 1996 gun law reforms, one fact remains overtly clear. In the twenty two years since the Port Arthur massacre, Australia has not realised a single mass shooting.
…overwhelmed, I surrender. Ninety minutes of traipsing through department stores, toy warehouses and gift shops and I fail to find even a single, non-gun-shaped water receptacle for K1’s birthday party game. Dejectedly, I make my way down the cleaning isle to grab the almost-forgotten, biodegradable washing powder. All of a sudden the mothers-defeat-weight is lifted from my shoulders. Hidden away behind the bulk-buy household bleach bottles are eight, green-topped, ready-to-decorate bulb sprayers. Party time!
Gun-Free Water Fun Party Game
Bulb sprayers (enough for one per child)
Thin cardboard (I used old lego boxes)
Water soluble paint
Making the colour tags and decorating the bulb sprayers:
If you’ve ever experienced being squirted in the eye by a bulb sprayer set on jet-stream, you’ll understand why I have gone to such lengths to divert attention toward the lower part of the body. Making colour tags is not at all required for this simple water fun game to be a huge hit…it does however provide one with an easy “shooting at the tags kiddos” cue to keep you in the party-invitee parents’ good books.
Using water soluble paints, let your childrens’ imagination run decorating-wild and task them with painting sheets of A4 paper crazy and creative designs. Cut each design in half to create an A5 sized sheet.
Using a scrap A5 sheet of paper as a template, trace and cut out the required number of cardboard pieces to make the colour tags. Using PVA glue, stick one sheet of decorated, A5 white paper onto one piece of cardboard. Repeat for the remaining pieces of paper and cardboard. Leave to dry overnight underneath some heavy books. Hole punch the top of the cardboard. Loop a piece of string through the two holes and tie. This should be tight to stop the tag from flipping over. Insert a safety pin through the knot.
Using the stickers, decorate the bulb sprayers. To avoid ownership arguments at the conclusion of the game, label the bulb sprayers with each party-invitee’s name.
Playing the game:
Resources: Colour Tags, Decorated Bulb Sprayers, large bucket filled with water
I am sure there are many interesting ways one could design the game. In the end I went with simple.
The aim of the game is to be the last player standing. Each player can take 10 hits to their tag (honesty system…or…if you have the adult power…use some referees to help keep count). Once your tag is hit 10 times (to the best of your knowledge) you need to stand outside the playing space. The winner is the person who remains in the playing space after all other players have left. Should players need to refill their bulb sprayers, they must do so using the water in the large bucket. Players are considered safe while they are refilling their sprayers.
In truth, the game quickly descended into thirty minutes of just plain, water-spraying fun. The bulb sprayers, in addition to my Mum’s ever popular mini gingerbread men, made a great replacement for the traditional party favour goodies.