Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Caught in the Crossfire

"KAPOW!" A ricochet barely misses my head. I crouch lower, gripping my gun ever tighter. My arm is already bleeding from an earlier hit, but I tagged one of them in the neck, the memory causes me to laugh a little. Two more shots ring out and I hear the desperate cry "I'm OUT!" My partner and I exchange a nod and take off down the corridor firing wildly. After the screams I'm able to make out, "Enough, enough, I quit." I pause to take in the sweet taste of victory.This exchange did not take place in Iraq or some other far off war-torn country but rather in the trenches of the dorms. This was how they introduced me to the sport called Airsoft.
According to ShortyUSA.com (an online Airsoft supplier) the spring-loaded guns shoot small plastic BBs at 120 to 300 feet per second. As such, Airsoft guns are classified as paintball guns. According to the UAF student handbook, "For personal safety, all weapons and explosives are prohibited in residential facilities."
Lt. Syrilyn Tong of the UAF Police Department had a chance to fire an Airsoft gun and saw the results. Tong thought they "could be dangerous, particularly in close quarters, there's a possibility for eye damage." Lt. Tong seemed mostly concerned for the safety of innocent bystanders who, unaware that a war was going on, could walk right into the line of fire. "We have to respect the rights of others," she said.
According to police, there has only been one documented report of air gun use on campus to date, and that was during the summer.
"It hasn't really seemed to be a problem this year," said one RA. "It's been going on every year that I've been here, but this year doesn't seem to be any worse than any other."
The RA wished to remain anonymous because he said that during training, RAs are told not to speak to reporters. He said he believed this particular rule was the most adamantly stressed point during the training.
No injuries at UAF have been reported due to Airsoft weapons. When talking to participants and observing some battles, it was apparent to this reporter that participants take Airsoft seriously, and although there is an opportunity for injury, they try to play as safe as possible.
"Well there's no head shots. If someone's tapped out and obviously done, we end the match," said one participant. "I've started wearing long sleeves just in case a battle breaks out."
Another told me that he sleeps with a pistol under his pillow. "You never know," he said. "You never know."

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