The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A peculiarly American tragedy.

America is a strange place, I think. It is a place where eight year olds get to play with guns - even if it kills them.

A peculiarly American tragedy occurred on Sunday afternoon at the Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo at the Westfield Sportsman's Club, co-sponsored by C.O.P. Firearms & Training.

At this odd event (odd for me, because it would seem surreal for such a thing to even be held in the countries of my youth - the UK and Ireland - or my present country of residence, Singapore), a boy of just 8 years old was given his first machine gun to hold. It was an Uzi 9 mm micro machine gun. His father said it was selected because it was "small with little recoil". The boy duly pointed it at a pumpkin, and pulled the trigger. Well, it turns out that the recoil wasn't so little after all - the gun jerked back and up and he managed to shoot himself in the head. He died.

Where was the boy's father throughout all this? Well, he was about 10 feet behind him, fumbling for a camera to capture this proud moment of seeing his little boy handle his first machine gun. He got to witness something rather different.

The boy's father is director of emergency medicine at a local hospital in Stafford, Connecticut. I am sure he has seen enough gun wounds in his time, to know that guns are dangerous - but he doesn't seem to have learned much from his emergency room experience. He said: "This accident was truly a mystery to me. This is a horrible event, a horrible travesty, and I really don't know why it happened."

I think the poor father is not facing up to his own responsibility in this situation. There is no mystery as to how this happened. A little boy fired a gun rather too big for him to handle. That is all. That it was an exceptionally dangerous thing to do should have been obvious to all - especially to his emergency medicine trained Dad.

It is incidents like this that make me think that America is a truly mad place. It seems, to an outsider, to have social rules planned by a lunatic. Who, on Earth, could allow little boys to fire machine guns? What social madness leads people to believe that this is even a reasonable thing to allow? Yet it is done up and down the American land: kids fire guns, adults play with guns - and people die. It never seems to occur to them that if America were an unarmed society that they would have a murder rate similar to other unarmed societies - that is, approaching zero. It is much harder to kill someone when you have to do it up close and the most readily available weapon is your bare hands. Hence, murder rates in unarmed countries tend to be pretty low.

I have watched the American Tragedy (for America is a tragedy in many ways), for many years, wondering just when the American people are going to wake up and realize that guns are not the answer. I have wondered just how long it is going to be before they realize that if no-one had guns, that everyone would be a lot safer. There are those that object that if guns were taken away from law-abiding citizens that the criminals would have no-one to oppose them. That is easily answered: you just bring in a severe penalty for gun ownership - such as a mandatory death penalty (Singapore has the death penalty for use of a weapon: it works. Almost no-one ever uses a weapon: I have seen one case of weapon use in EIGHT YEARS. They caught him - and hung him, within a few weeks. Note he wasn't on "death row" for decades.) If this were done, America would not have to suffer tragedies like this little boy's pointless death. His name by the way was Christopher Bizilj. All his family have now, of him, are photos, memories and that name. I bet they wish guns were not part of American culture, now - but did it really have to take this lesson to teach them that?

The reaction of the authorities is particularly stupid. They are interested in whether people had the proper licenses for the gun use. They are interested in whether a crime had been committed (that is, not having the proper license). It never occurs to them that there shouldn't be such weapons in America in the first place. It never occurs to them that the whole idea of an armed citizenry is itself unwise. They are just worried about whether the proper PAPERWORK had been filed. It is bonkers, completely and utterly bonkers.

I wonder if I will ever see the day that America becomes an unarmed - and safe - nation? I rather doubt it. I have the feeling that not even my grandchildren will see that. There is too much inertia on the issue in America. There, there is the "right to bear arms"...well that leads to the risk of tragedies like Christopher Bizilj's. They will continue to happen as long as Americans have anything more dangerous than their fists to play with.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:05 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its all about money.
And NRA has lots.
And votes for the Republican.

And stupidity.
And stupidity-racism is color-blind.
And watch them (the bitter guns & bible white heartland) vote Caribou Barbie.

Yes. It is a tragedy. For the world.


10:47 AM  
Blogger JohnF said...

"It never seems to occur to them that if America were an unarmed society...
It cannot be done. Sure, you can disarm the law-abiding, but remember that by far, most violent crimes are by a very small minority, with long and escalating careers. Very many gun owners, who never harm anyone unjustly. You'd disarm them, who go through lifeties with no problems, just in case?
Tragic gun accidents happen, but keep things in perspective: more children die of drowning, more people die of slips & falls. More kids die in school athletic injuries than violent attacks in school.
Yes, "a few" are too many, but you'd rather treat everyone as not safe & reliable enough, based on this?
It's wrong to attempt disarming the entire nation, wrong to even think it. For all the wrongful gun deaths (including stupid tragic accidents like this), there are far & away more incidents where law-abiding citizens use guns in defense -some ~90% of these, no shot is fired.
Guns are used in only at most ~14% of violent crimes.
Experience with gun prohibition has shown that disarming the citizens does not in any way impair the criminals, and only makes their work easier.
The UK, within 5 years of their draconian ban, had more guns and more crime & gun crime on the streets. A Home Office official was quoted as saying it's irrelevant: the ban wasn't meant to address crime, only to take away guns from those inclined to obey the law after Dunblane- presumeably just in case they decide to go off the rails and run amok...
I much prefer to live where we each trust the other to be sane, safe and responsible, where we tell the govenment we will not let them treat us as potentially dangerous sheep.
And what makes a person with a government job a steel-nerved saint? It doesn't. Look at the many instances of "contagious shooting" among police where one thinks they see something, and all in the area empty their magazines in the general direction -and at most, get paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated -by the police.
US DOJ statistics say that civilians who use guns in defense are only ~11% as likely as police to use them wrongly or cause undue harm.
And what about the many legal precedents from courts across the country at all levels of jurisprudence, which maintain the legal principle that the police have no requirement to defend individual people?
So we're to accept that we're all too untrustworthy to have the best possible means to defend ourselves when the police can't get here, and they don't have to help us in any case...

How will preventing the law-abiding their eccentric hobby prevent the professional criminal class from getting weapons? Please show any time/place where prohibition has actually worked in keeping the thing out?
Look up "the Merced Pitchfork Murders" for another story of children and guns.
A recent study which followed up on people who as children were introduced to & given guns by their parents. In later life, they're very much less likely than the overall populace to be in trouble with the law.

I have yet to see reputable verified facts about places where the citizens are disarmed by force of law, and crime is still low. Plenty of places with more guns, and even more dangerous types (fully automatic is illegal to most people), and very low crime. Plenty of places where they allow concealed carry permits, and crime seems to drop, but it's verified that the permit holders are not in any way exacerbating the problems, and are part of the solution.
The US state Vermont, with no state-level restriction on guns, and they have 1/13th the per-capita violent crime of the UK post-ban.
In the mid '80s, Kennesaw Ga mandated a gun in every home (not enforced). 20+ years later, and not a single murder.

I'd only ask that you back away from this one sort of newsworthy story, and look at the situation overall.

To the anon writer, I'll say that the NRA is a very conciliatory organization, with a reputation as "sell-outs" to other gun groups for helping to write and pass various sorts of "common sense" legislation -again, without a hope or real intention of doing anything about crime, but only to inhibit the law-abiding.
Also notice that the vast majority of americans -normal middle-ground sorts (if such a thing ever exists)- favor the individual right. Many gun owners and concealed carry permit holders from across the spectrum.
Single-issue and party-favor voting is destructive.

John Frazer
Boulder, Co. US

9:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


Singapore is a clear example of a society in which guns are banned and violent crime is almost non-existent. The number of murders per year, here, can actually be counted by a toddler. In America, you'd need to be an actuary to do the same.

European countries, on a country wide level, tend to have gun restrictions (though some don't). They also tend to have relatively low crime. Comparison of individual localities is unhelpful since population characteristics vary. It is not difficult to find places of no or extremely low crime, in many countries...against a background of relatively higher crime elsewhere in those countries. Thus to look at the effects of guns vs. no guns, you should look at the whole nation, vs the whole nation. Doing so doesn't make America look that great, since it comes out as high in gun deaths/violent crime compared to similarly developed countries around the world.

It is easy to remove guns. Just do what Singapore does. It makes guns illegal for personal ownership - then has very severe penalties for their ownership or use. The penalties make it unlikely that any rational criminal would want to have a gun - because simply doing so is going to ruin their lives when they get caught. Hence, gun crime is low.

The penalty for use of a gun in a crime is, I understand, mandatory death. Here, there is no "death row"...they just hang them shortly after conviction. It seems to be an effective deterrent.

Just because more children die in swimming pools, that does not make it rational to allow somewhat fewer children to die at the end of a gun. Each additional death, in this case, is a needless tragedy.

Personally, I have never felt comfortable in the US simply because I know that there are so many guns around. It made it impossible to relax and simply enjoy life there. I prefer, therefore, societies without guns. However, you have a choice of residence and are quite free to choose to live surrounded by gun owners if you wish.

If the demographics of an area are good and the people are sane, then I suppose that as in the examples of localities you gave, ownership of guns may not be too harmful. However, the unfortunate truth is that sanity is not as common as one would hope and that gun ownershop in most areas will mean an instant rise in violent death.

Thanks for your comment.

9:50 AM  

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