On the evening of August 20, two students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign went to the emergency room of the local hospital with darts in their arms. The students had been walking several blocks away from each other. Each reported feeling a sudden sharp pain in the left forearm and looking down to see a dart sticking out of the arm. At the time of the attacks, neither student noticed any suspicious persons or vehicles within close proximity to them.
On August 30, police arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him with having committed the attacks. Police reported that they had received an anonymous tip that led to the arrest.
I suspected initially that the tip was something to this effect that “this guy owns a blow gun.”
But, oddly enough, I have discovered that this weapon and these kinds of attacks seem to be much more common than I would ever have guessed.
In early August, four people were wounded with blow darts in a series of attacks near Bear, Delaware. Two were bicyclists, one was a jogger, and the fourth a pedestrian.
On January 31, 2012, three teenagers were arrested for wounding two young women with blow darts as the women were leaving the Walmart in Tyler, Texas.
On May 21, 2012, three men in Brooklyn were shot with blow darts by a fifteen-year-old boy who shot at random pedestrians from the roof of the building in which he lived.
On August 6, 2013, a cyclist was wounded with a blow dart on Sauvie Island, just north of downtown Portland, Oregon.
But the strangest incident—or, more accurately, coincidence–of all is that, within two weeks in July of this year, three teens from different parts of Ohio were taken to emergency rooms because they had “inhaled” blow darts that they had been attempting to fire from blow guns.
All of the people using these blow guns seem to have been males between the ages of 14 and 23.
So I have several questions:
First, since when have blow darts become such a popular weapon among American boys and young men?
Second, has some blow gun manufacturer been engaged in a clever marketing campaign of which I have been completely unaware?
Lastly, do those who have chosen to attack others with the blowguns view the attacks as nothing more than nearly harmless pranks? And are the attacks symptomatic of some worse impulse?
I am tempted to say that the dart attacks are, at least, not as deadly as gunfire, but then again I have never been wounded with a dart.