Jul 13, 2010

On the Tragic Death of Bradley A. Hammer

I read with a mixture of sadness and anger that Allen Township resident Bradley A. Hammer died in a shooting accident Monday. The incident occurred while Hammer was "teaching his son how to shoot when the .22-caliber rifle discharged," according to the Toledo Blade.

This is of course an unbelievable tragedy for the Hammer family, but I have to ask the question: what the hell was Bradley Hammer thinking when he came upon the dubious idea of placing a loaded rifle in the hands of his 7-year-old son?

Now, I am a firm supporter of the Second Amendment, and I understand that in rural Ohio folks place a high degree of cultural importance to the skills associated with gun ownership. However, I find ludicrous the idea that a 7-year-old child should have a need to begin using lethal firearms.

Talking to your child about gun safety? Sure. Demonstrating how a weapon operates and building a healthy respect for firearms? I'm all for it. But handing over a loaded weapon to a small child? Utterly irresponsible, and in this case, deadly.

Now the family is without a husband and father, and now Hammer's 7-year-old son gets to carry around a lifetime of guilt knowing that he killed his own father. I do not know the model of .22-caliber rifle that was used, but I have to think that the rifle was about as long as the child is tall. In addition, no one can convince me that a 7-year-old is anywhere near mature enough to be wielding a deadly weapon, even with parental supervision, though I suppose there are plenty of people who would disagree. Yet a better question is whether Bradley Hammer was qualified to teach his child to properly handle a weapon, and based upon the fatal outcome, my suspicion is that the answer to this question is an emphatic "no."


flask said...

you know, i was just about to jump on your bandwagon in agreement, but then i remembered my first year teaching in a rural school.

it wasn't that long ago. the town has changed a lot since then, but there were poor people there then and there probably still are now.

that first year a seven-year-old came up to me with an odd bouquet to show me: a handful of fresh squirrel tails.

in conversation it came out that these were the tails of the squirrels he had shot the evening previous.

the family had eaten them for dinner. that seven-year old was proud to have put food on the family table.

i don't know what caliber the weapon was, but it was some sort of firearm and it seemed to have been appropriately placed in the hands of this seven-year-old.

Anonymous said...

Your an unfortunate sort of character passing judgment at such an inappropriate time. I learned of Brad's death just this evening from a mutual high school friend of ours. Upon searching for more detail I came across your misguided article. You are of course welcome to your opinions but a higher caliber person would leave the name of the individual he's condemning publicly silent. Especially once you consider that others will be in search of more information on the tragedy that has struck the Hammer family and come across your article as well. If you are a religious man, as your profile claims, perhaps you should consider asking for forgiveness and making a donation to the family as restitution for your moral reproach of the recently deceased. I would ask that you delete Brad's name from your article at the very least as it's disrespectful. Brad Hammer was a good and decent man spending time with his son. Although we've not spoken in 20 yrs my memories of him in high school were of a good friend that was kind, soft spoken, full of life, hard working, and we considered ourselves better people for having known him. Like so many others, he could have been playing video games, or on his computer, or working over with no regard for family. Instead his life was taken tragically trying to teach his son something he loved as his father did him. You, Mike, should be ashamed of yourself.

Scott Brummett

historymike said...

Scott Brummett:

A few thoughts on your bitter missive:

1. I expect that you will also write similar notes to the Toledo Blade, other media reporting the story, and every other blogger/commentator who writes about this tragic news story. Make sure you tell them to report the story without mentioning Bradley Hammer's name, too. After all, it is "disrespectful" (as you put it) to mention someone's name in a story, and by extension all news stories featuring a dead person should now be without using any names.

2. I also derive from this note that you are in agreement with providing 7-year-old children with loaded deadly weapons. Do you think 7-year-old children should be able to drive automobiles, work with acetylene torches, or participate in skydiving? After all, these adult activities could be taught to children by loving parents. Personally, as a parent I believe my principal role is to protect my children from harm, which is why I think children 12 and up are probably better able to handle the responsibility of using a firearm, but even some teenagers I have known lack the maturity to be anywhere near a weapon.

3. If Bradley Hammer is on the receiving end of "moral reproach," as you described, it is because of his actions, not those of anyone else. Perhaps instead of wasting your time ranting at bloggers, you might recognize that the late Mr. Hammer created this tragedy all by himself.

4. That being said, if you have information about where concerned parties might donate for the family, you may post it here.

Mad Jack said...

...but a higher caliber person...

What are you, nuts? Mike, I think this idiot is pulling your chain. Ignore him.

From HistoryMike: Yet a better question is whether Bradley Hammer was qualified to teach his child to properly handle a weapon...

There you go. This shooting is not the child's fault, but I'm not sure how you'd go about convincing the boy of that nor do I have a clue as to how the boy will deal with his kind, sensitive peer group or the wise and compassionate elementary school teachers he'll have to encounter. By the way, where's the sarcasm tag?

As for teaching a seven year old how to shoot, I can only say that I was shooting at age five. I did so under parental supervision. At age nine I got a .22 rifle for Christmas. My brother, on the other hand, didn't do either one until he was a teenager.

It's likely Bradley was trying to show his son a good time. Maybe Bradley shot a .22 when he was about seven and enjoyed it, and would naturally want to pass that experience along to his son.

There was a similar accident some years ago involving a micro-uzi machine pistol and an 8 year old boy. A firearms instructor was present and things still went wrong. Read about it here if you like. Again, shooting a fully automatic weapon is fun and the adults would naturally want to pass that experience along to the kids. No one thought about the recoil involved or what could happen.

I think accidents like these are not due to the knowledge level or available expertise of the activity involved; they exhibit a lack of knowledge of children.

historymike said...


In my own case, my father was a Detroit Police officer, and he demonstrated when we were at a very early age how weapons worked. He took his pistols and rifle apart to clean them in front of us, and he instilled a healthy respect for weapons in us.

I was 12 before I first fired a first fired a weapon, and it was in a supervised setting. I think that was about the right age for me, so this obviously influences my thinking. Were I to have grown up in a rural setting where hunting is an everyday part of life, an earlier age might have been appropriate.

In today's Toledo Blade more details emerged, including the fact that three small children appeared to be present when the accidental discharge of the .22-cailber rifle occurred. I remember back to a time when I took about seven kids fishing in Lake Erie at a pier near Maggee Marsh. Trying to supervise seven kids in a backyard is crazy enough, but seven kids with sharp fish hooks? Disaster.

One child cast a line and managed to get a hook stuck in his head, while several others crossed lines and started bickering. Another two kids got into an argument ove the fish that the first caught ("that was MY fish you caught!"). My gut reaction in the Hammer tragedy is that there were too many children around without enough adult supervision, but again, we do not know all the details.

Mad Jack said...

You took seven at once? Truly, you were not thinking straight.

I can just imagine the circus that would develop. Two kids arguing about whose fish it really was while you try and deal with a fishhook stuck in the head. Then there's the real danger someone will get fed up enough to push another one in the water - all in fun, of course.


I'd pay $20 cash to watch and shout advice.

Brian Schwartz said...

The first time someone put a firearm in my hands, I was eight years old. I grew up in southern Ohio where gun ownership is a way of life for many.

Before this man (a friend of my father's) put this gun in my hand, he started talking about it. As he talked, the gun suddenly went off and blew a stalk of corn apart. It was a pre-planned demonstration of how a gun can just go off. I never forgot that lesson.

I don't think that lesson would have made the same impression at 12 or 13 years of age when I would have been more dismissive and cynical.

Anonymous said...

you have no idea what the real story was. no one does. i wish people would stop making things up. this was my family and i would appreicate if people would stop making judgements about it! it was a freak accident! his son feels absolutely horrible about it. you guys aren't there behid the closed doors like we are. so please stop.

Anonymous said...

I am also a family member, and am extremely uncomfortable with your post about someone who is no longer with us. Like the above stated, we don't know what happened that day, and neither do you. We were all upset with how the blade represented the story and someone did post a complaint. This post is upsetting, and again no one, no one knows the details of that day. I hope this encourages you to not post about the deceased again, if you do not know them or what really happened to them.

Anonymous said...

Bradley A. Hammer, he was a man that would be happy to help anyone, I happen to be this mans newphew and I knew that he was able to handle a weapon. Brad new everything about the outdoors and he wanted his son to have the expierences when my uncle was young. Brad loved his kids more than anything in the world. I know the entire story but I refuse tos hare because it would be disrespectful cause its none of your business but his own familys.