Dear Huan Yi,
I never had that experience. It sounds part of the formation of a close father-son bond. But somebody has to think about where the bullet falls. Your dad knew not to take you out into the middle of a schoolyard for practice. Trees and underbrush won't stop everything, but it's still a lot safer than fields and trailer parks for a background.
The Texas folk didn't give your shooter first or second degree murder; or the account doesn't give that impression. But when somebody starts shooting in an inhabited area, one where kids live and play, you may well be counting on your rights to shield you from your responsibilities. The results were certainly sad and terrible. I get no sense that the man with the gun was actively trying to hurt the child. But to shoot at targets in such an area meant the man was asserting a level of judgement that his competence and skill was clearly incapable of backing up. His actions seem to have amounted to a level of indifference to human life that struck a Texas jury as worthy of punishment.
There is an odd similarity between this incident and the recent incident in which a Texas man shot and killed two burglars who had apparently just finished robbing his neighbor's house. The man who shot and killed the two burglars was acquitted, a very different outcome than this, but I believe the basic problem was the same.
The problem is not whether the people have guns. I am a Liberal, and would rather not have a lot of guns, especially handguns, floating around the country. They aren't good for much but shooting at extremely limited ranges, and people seem to have taken to using them against other people. Even so, I suspect that handguns would not be as much of a problem as they have become if people were actually trained in the discipline of their use. Certainly people seem undertrained in the use and care of the long guns they own.
Whether or not the gentleman who killed two burglars fleeing his neighbor's house had a legal right to do so, he is as foolish and dangerous a man as the poor guy who accidently shot the child on the trampoline and got eight years for doing so. Discharge of a shotgun in a suburban neighborhood may be necessary, possibly, if you are under direct attack. Even so, it is very difficult to be responsible for the path of each of those shotgun pellets, each of which may under the proper circumstances have a lethal interaction with anybody or any animal it may encounter.
Discharge of a shotgun at the back of fleeing suspects, whether it is within your rights or not, puts others in jeopardy beyond the suspects themselves with no gain in safety. A police officer would have difficulty justifying such an action because of the danger it brings to the community.
This, I suggest, is the difference between The United States and Switzerland, both of which have very open gun laws. In Switzerland, I'm told, each household is (or at least was until recently, and may still be) required to have and automatic rifle and twenty rounds of ammunition for it easily at hand. The United States has a very large number of firearm deaths, the Swiss almost none. The Swiss (the gender requirements here , I confess, I am not sure about; nor am I clear about the ages) are required to join their army, and everybody is trained in how to use their weapons and how to maintain them. They feel themselves under firearm discipline.
I suspect most U.S. citizens don't really understand the concept, or such activities as the incidents we've been talking about wouldn't happen. I think that comes from tending to skip over the "well regulated militia" language in the second amendment when we read it.
Keep in mind, after all, I'm a Liberal. I'm trying, though, to give a reading to stuff that liberals and conservatives have usually had trouble with that tries to bring together elements from both sides. Something that might be worth thought from everybody before everybody rejects it. Or ignores it.
And, Huan Yi, thanks for the thoughtful response in your last note. I appreciated it.