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  • Cooper Burke

Isaiah Thomas Details AK-47 Scare in Tacoma

NBA veteran guard Isaiah Thomas revealed that a young man held him at gunpoint in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington this past week. The oddest thing was that the man used an AK-47, a weapon ubiquitous to the far East and Africa in civil conflicts, but hardly used in the West.

The 35-year old three-time All-Star who played for Sacramento, Phoenix, Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver, New Orleans and Dallas most recently resigned with Phoenix. However, the harrowing moment came near his home in Tacoma.

Thomas said that the man pulled a gun on him and his friends and only stopped trying to rob them once he realized who Thomas was. Thomas and his friends did their best to deescalate, but ultimately they failed until the man realized who he was robbing.

“Really tripping on how these young kids are moving around!!!” he tweeted, “I really had a life-changing moment yesterday where a kid pulled an AK-47 out on me and the homies, and if it wasn’t for who I was and him recognizing me in my own city, he probably would’ve ended all of our lives.”

This story is frightening for Thomas and his friends as having a gun aimed at you is one of the most stressful and harrowing experiences. Thankfully, he and his friends remained physically unharmed if not shaken up.

The most compelling angle of the incident remains the AK-47, which is seldom seen on the streets in America as it is a preferred weapon of over 106 other countries. The rifle stands for “Avtomat Kalishnakova”, Russian for “Automatic Kalisnakov” and named after the rifle’s designer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov.

The rifle was first designed in 1947 and adopted by the Soviet military in 1949. It rose to prominence for being cheap, easy-to-operate, reliable under stress and nearly everywhere during the Cold War, including Vietnam and Korea. The rifle fired 7.62 x 39 millimeter cartridges, compared to NATO’s 7.62 x 39 mm.

Although it was discontinued for first-line use in the Soviet Army in 1959, the rifle found its way to countries such as Afghanistan and Vietnam, as it was a pivotal weapon in the Soviet-Afghan war for the mujahedeen in the 1980s. The rifle became a symbol of resistance for the “muj”, as they obtained it from second-rate Soviet troopers or manufactured copies of their own.

They had advantages of reliability, but their heavy recoil resulted in accuracy issues. This is why they were phased out amongst top-line troops, but the impact in developing countries was massive, such so that many countries have the rifle on their flag or coat of arms, including Mozambique.

The AK is the most common weapon in the world, but the actual Kalishnakov model is harder to find in the United States outside of the illicit trade. The rifle is cheap, usually costing around $30 to $125 dollars on the black market, which is why criminals in the United States use it.

Obviously, this incident is saddening for many reasons, even if no one got hurt. Any child should not be wielding any gun, much less a former weapon of war responsible for so many conflicts and deaths across the globe, from Chechnya to Angola and millions of square miles in between.

The fact that he aimed it at Thomas and his friends with the intent to kill is sobering, especially because Thomas implied he was under 18. He most likely failed to understand the implications of his actions, and it is a miracle he stopped before he killed anyone and ruined his life and took others.

It is a fundamental right for Americans to possess guns for self-defense as enshrined in the Constitution. The merits of such a right can be up for debate, but as long as it is protected, citizens are free to own their own weapons as long as they do not hurt others or themselves with them, according to the law of the land.

With that being said, there needs to be a massive cultural shift on the thoughts behind guns: they are weapons of death and destruction and must be revered as such. There is little doubt that the young man who pointed the gun at Thomas did not fully grasp the concept of what he was about to do. Had he pulled the trigger, his actions would have had massive consequences, the likes of which are unfathomable for someone so young.

There is something to be said for the man putting the gun away once he realized who he was threatening. Maybe there is still hope after all for this generation, but it all starts with community education on the dangers of guns and what they really mean as weapons of war. Hopefully, that young man understands the gravity of his situation and finds a better path in life.

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