Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ballseye's Gun Shots 119 - Firearms Safety - Not Just The Responsibility Of The Person Holding The Gun

If you read my blog regularly, then you know I can be a stickler for firearms safety. The reason for that is because when it comes to accidents with firearms it is all too often that you do not get a second chance. I was among the lucky in that regard. I have had a single accidental discharge, due to my negligence, several years ago, when handling a firearm. I put one into my kitchen floor when I thought I was making a firearm safe prior to take down. I thought i had removed the magazine, then pulled back the slide and ejected the round in the chamber, then thought I clearly saw it was empty, then aimed in a safe direction and squeezed the trigger to decock, and bang.

So what is the rest of that story. I had come home late one night, very tired. I placed a loaded pistol I had been carrying in a fairly safe place. I was so tired I then forgot to unload it and went to sleep on the couch. When I awoke, later that night, I noticed the pistol sitting there and realized it was loaded. I went to unload it, then thought I had better go upstairs and leave it on top of my fridge after unloading as that was its usual roost. When I got upstairs, I had the magazine in my hand already. The thing was that the mag in my hand was the spare mag and not the one in the gun. When I visually checked the chamber and mag well, I basically saw black, probably because of the small size of the well and because the room was only dimly lit and because I was not really fully awake or alert. I broke an awful lot of firearms safety rules that night all because I broke one that basically says not to handle firearms when not alert. All my bad, yes indeed. Yet I followed at least one rule and thanks to me keeping it pointed in a safe direction, I only wounded the floor and my pride.

I always considered myself a stickler for the safety rules, even before that accidental discharge. For those of you screaming out that it was a negligent discharge as opposed to an accidental one, don't get your shorts in a wad. It was definitely accidental because I did not do so purposefully. Accidental and negligent are two very different concepts although as is often the case they go hand in hand down the path of 'whoops - did I do that'. Negligence goes toward fault and not toward whether or not you did something purposefully or accidentally. It is that simple. So mine was both accidental and negligent at that. As I was saying, before that guy started screaming a me about accidental versus negligent, I always have been pretty much a stickler for gun safety rules. That is the only accidental discharge I have had in my lifetime. Regardless of it being the only one, it was one too many. Sure accidents can happen, even to the most careful of people because we can all be off at times, emotions, fatigue, illness, brain farts, can all effect us now and then without us realizing they are effecting us. But there are ways to help assure that even if you are off, you will not have an accident with a firearm or that if you do then the accident you may have with one is not one that results in an injury or fatality. Mind you, I am not at all saying, even in any small measure, that it is ever okay or even expected that you will have such an accident but as a wise old coot of a firearms instructor used to say to me: There are three types of shooters in the world, those who admit to having had an accidental discharge, those who will have one and then admit it, and liars. If you do something long enough, even always having done it the right way, there is the increased chance you will do it wrong sometime sooner or later.

With that all in mind, I am usually very on the ball with firearms safety. Yet, I have committed some other small momentary errors in that regard. I have rarely done the following: inadvertently if only momentarily covered myself with a firearm, covered others momentarily with a firearm, had my finger on the trigger when I did not intend or was not ready to activate the trigger (note I did not say when I intended to shoot because the rule about keeping your finger off of the trigger until ready to shoot just plainly has too many legitimate exceptions - one of them being take down of Glock pistols) and so on. The thing is I usually caught myself or someone else caught me and let me know. Anyone, who handles firearms on a fairly frequent basis over many years, who tells you they have absolutely never committed an infringement of the firearms safety rules is either an out and out liar or an idiot or is simply not self aware enough to realize when he or she has broken those rules (this is very often the case but there are plenty of idiots and liars out there too). I have way too much experience with guns and with being around people who shoot or otherwise handle them to know better about such claims of 'not me - not ever'. Even the best of us make small mistakes now and then no matter how much we strive to prevent them.

Now, when I refer to the Rules of Firearms Safety, you must bear in mind that I am not making reference to Colonel Jeff cooper's 4 Rules of Firearms Safety. As far as am concerned, those 4 rules are never enough. Some have accused me of not understanding that adding more rules is not the right way to go and that if those 4 are followed an accident or negligent act with a firearm could never take place. The truth is though that I have not added more rules to Colonel Cooper's 4. He, on the other hand, actually abbreviated some already long standing rules of firearms safety to come up with his 4. Of course, you could call his rules the 4 cardinal rules of Firearms Safety but I would disagree even then. They just do not cover enough of the situations that arise when safety is at issue concerning firearms. They do a fairly good job of covering firearms safety when someone (as in one person) is shooting or otherwise handling a firearm and is wide awake, not under the influence of mood altering drugs, is not about to hand a firearm to someone else, and so forth but remember I said a fairly good job. They are truly lacking in that they leave out such tidbits as 'gunpowder and alcohol don't mix' (in other words - never handle firearms, ammunition or their components while under the influence of alcohol or mind altering drugs), before handing a firearm to another person - open the action, always make absolutely sure you are using the correct ammunition, safely store and transport firearms to prevent unauthorized access (by children and adults) and on and on and on.

This time, while writing about firearms safety, I am not going to do what I have done in the past and spell out rule after rule after rule. Instead, what I have done this evening was to compile a list of firearms related web pages that contain firearms safety rules. Why have I done this instead of just listing the rules here. Well, to be quite frank, because others have called me: unqualified with regard to teaching firearms safety (regardless of my 13-14 years as a firearms instructor and over 40 years of shooting experience), a bullshitter in that they thought I made up these rules to spite Jeff Coopers 4 rules, inexperienced, a trouble maker, a liar in that I said there were more rules than 4, a moron, and a range Nazi. One has even told me that I am paranoid about firearms safety because I stress the importance of additional rules.
Well, if I am paranoid or full of crap, or too much of the stickler because I believe there are many more than just 4 rules, at least I can say that I am in good company because some major firearms organizations teach those additional rules just as do I and they have been doing it for many-many years and now I have linked to them. I remember these rules from when I was a pre-teenaged child and that was, sadly, a long time ago. After all, when and from whom do you think I learned them! I did not make them up out of thin air or gun smoke. So, in the Blue Zone, to the right on my blog page, I have embedded a new link list called: FIREARMS SAFETY - Do yourself a favor - read these because 4 Rules are not enough by a long shot.

I strongly recommend you read the firearms safety rules that are available at the Smith & Wesson and Remington links that I provided under said header. They are fairly in depth, don't take all that long to read, and are well worth the expenditure of 5 or 10 minutes to read them because they may someday cause you to save a life because you adhered to them. When reading them, if you pay attention, you will discover what I printed out in the title of this post, that firearms safety is not just the responsibility of the person holding the firearm (it took me an awfully long time to get to that, didn't it!) Firearms safety is the responsibility of the shooter, handler, owner, the person who stored or transported a firearm, the parent, the experienced versus novice shooter, the instructor, the gun blogger, a person observing others shooting or handling and so on. Remembering that will go a long way to help assure things stay safe. Of course, familiarizing yourself with all the rules, then practicing them relentlessly, is the best way for you to personally keep things safe but making sure that others do likewise is also a good bit of safety insurance. So, do your part to handle and store them safely and make sure others are doing likewise because you following those rules may either prevent or lessen the effects of an accident that otherwise may have taken a life or seriously injured someone. That life could be that of a stranger but then again, it could be your own or that of a loved one. Never forget that you want to do your best to keep things safe at all times because sometimes there are no second chances.

Safe shooting,
Glenn B

1 comment:

Kansas Scout said...

Good to be reminded of this important topic from time to time. I had two ND.s within about a year due to my stupidity and I have never forgotten what I learned out of it. It still stings to remember them.
I was in my early twenties. I knew better. I just did stupid stuff.