DECEMBER 9, 2014

Negative Outcomes: Unintentionally Shooting Someone Else

Lock boxes, like Hornady's Shackle Box, are reasonably priced methods of keeping guns from children.
It's a sad fact that people shoot other people unintentionally. I'm not talking about mistaken identity shootings but completely unintentional shootings. Probably the most famous incident was when Vice President Dick Cheney shot his hunting partner. However, that was far from an isolated occurrence. Reading the news reports provides plenty of such incidents. The reports range from hunting incidents like Cheney's to children finding unsecured guns and accidentally shooting someone to parents unintentionally killing their children. One of the worst was when a young (3 years old) boy found an unsecured handgun and accidentally killed his mother by shooting her in the head. Think about how that boy will feel as he grows up knowing he killed his mother. None of us would want to go through that. The young boy's incident is one reason why I still use the word 'accidentally.' Who was 'negligent' in that case? Certainly not the boy; what he did was a pure accident on his part. Granted, someone else, who left a loaded handgun on the floor underneath a sofa where the boy could find it, was indeed negligent. So, both words can apply. One of my mentors augments the Four Rules in a way I find very useful. "In addition, store weapons and ammunition where they are not accessible to unauthorized personnel." And don't think that sticking it up on top of a tall piece of furniture qualifies. Kids are inquisitive, persistent, and have lots of time to figure out the answers to puzzles that we adults would get bored with in 30 seconds.
Most shotguns have manual safeties that only block the trigger. They're not drop safe. Muzzle direction is key.
If you have young children in the house or if young children ever come over to your house, your guns need to be on your person or kept under lock and key. If you can't afford a twenty dollar fire safe from a home supply store to secure your pistol, then sell something so you can. That's a downside of long guns for home defense; they have to be secured. Put an exterior door lockset on a closet, if you have to. I'm not a fan of trigger locks. Rule 3 doesn't only apply to your finger; it applies to anything that can press the trigger. Some people say that 'guns don't just go off by themselves.' Well, folks, bad news, that's not true. Many long guns, including most shotguns, have only trigger locking safeties. I have a scientifically done report in my possession that indicates almost all shotguns used in police service, and home defense, have between a 10 and 30 percent chance of discharging 'by themselves' when dropped or bumped in the right way. The same can be said for many rifles and handguns. Bill Rogers makes the statement in every class taught at the elite Rogers Shooting School that "Muzzle direction is the primary safety; always has been and always will be." Rule Number 2 reigns supreme. And that's not only true from the perspective of the gunhandler, it also applies to anyone downrange of the muzzle. Don't hesitate to move out of the way of a muzzle, nor hesitate to correct someone if they muzzle you. Don't accept 'It's not loaded' as a response. As Jeff Cooper famously said, "See Rule number 1."
While federal agencies used holsters like this DeSantis rig as a field expedient security with handcuffs, introducing anything into the trigger guard can be hazardous - as a federal flight deck officer found out.
A common theme in unintentional shootings of others is that they often occur in vehicles. That's why I am dead set against any administrative gunhandling inside a vehicle. The space is so confined and the environment so 'target rich' that any unintentional discharge is going to cause 'damage to equipment or injury to personnel.' If you have to handle a gun in a car, stop and get out of the car. Once you're out of the car, consciously decide which direction will cause the least damage if the gun goes off, and then point the gun that way. If necessary, direct others in the car to move to a safe place. When you have long guns in a car, keep the chamber empty. Many are not drop safe, as I previously mentioned and all long guns are so unwieldy in confined spaces that we will inevitably have to point them at something we don't want to shoot. That's how Deputy Constance Worland of the LA County Sheriff's Office was killed; the shotgun rack pointed it right at her as she was standing on the other side of the cruiser. It discharged as her partner handled it and she was hit by the blast. Unfortunately, she's not the only law enforcement officer I know of who became a casualty due to a shotgun being discharged by their partner in a car. When you're around others, you have the responsibility to be sure your gunhandling is impeccable. 'Muscle memory' isn't going to cut it. You have to make conscious and deliberate decisions to consider the safety of others. The smallest error can be incredibly costly. And you have to make sure that people who don't understand proper gunhandling, whether children or adults, simply can't get at your firearms. Claude Werner is The Tactical Professor. He served in Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces and Mechanized Infantry units in the US Army as both an enlisted man and an officer. His military assignments include being a Special Forces A-Team Commander, Intelligence Officer, and Mechanized Infantry Company Commander. Well known in the shooting community, he was formerly the Chief Instructor of the elite Rogers Shooting School and has won six sanctioned IDPA Championships with snub nose revolvers. In his civilian career, he was Research Director of three commercial real estate firms and was the National Director of Real Estate Research for Deloitte & Touche LLP. His blog is Tactical Professor.