On gun safety and getting your feelings hurt

There are 4 basic rules of gun safety.  If you always obey these 4 rules it makes shooting somebody on accident almost impossible.  To paraphrase:

1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

2. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.

3. Don’t point the muzzle at anything you don’t want to put a hole in.

4.  Know your target, what’s behind it, and what’s around it.

Pretty basic, pretty simple, and if you ingrain them and do them automatically and unconsciously then your odds of having a negligent discharge go way way way way down.

Now there are two reasons people violate these basic rules.  Ignorance or complacency.  Ignorance is when you’ve just not been taught.  You don’t know the basics, so you violate them.  Understandable, and that is why it is always the job of those of us who are educated to teach others whenever possible. 

Complacency is when you know better, but you get lazy, or stupid, and you break a rule anyway.  I handle guns for a living every day.  All it takes is for me to not pay attention for a second and I could kill myself or somebody else.  So any time you use a gun, you have to mentally shift gears.

Now we all screw up.  Everybody can fall victim to carelessness.  The key is that if you see somebody else doing something dumb, don’t be afraid to call them on it.

Now this is difficult as a gun dealer, because I get all sorts of people coming into my shop in various states of ignorance or carelessness.  Keep in mind I need to be nice to these folks in order to get their business, because if I can’t sell them guns, then I can’t pay the mortgage.  That’s how it works.

But I’m an instructor first, dealer second.  So if you come into my store, and do something careless with a gun, I’m going to have to correct you.  First off, this is for the other innocent bystanders in my shop that don’t deserve to have guns pointed at them.  Secondly, maybe I can help you ingrain some good habits so you don’t blow an extra hole in yourself sometime in the future.  I will try to be polite.  If I do something wrong, then one of my guys will correct me.  That’s the nature of life, and something that the gun culture absolutely has to do. 

When you screw up, and have it pointed out, just fix it.  The correct answer when you accidently sweep somebody with a muzzle is, “sorry about that” and then DON’T DO IT AGAIN. 

The wrong answer, the absolute worst possible answer, is “Don’t worry, it’s empty” or “I know what I’m doing.” Because if you tell me something like that, you’re a friggin’ moron.  And when I correct you again, I won’t be polite.  Your feelings come second to the safety of the people around me.  When somebody corrects your screw ups, be glad, and fix it.  Don’t get all huffy and offended.  Anybody can mess up, that doesn’t make you any less of a man.  (and I say man, because every single time I’ve seen somebody get their feelings hurt over a safety correction has been a dude) 

Yesterday I had a guy looking at a rifle.  He was holding it, and didn’t realize that there was a group of people off to his side.  He was covering them with the muzzle.  I was talking to another customer, but I was very polite, excused myself,  reached over, lightly touched the barrel, and steered it back in a safe direction.  I said “You’ve got somebody over there.  Watch where you point that.”

That was it.  Then I went back to the customer that I was originally helping.  The customer I corrected got all offended.  He told one of my Minions that “Well, I didn’t know it was LOADED.” (see rule #1) and then “I know what I’m doing, because I’m in the Army.”  Then he left.

Okay.  I didn’t set out to hurt this fellow’s feelings. Correcting a stray muzzle is an automatic response for me.  The fact that he took it as some sort of personal offense is too bad.  And I wish I would have had the chance to talk to him. 

Safety applies to everyone.  I don’t care if you’re in the Army.  Uncle Barbie was at the shop last night.  He spent 7 years as an NCO in the Airborne.  I asked him what he would have done if one of his soldiers had told him that gun safety rules didn’t apply because of superior Army training.  Barbie said that he would have clubbed his skull in.   Apparently the whole polite thing doesn’t really apply in the military.

I’ve personally been corrected.  If you handle a gun, it’s going to happen.  Period.  Don’t get all butt hurt.  Just deal with it.

26 Responses

  1. I find that you have to break two of the four safety rules at the same time to injure or kill someone. That’s not saying that you are safe by only breaking one, mind you.

    I agree that the Army guy was an idiot. How he got into the Army while being easily offended is the real question.

  2. Your customer outed himself as someone who was probably NOT in the Army … or was not paying attention during basic, but was lucky enough to not get caught.

    All of the former soldiers I have talked to agreed on this one, including WWII and Korea vets:

    Cover someone with your muzzle, and you get buttstroked.

    Pretty simple, really.

  3. “Complacency is when you know better, but you get lazy, or stupid, and you break a rule anyway. I handle guns for a living every day. All it takes is for me to not pay attention for a second and I could kill myself or somebody else. So any time you use a gun, you have to mentally shift gears.”

    Truer words never spoken… I know first-hand… erm…literally. ; ) You know me, you know my story. Feel free to use it with the chuckleheads that come to your shop or even with your excellent CCW classes. Hell, if you want I will come in and tell it for you and pass around the x-ray films.

    No use having any more Utah gunowners having to switch dominant hands halfway through life and run around with the “cursed claw of Vecna” it frightens the children and until a few years of rehab give you your finger strength back, mag changes are a grade-A bitch.

    3 seconds of complacency cost me at least 3 years of re-learning how to shoot to the same level.

    Porter

  4. Had a similar situation in training (in the Army coincidentally) a few months ago. Someone has their rubber duck (fake rifle) pointed at someone else’s face. Said person, being very fond of their face, told the idiot to practice good muzzle discipline and point the muzzle in a safe direction.

    Idiot gets offended and mouthy – “but it’s not a real gun!”

    It wasn’t pretty – said idiot had about 200 lbs of pissed off NCO in her face insisting that she should train like she intends to fight.

  5. Darn tootin’.

    Those four rules are what separates a safe gun owner from somebody who appears in a news story under the headline “Careless gun handling kills kid/wife/other.” Occasionally we all blow one of the rules, and when that happens, we NEED to be corrected. It reminds us that these guns are real weapons and we can never let our safety vigilance wane. Take it like a man when you have it coming (and you have it coming ANY time you violate one of the four), and give it gently when you see somebody violate any of the rules. If somebody gets defensive, then yes, get harsh, because that idiot is going to kill somebody someday.

    I’d rather have somebody say “hey man, watch the muzzle” then accidentally kill somebody due to my own negligence.

  6. OK, so I’ve got some things to say on this subject. I am in the Army and I am currently in Iraq. I grew up with guns and was taught from an early age how to handle them and the basic rules you just laid out were ingrained in me by my father. That being said, I have never seen such gross negligence in handling weapons as I have since I joined the Army. Oh sure, in Basic the Drill Sergeants say “never point your weapon at anything you’re not willing to shoot,” but that’s about as far as it goes. Two years ago, when I was going through Basic Training, I almost got in several fights with soldiers “messing around” and pointing their M16’s at me or others. It made me furious. From my perspective, if anyone is pointing a firearm at me, they are willing to shoot me, and I am NOT ok with that. In short, the soldier that entered your store was an inexcusable moron and I wish I could claim that he was an exception to the rule, but I think the truth is that he is representative of the vast majority of soldiers. Like most of them, he seems to have adopted the mentality that the fact that the US government has seen fit to arm him for combat makes him some sort of firearms authority.

    In short, I am in Iraq where we carry M16’s and at least one magazine at all times and I am constantly wary of the soldiers around me b/c in their cockiness and insufficient training, they are often a greater hazard to their fellow soldiers than the enemy is.

  7. Heh. Amusingly appropriate subject matter… I was helping the guys with publicity shots for Necroville yesterday, (since I’m the guy with all the guns, and all) and, of course, the director of Marketing for the distribution company wanted Alex to be holding, and in some cases, holding basically right on the camera.

    I haven’t cleared a gun so many times since, well, since principle photography. Not that I hadn’t cleared them before I even went to the studio with them, and not like I actually brought any ammo with me in the first place.

    “Ogre, you’ve checked that gun 5 times already.”

    “Yeah, and I’m checking it again! You do your job and I’ll do mine.”

    Though, I did limit the actor in question to one safety violation at a time. All the promotional images for the movie should have Alex with his finger neatly alongside the trigger. :D And, I’m pleased to note, we made it through the day with no untoward incidents.

  8. Rhys: So … they stopped buttstroking recruits for rule three violations?

    Bad move, that.

  9. I’d be happy to find a gun shop around here where I didn’t get muzzled by the employees.

  10. Jeez. That “soldier” was an idiot.

  11. I still remeber having someone “jokingly” pulled a revolver on me. After I removed aid weapon from their possession, they said “What’s the big deal? It’s not loaded.” I then unloaded all six chambers of the weapon. You never “joke around” with firearms.

  12. [...] and getting your feelings hurt. [...]

  13. If you really want to see a hissy-fit, try to politely correct law enforcement, SWAT or worst of all their Firearms Instructors. Ultimately it becomes a case of “my range, my rules.”

  14. As a newbie in a gun store, way back many years ago, I was gently admonished not to sweep the other customers with the muzzle when handling a pistol. Despite the pistol being unloaded. Despite the pistol having been checked to insure it was unloaded, both by the gun store worker and by me, when he handed it to me. Despite my best attempt o not be an obvious noob by trying to follow all 4 rules on one of my first visits to a gun shop.

    So after the first time I swept a group of customers with the muzzle, the store worker pointed out to me that I should not do that, because it made the store workers and the other customers nervous. And after the second time I swept the muzzle around, he pointedly repeated that I was making the customers and store workers nervous, and that the guns they were wearing were loaded. He made his point, rather politely in my opinion.

  15. When I first got involved with the hobby, I had to be corrected once or twice. I was EMBARRASSED that I swept someone with the muzzle of my firearm. When I was corrected, I apologized profusely, and then made DAMN sure I was careful about it from then on.

    I don’t know why someone would get offended when you correct them… that guy was clearly an idiot. Would you rather swallow your pride and say “my bad” and fix a safety issue, or accidentally kill someone?

  16. too bad you weren’t around to correct me when, as a newbie dealer in 1978 i broke all four f ‘n rules!

    http://poetnthepawnbroker.blogspot.com/2008/04/negligent-discharge-number-one-1978.html

    now i’m a newbie blogger…hope you don’t mind if i blogroll you…jtc

  17. I just spent the weekend in an army barracks during the Texas State Rifle Association Highpower Rifle Championship at Camp Swift. We had some Guard or Reserve folks in with us. They have no gun handling skills or knowledge. Our juniors were there and we had to remind them that just because the guys in uniforms are waving guns around in the barracks doesn’t mean they may break their technique or training.

    A sniper school shot the match with us using their scoped rifles. Big difference in attitude after that match. They can’t shoot offhand or sitting at all. Many misses at 200 yards with scoped .308 bolt rifles. They are certainly capable but haven’t been taught anything.

  18. I have made stupid mistakes before. I make a point of being ultra-careful, but sometimes complacency gets the better of me. I have also been corrected before, and when it happens, I don’t get offended. I actually feel bad; guilty, even, because I KNOW BETTER. In the rare occasion that it’s happened, I feel awful and am very apologetic. “I’m SO sorry. I know better. It won’t happen again,” was my response.

    It’s better to feel remorse for a mistake than to feel nothing because Uncle Barbie clubbed your skull in;)

    Thanks for doing the right thing.

    tweaker

  19. As a soldier who has served in Iraq, it’s really disturbing to hear stories like this about fellow soldiers acting like cocky retards. I take my affiliation with the U.S. Army very seriously. I try not to wear my uniform in public, but when I do, I act as if the reputation of the entire Army is judged by my every move and every word. I wish more soldiers would think of it that way. I wouldn’t have to be so ashamed of my comrades. If said soldier would have just accepted his mistake like a man, and not gone off about his obviously “superior” weapons training that he received in Basic. I don’t know if anything’s changed in the 4 years since I’ve gone through basic, but you barely learned enough about your M16 to be able to fire it, and hit man-sized green plastic targets up to at least 200 meters, and god-willing, 300 meters. What I’m trying to say is, 60% of the soldiers in the army don’t know the difference between a bullet and a round. I feel that I have to apologize for this soldier’s actions and arrogance, and try to convince all that not EVERY soldier acts in this manner. That bothers me.

  20. Years ago in Knoxville, a customer brought a 1911 into a gun store, to sell it or have it fixed. He handed it to the owner, and it fired- whether through mechanical failure while checking, manipulation error, or what I don’t know. Bullet went out the store front, over five lanes of traffic, through the store front across the street, through an internal wall, and into the brain of an employee there, fatally.

    A SAFE direction!

    (I’ve had three surprise fires- two due to mechanical failure and one to my own stupidity. Rule 3/4 saved me.)

  21. I was at SW a week or two ago, waiting in line to ask the guy behind the counter a question. A young guy in front of me was checking out several semi-auto pistols, handling each in turn, coincidentally pointing the muzzles right at the guy behind the counter, AND with his finger on the triggers. I ahemed and pointedly asked the salesmen how many times he’d been covered by a muzzle, he replied countless times. The prospective buyer said, “I didn’t do that!” I turned around and left. I think sometimes people don’t realize what they’ve done.

  22. Derek S: Don’t be ashamed or unconforatable to wear your uniform off base. There is an Army/Marine reserve base near where I live, and I’m proud to see them wearing their uniforms. I’ve even bought some lunch when I find them in the local greasy spoons.

    Now, in my place, if you see a weapon, it’s loaded—including the M1 Garand over my fireplace. The unloaded ones are in the safe.

    That said, whenever I handle someone else’s weapon or mine for that matter, I always check it and if necessary, unload it. That includes every thing in a gunshop. It’s a habit I tried to develop and keep.

  23. Indeed. Again. Everybody, EVERYbody, has had at least one moment of stupid. But luckily it only cost a tiny bit of money to patch the floor when a slip happened during a clear and put away moment. It’s certainly an eye opener, and a real lesson in repeating the rules aloud to ones self from time to time. And insisting on giving a range safety briefing EVERY time you go to the range with anyone else. For your own sake as well as theirs!

  24. Those things happen. And the worst about it. People tend not to accept. Why to put the feelings above all, I don’t know. But if there is again a fact that should be corrected ASAP, is bad gun handling.

  25. Well said Larry.

  26. Kristopher nailed it. With the attitude this guy had and his scraggaly/unshaven face I could tell he was lying to me about being in the army. His unfamillier handling of an AR-15 was my next clue. Good thing he wasn’t in the USMC with me…he would have been lucky if a butt stroke was all he got.

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