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.