Rule 4 violations

Firearms Safety Rule #4 – ‘Know your target and what is beyond it.’

Oklahoma City police say a husband accidentally shot and killed his wife thinking she was a home invader early Wednesday morning. There’s no other way to describe this other than a tragedy. It should be noted that their child was in the house, as well. The story is that the child did not witness the incident; I certainly hope that is true.

Sadly, this is not the only incident of this nature in my database. It’s essential that we know what we are shooting at; absolutely essential. There are two possible reasons for this kind of tragic occurrence; 1) lack of forethought and preparation and 2) training scars. I don’t know which one was at fault here but given the small number of people who take any kind of training, my guess is that it’s the former.

Lack of forethought and preparation means when this type of incident occurs, the shooter hadn’t given any thought to the possibility that someone else was home or that a family member might be moving around the house at night. People do get out of bed at night to have a snack, go to the bathroom, or just because they can’t sleep. Anyone who has other people living in their home needs to consider that as a very real possibility. The shooter might not have had a flashlight next to their firearm, either. It’s amazing how many people don’t have any flashlight at all in their home.

pistol and light

The training scar aspect was made apparent to me by a friend recently. He trains and practices quite a bit. When I mentioned about using a flashlight to identify someone at night, he said something that really disturbed me. “I don’t like to do that because whenever we do it in Force on Force exercises, the light draws enemy fire.” That may be a viable concern in military operations. But in the context of Armed Private Citizens and Law Enforcement Officers, we have an absolute obligation to know who we are shooting. My reply to him was “Show me the incidents where that has happened to an Armed Private Citizen because I can show you several incidents where using a flashlight would have prevented the wrong person from getting shot.”

From the practice standpoint, it means that you have to know how to work a flashlight and a pistol simultaneously. It also means you have to learn to verbalize and challenge an unknown person before shooting. In almost every incident of this type, a simple challenge such as “Who’s there?” would have prevented a tragedy. You don’t have to be in the Bureau to recognize a response like “It’s me, Daddy” as a clue.

Target ID

Get a flashlight. Decent ones are available for less than 10 dollars. Keep it next to your pistol at night. Don’t pick one up without the other, period. Incorporate a challenge into your range practice, along with learning to operate the flashlight and pistol simultaneously. The life you save might be someone very important to you.

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9 responses

  1. One’s light may in fact “draw fire”, that’s why people need to learn things like tactics.
    Poor use of any gear can lead to bad results or outcomes, it’s not the fault of the gear.

  2. These sort of reports always make me suspicious of the circumstances.

    If I wake up hearing a noise, the first thing I would do, and have done, is wake my wife who is next to me. If she is not next to me, I would be asking where she was.

    If she answers, the next question is “Did you hear that?” or “Did you make a noise?” or “Was that you?”

    That scenario has been repeated a number of times in our lives, and at no point before those questions were answered did I grab my gun and entered combat mode.

    I can’t envision any situation where I feel there is a threat, and I wouldn’t make sure not only where my wife is, but that she is has the phone in her hand.

    Now, add a child. Let’s say you hear glass breaking. I’m not a parent, but the first thing would be “Hon, grab the phone, and let’s go check on little (insert appropriate name).”

    In short, there is no scenario where I would be heading out on my own hunting bad guys, light or not.

    And I’ve not had any ‘official” training. That’s just a husband (or wife) caring about the safety of their spouse, first and foremost.

    About the light . . . I have nightlights all over the house. If I just wake up, my eyes are already adjusted to the darkness. Yes, I have flashlights all over, but I could still see, and recognize anyone moving about, anywhere. I can get up at night, walk to the kitchen, go to the bathroom, even wander about the house, all without stubbing toes or wondering about a shadow or other being some bad guy waiting to jump me.

    And that’s the thing . . . most house these days have all sorts of light sources from electronics, ranges, DVRs, and other stuff that is always on.

    Unless you just switched off a major light source, those incidental lights are more than sufficient to “see”. I mean, sure, if you just turned on your nightstand light, and grabbed your gun, you just destroyed your night vision. Don’t do that.

    Maybe it’s just me, and I don’t know if other people are anal about not having any lights of any kind anywhere in the house, but none of this deal with “the lights were off and I could not see who it was” sounds right to me.

    And, tactically, what’s wrong with switching on the hallway lights? You know, without you actually being in the hall. It gives you a good, well-lit shooting gallery to defend.

    Because, and I stress this, if you are sure there is an intruder in the house, get a defensible position, call the cops, and yell out that you did so.

    Please, feel free to correct me as much as you want. I don’t claim knowledge i don’t have, and I’m speaking just from my own home situation. Then again, I don’t think I fall outside the normal range of what people would do; at least people I know.

    1. I think everything you say has merit. And yet I have several such verifiable incidents in my records. One of which occurred not long ago in which a Sergeant Deputy Sheriff shot his daughter when she sneaked back into the house after being at a party. She was in the garage. He saw a shadowy figure and fired. Unfortunately, his aim was true. The report indicated she didn’t die but I bet that relationship will never be the same again.

      1. Again, unless she was sneaking into his room, he had to have been up and about, gun in hand. I go back to verify where your loved ones are, and call out.

        I mean, would you sneak about your house, gun in hand, looking to shoot anyone?

        Sure, this may not be a suspicious incident, but . . . ah, never mind.

        It’s just that whenever you read of something like this, idiots come out of the woodwork not to slam the sheer stupidity of the shooter, but to shove this on my face as a reason why would be better if without a gun.

        I see it as a good reason why those people should not have guns (a deputy, to boot; not very comforting).

        I’m not sure any amount of training can surmount stupidity.

        I also wonder on the invincibility factor. Does the gun make them feel like they can’t get hurt? They have a responsibility for both the caring for the safety of the family and for making sure they have you around in the future.

        What if the person that breaks into your house is a crack shot with faster reflexes?

        To my simple mind, the gun’s job is not to keep me safe from harm. It helps if the situation turns into an attack.

        I read articles on how to “clear a house” after a suspected noise or possible break-in . . . that sounds nuts to me. They are going to hear me move, and it seems more likely I would then be the vulnerable party, even with a gun.

  3. Claude, I am generally not a fan of WML’s, but what do you think of them for the home defense purpose?

    1. The addition of a laser and a WML to a good pistol make it a veritable death ray for home defense. The downside is that to use it safely and effectively REQUIRES training. People who follow me know that I am not an advocate of mandatory training. However, WMLs are so easily misused and have such arcane properties in HD context that I make an exception for them. I’m not saying someone should have to get a license to purchase one or any foolishness like that but if a person wants one, they should definitely seek out training for it.

  4. Indeed Claude!!

  5. Reblogged this on disturbeddeputy and commented:
    Safety is not a device on a weapon. It is a way of thinking that affects all your actions and reactions. Failure to live with a safety mindset can be tragic.

  6. Reblogged this on Growing Up Guns and commented:
    As Claude says in his article, you shouldn’t pick up your home defense gun if you don’t have a light on or near it. There are too many instances of home owners putting a bullet into a loved one. Totally preventable with a $5 flashlight and a minimal amount of training. In training courses, the emphasis of rule 4 (be aware of your target and what is around it) is placed on the backstop or people moving around the thing you intend to shoot. When I teach it, I put an emphasis on the target itself. Please make sure you identify what you’re shooting at. Don’t be afraid to use your words and verbalize. You have to practice speaking with a gun in your hand. It’s not natural, so do it when you dry fire.

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