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.
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.
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.