“The 3-year-old located a handgun that was in the vehicle and discharged a round which resulted in the striking of the 1-year-old,” said Sarasota Sheriff’s Office Lt. Vince Mayer.
This morning, yet another Negative Outcome was brought to my attention. In this incident, a young boy gained unauthorized access to his mother’s pistol, which was unsecured in her car, and accidentally shot his little sister. I use the term ‘accidentally’ because from the little boy’s perspective, it was utterly accidental. In the broader context, it was a training and doctrine failure. Fortunately, her injuries are not life threatening, but I bet they will be life changing for all involved.
Informally, a number of people in our community are starting to include an addition to the cardinal Four Rules of Safe Gunhandling. ‘Rule 5’ tends to be worded something like “In addition to the Four Rules of Safe Gunhandling, always store weapons where they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.” It’s about time we break with tradition and make Rule 5 a formal part of our doctrine.
I don’t know if her pistol was in her purse, in the glove box, or somewhere else in the car. Whichever was the case is irrelevant. The little boy got hold of it and touched off a round. It’s inexcusable and irresponsible. More than getting stolen, I consider this kind of occurrence to be the major downside of off body carry. And when I say ‘off body carry,’ I’m not just talking about purses and briefcases.
The incident demonstrates yet another reason I am totally opposed to glove box carry, console carry, door pocket carry, etc. that are commonly used in vehicles These foolish methods people use to secure pistols almost always result from having a pistol that’s too big to carry on them or with them consistently. It’s a downside of the ‘carry enough gun’ doctrine espoused by the training community.
In that sense, I think the community needs to take some responsibility for recommending equipment that simply doesn’t fit into the totality of our students’ lifestyles. With regard to understanding the lifestyles of normal people, our ‘square range’ mentality is complete.
Many trainers tend to view their students in the military or law enforcement model where the students are molded into something new and different, as a result of the training. Sorry folks, that’s just not the case. What we’re doing is the equivalent of teaching people how to paint, not turning them into painters. Sometimes, it seems to me that the training community’s approach to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins’ turns into ‘put a load of buckshot into someone, then take their moccasins and walk off in them.’
When I first started writing this post, I had in mind talking about lockboxes for securing pistols in cars, which I still think is a necessary idea. But, as I began writing, I realized I was on the wrong track. In this case, trying to secure the pistol in a lockbox would most likely have entailed repeated instances during the trip of gunhandling in the car to secure the pistol. That’s dangerous and unrealistic. The less we handle guns in vehicles, the better. It’s a target rich environment with too much potential for a Negative Outcome.
As the number of people who carry guns continues to increase, we trainers are going to have to focus more on ‘Living with Guns,’ as John Farnam put it years ago, rather than just ‘shooting guns.’ Shooting guns is fun and provides immediate gratification; we can see when our students get it. Teaching people about Living with Guns provides no gratification whatsoever because it happens after they leave our class. Are we performers or teachers?
Let’s consider a variant of my question “What’s the ‘worst possible case’?” Is it encountering a really determined criminal who soaks up whole magazines of bullets or having a family member accidentally shoot another family member? I’d really like to hear a definitive answer to that question.
Living with Guns is the tedious drudgery of the armed lifestyle that we, both trainers and gunowners, tend to ignore. It’s easy to focus on marksmanship, ballistics, legalistics, and equipment because those things are obvious and we’re reminded of them regularly. The hard part will be re-directing our attention toward the less obvious but just as important lifestyle aspects. That change in focus needs to happen quickly if we really want to consider ourselves responsible.
Perhaps a criterion we need to add to our selection list when talking about purchasing a pistol is something like “How convenient is it for this purchaser to carry, and secure, this particular pistol 18/7?” If it fails that criterion, that might be a deal breaker.