How do you forget you’re carrying a gun?
This question was posed in relation to a recent article about a former teacher leaving his pistol in the stall of a public restroom. The pistol was shortly thereafter fired ‘to see if it was loaded’ by the homeless man who found it. A spirited discussion ensued on my Facebook Tactical Professor page about the topic.
The discussion brought to mind something John Farnam spoke about at his class I attended 20 years ago. John wrote one of his published quips about the topic years later. It is well worth reading and considering. One of his points about competent gunhandlers is: “We don’t have accidents with guns.” Accidents is a category that includes more than Negligent Discharges by the homeless. It also includes losing control of your personally carried weapon, either by leaving it behind or by unintentionally allowing others to gain access to it.
Following is John’s commentary.
Living with Guns
By John S. Farnam
Many years ago, while attending The US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft Leavenworth, KS, I submitted a paper entitled, “Living With Guns”. In it, I described my sometimes exasperating experiences as an infantry second lieutenant, platoon commander in Vietnam in 1968. I observed that, during that War, although we all had been theoretically trained to operate small arms, nobody had ever taught us how to actually live with them!
I submitted that individual soldiers need experiences that prepare them, not only to operate, but to actually live with, loaded guns during prolonged periods of intermittent (and sometimes continuous) fighting. One may argue that such training is dangerous, but without it I contended, our soldiers will continue to accidentally shoot themselves and each other with distressing frequency the moment they enter an area of active fighting.
In this Ballistic Radio interview, I offer some opinions about problems and solutions with the firearms training industry. The industry needs to do some real work if it expects to get in touch with normal people.
Muzzle direction is the primary safety. Always has been and always will be.
What’s so sad is how many different recent incidents the search string ‘son accidentally shoots father‘ brings up. Both fathers and sons are on the receiving end.
Firearms are relentlessly unforgiving of the slightest lapse in attention or knowledge of their manuals of arms. The details of this incident aren’t stated but they’re almost irrelevant. Does anyone think that poor boy will ever have a well adjusted life? I doubt it. Who’s fault is that? Certainly not the boy’s.
Just because a person “has been around guns all my life” doesn’t mean they know anything about them. All that frequently parrotted phrase means is that the person has beaten the odds so far. Don’t be ‘that guy.’ It’s not a hair dryer; learn about your firearm(s) and any of the sets of basic safety rules. The number of people who can’t recite, from memory, at least one set of firearms safety rules is astonishing.
There are several sets of safety rules. The NRA Rules are a good start.
ALWAYS Keep The Gun Pointed In A Safe Direction
This is the primary rule of gun safety. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances.
ALWAYS Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Ready To Shoot
When holding a gun, rest your finger alongside the frame and outside the trigger guard. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.
ALWAYS Keep The Gun Unloaded Until Ready To Use
If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does.
Let’s be careful out there.
Police responded to the scene and determined that a person who had a valid concealed firearms carry permit was seated in the theater and had accidentally dropped his firearm to the floor and retrieved and re-holstered it.
I have no idea what kind of holster this man had. What is clear is that the holster didn’t perform a primary function, to wit: keeping the gun in place. Who knows, it might even have been the crappy holster that inspired my Scam artists in the firearms community post.
Keep in mind that when carrying a gun in public, eventually you will probably sit down. Make sure your holster doesn’t rely solely on gravity to retain the gun. When you sit or slouch, that’s going to stop working. Either a retention system or being fitted to the specific handgun is important.
When carrying a pistol, the gun and holster form a system. That system has to work in a lot of conditions other than what you will encounter at a gun shop or shooting facility. Have that fundamental reality as part of your purchase decision.
Safariland, Galco, and even Blackhawk make decent holsters. Well, some Blackhawks, anyway; my distaste for the Slurpa is well known. But I’ve never heard of a Slurpa letting the gun fall on the ground in a movie theater, so there’s that. There are numerous smaller manufacturers who make high quality gear, as well. One clue is that if it’s made from nylon fabric, you should probably choose something else.
Having to interact with Law Enforcement because your gun fell on the ground is a Serious Mistake. Don’t scrimp for a few dollars and put yourself in that position.
Please don’t do this. There are a lot of newcomers to the world of weapons carry and there are no shortage of hucksters who are doing their best to take advantage of the newbies.
I’m not going to dignify the ad by posting the link. It’s for a $25 holster that has no value whatsoever, despite being advertised as a $99 value. If you see this foolishness, you know that ad in particular and the company in general are just scams. Don’t patronize them.
While reviewing some files in my reading list, I came across this gem. It’s from an article called The best advice for today’s music industry was written 80 years ago
In his closing keynote presentation [at the DIY Musicians Conference] called “How to Make an Extra $100,000 from Your Music Next Year,” Martin [Atkins] ran down a long list of creative cost-saving and money-making suggestions, peppered with commandments like “Don’t be an asshole” and “Whatever the fuck it is, get the fuck over it.”
At the heart of Martin’s talk, though, was this quote:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Dale Carnegie wrote that in 1936, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Martin’s first suggestion brought to mind a comment one of my first bosses in the real estate business made about one of the brokers in our office. “That guy needs to take a Dale Carnegie Course. Twice!”
Dale Carnegie Training has an excellent eBook abstract of Dale Carnegie’s writings available for download on its website. The eBook is called Dale Carnegie’s Secrets of Success. Here’s the link to it. I have two well-worn hard copies, from when it was called Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book, one of which I keep on my desk.
Secrets of Success is recommended reading for everyone, regardless of what you do or your personal philosophy. Those who are churned up about recent political events, on both ends of the spectrum, should take note especially.
What does Dale Carnegie have to do with personal protection? Let’s keep in mind that unlike natural disasters, personal protection against criminality involves a social transaction between two people. Those two people might be:
- You and a Violent Criminal Actor
- One of your loved ones and a Violent Criminal Actor
- A trainer and you
- You and someone you are trying to teach, either formally or informally
- You and someone you are trying to influence to make decisions about personal protection
Since I am a trainer and educator, I’ll address the last two points first. Recently, a trainer and blogger posted a 4,128 word rant about numerous shortcomings an acquaintance of his had. The rant was very pompous and disdainful. Some of the shortcomings related to personal protection and some were general life ‘flaws.’ No doubt the trainer’s object was to give his readers some food for thought about how they might have shortcomings similar to the acquaintance’s. However, Atkins’ first comment, “Don’t be an asshole” immediately came to mind as I read it. The overall tone of the blogger’s post was “this guy’s an idiot and I’m sooooo much smarter and better than him.”
No one likes or is influenced by a pompous asshole. Unfortunately, I see a lot of pompous assholiness in the training community. I’m not immune to being that way, either.
The Be a Leader section of Secrets of Success makes several germane points.
- Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
- Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
- Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
Another aspect of the training community I often see is a lack of connection to the everyday lives that our students live. There are several worthwhile items from Secrets of Success in this regard.
Become a Friendlier Person
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
- Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
- Throw down a challenge.
So, I’m going to throw down a challenge to the training community.
Get a job; a real job where you have to fill out a W-4 when you get hired. Just like the jobs your students have.
Right now is a golden opportunity, no pun intended. The end of the year is a relatively slow time for training and there are numerous seasonal positions available in the retail sector. Target, WalMart, and Sears, among others, are all hiring for temporary positions through the end of the year. If you don’t like wearing a uniform, Macy’s and other high end retailers are hiring and will give you an even better environment to test your hypotheses. Get a temporary job in a retail store for a couple of months. Walk a mile in your students’ moccasins while carrying the heater and all the gear you tell them to EDC. See how it works out for you.
If you get fired (or arrested) for a weapons violation or you decide you can’t carry all that crap while working and interacting with people all day without getting made, you owe me a drink. If you work at least 30 hours a week for six weeks in the retail environment with your full EDC loadout, I’ll buy you dinner. Full time sworn LEOs, 16 hours a week will fulfill the challenge. Totally on the honor system; I’ll accept whatever outcome you tell me you had.
In our Violent Criminal Actors class last month, William Aprill talked about the difference between odds and stakes. The payout odds for my offer are about 5 to 1 in your favor. The stakes; well that’s a different story.
Next time, we’ll discuss the relevance of people skills to The Deadly Mix and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted 2015. Until then:
Someone who purchased Indoor Range Practice Sessions noticed a discrepancy in Session 11 (shooting with a flashlight).
I’ve updated the downloadable eBook for future purchases, but I want existing customers to have the update also. Accordingly, I created a downloadable file with Session 11 only.
As most of my readers know, using a flashlight to avoid tragedies is one of my hot buttons. It’s important enough information that I am going to make the updated Session 11 only available as a free download to all my blog followers, as well as previous purchasers.
The link to the updated Session 11 is here: Session 11 – Shooting with a flashlight
I harp on Serious Mistakes because I get sick of reading about this kind of incident. Needless and completely preventable tragedy. In this case, an ounce of prevention would have been better than a lifetime of no cure.
The Serious Mistakes research I’ve done over the past two years has completely changed me in terms of how I prioritize things. Bad things happen too often, frequently because carelessness and incompetence.
If you own guns, you need a plan to secure them when children are around. Even if you don’t have kids, people bring theirs over to your home, especially your grandchildren.
Like many aspects of firearms, this needs to be thought of ahead of time. If you’re not willing to spend a little bit of time, money, and effort to keep firearms out of unauthorized hands, then get rid of your guns.
UPDATE: The recording is now available as a download for $9.95. Link
In the wake of the San Bernardino massacre, there have been increasing calls, even by the police, for legally authorized people to carry their guns wherever and whenever they can. In addition, the FBI recently reported a record number of gun sales on Black Friday.
While I firmly believe that Armed Citizens and off-duty police officers can make a difference in preventing and stopping such massacres, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Gunowners, whether carrying a gun or keeping a gun at home, can and do make mistakes, sometimes very serious ones. I have some concern about brand new gunowners carrying their guns with them everywhere without some education about how to do it safely. That may not be a popular view but that’s the way I see it.
I have often chastised the training community for failing to create non-traditional educational materials that can reach a broader array of gunowners. As a step toward alleviating that, I have created a new audio CD called:
Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make – Real life examples of how they get into trouble and how to prevent it
This audio CD is a refined version of my Negative Outcomes with Firearms presentation at the 2015 Rangemaster Tactical Conference. My Rangemaster presentation was very well received as groundbreaking about issues that are rarely discussed openly in the gun community.
The ‘Concealed Carry Mistakes’ lists I frequently see usually revolve around simplistic issues, such as:
- Equipment issues; gun, holster, clothing, etc.
- Not getting enough training
- Not ‘knowing’ the law
But the really serious Mistakes that gunowners make are things like:
- Shooting yourself
- Shooting someone you shouldn’t have, either intentionally or unintentionally
- Getting needlessly arrested
- Getting shot by the police
- Leaving guns where unauthorized persons can access them, resulting in tragedies
- Frightening innocent people around you
- Endangering innocent people needlessly
The 12 tracks, over 1 hour, on the CD are:
- Chasing after the end of a confrontation
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges, including self-inflicted gunshot wounds and Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings, including warning shots
Each track explains the topic and the issue, provides a real life example of an occurrence and the consequence, and gives some thoughts about how to prevent it. My object is to provoke thinking about the fact that firearms are deadly weapons and can be terribly unforgiving of carelessness, incompetence, and stupidity.
Note that I can’t possibly explain nor control every way to avoid the Mistakes so I don’t assume any liability for those who listen to the recording and still end up having an issue. Life is not fair; if you want guarantees, buy a toaster.
This could be your most important purchase of the year. Making any one of the Mistakes almost inevitably leads to tragedy or significant legal expense. The price of the CD is miniscule in comparison.
The CD is available on my mobile friendly webstore.
Final note: Because I want this information to be widely distributed, I am granting a limited re-distribution license to anyone who purchases the CD. People do it anyway but I will make it formal and encourage it.
Purchase of the CD includes a license to reproduce five (5) copies of the CD for distribution to fellow gunowners. This is a limited license. It does NOT include posting copies of the CD or any of its tracks on the Internet in a downloadable format. Nor does the license include widely broadcasting the CD nor its tracks via email.
Please be safe and encourage fellow gunowners to do the same. I hope I can make a contribution to that with this CD.