Over the course of the holidays, I had several short notice taskings, one of which was to provide initial firearms training to a woman who has a stalker problem. Although it was a short session, she and I were both pleased with the outcome, so I shared my notes and outline with a few of my colleagues.
A colleague made the following comment:
One, it’s your usual excellence, and most likely as good as it gets for focused firearms training for the civilian … I do notice that the vast majority of what you present is focused on manipulation, handling, live fire, and some lecture/interactive discussion about legal aspects.
He is a very high level thinker and we exchange thoughts regularly with no reservations about defining and challenging each other’s views. My response to his query was that I have been immensely changed by my Negative Outcomes research over the past two years. I have come to question much of what I thought was important before. One thing that I have become sure of is that at the raw beginner level, which is where this lady was, teaching students how to avoid Serious Mistakes is of primary concern. My list of firearms incidents with Negative Outcomes, gathered over the past two years without even a serious research effort, is seventeen pages long single spaced. That’s a lot of Serious Mistakes.
In addition, I have become even more aware of how dangerous complacency is. The more often the gun is manipulated, the more it is likely to discharge. This has its basis not only in statistical reasons but also in the natural human process of ‘familiarity breeds complacency.’ When complacency is combined with incompetence and/or ignorance, the seeds of disaster have been sown.
The story mentioned “His injuries are not life-threating but he is receiving treatment from a hand surgeon.” Shooting oneself in the hand at close range with modern service ammunition carries a high probability of being permanently crippled. One of the things that I notice in the Self Inflicted Gunshot Wound section of my database is how often the person involved is a high level Law Enforcement Officer, either Sheriff or Police Chief.
There are two possibilities for this strong correlation: 1) it’s just more newsworthy when a higher up experiences a Negligent Discharge, or 2) higher ups, who are administrators, tend to be not that interested in firearms and perhaps a little more complacent than line officers whose gun is a tool of their work. It could be either, there’s no way for me to say.
Firearms ownership is somewhat like a minefield. You might take one step and get blown up, you might negotiate it quite a while before getting blown up, or you might get lucky and make it through. Putting your fingers in your ears will not protect you one bit from the consequences, that’s for sure.
When using a firearm, regardless of the circumstances, always follow the Four Rules of Safe Gunhandling
- Treat all guns as if they are ALWAYS loaded.
- Never let yourself point a gun at something or someone you don’t want to be shot.
If the situation forces a choice, point the gun at something not someone.
- Keep your finger out of and above the trigger guard until the gun is pointed at your target and you are ready for the gun to fire.
- Be sure of what you are shooting at and what is behind it.
- Store weapons where they are not accessible to unauthorized persons
- Know the law
- Immediately check the readiness status any weapon you handle
Whether in a morning Private Lesson or in my six month Total Immersion Program, I find that both new and experienced gunowners frequently don’t have an appreciation for the nuances of the mechanical complexities of firearms manipulation. A firearm is a mechanical device that has more moving parts in it than almost anything else you can hold in your hand. There are definite sequences and multiple conditional values that have to be observed with them. Some people dread hand tools as much as Kryptonite. Folks like that need to be shown, and then practiced, on how to operate complex mechanical devices, such as firearms.
In addition, smart people tend to assume there is logic involved in the making of laws. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consequently, the vagaries of the legal system are an alien concept to many well educated and intelligent people. I have personally known of several very smart people who got into a fair amount of legal problems in the course of trying to apply logic to both the Code of Federal Regulations and the Official Code of Georgia Annotated. Some things we can figure out ourselves; the law is not one of them. It requires research and/or specific education.
That’s why I am currently prioritizing my training efforts the way I do. It’s also why I created the Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make audio presentation. Many of the events in Serious Mistakes did not happen to novices but rather to gunowners of long standing who became complacent or finally ran into a situation they had never encountered before. The link for Serious Mistakes is at the top of my page. It’s now available on a Flash Drive, for those who prefer that format.