Friday, October 19, 2012

Wherever There Are Guns, There Can Be Gun Accidents

As the gun guys like to chide, in their oversimplified way, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  I agree.  People with guns kill people.  And sometimes they unintentionally kill themselves and others.

It is a simpla truth that the pro-gun guys live in denial about.  When faced with reports of gun owners who unintentionally shoot themselves and others, pro-gun folks simply write it off, suggesting that those are rare examples and that those gun owners just didn’t understand the 4 Rules of Gun Safety and had not been trained properly.  (Personally, I prefer the 11 Rules of Gun Safety, but for some reason the gun guys never cite those). 

Certainly, these rules should be followed, and I highly advocate it.  But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security.  We all make mistakes.  And when you combine this with a weapon made to kill with a finger twitch, the consequences can be deadly.

Consider gun yahoos like the ones in this YouTube video, who act stupidly or don’t know their guns well.  Some simply underestimate the recoil of their weapon.  These people are lucky they aren’t dead.  It’s no laughing matter.

But even if you follow the rules of gun safety, it’s no guarantee against injury.  Here’s a video of a guy shooting a .50-caliber sniper rifle.  He fired a shot, but aimed straight at the target.  The round ricocheted directly back at him and smashed his ear protection.  By some luck, he was uninjured.  (of course, I would argue that there is absolutely no good reason for any citizen to own a .50-caliber rifle, but that’s beside the point).  When you fire such a powerful weapon against a flat metallic target at a direct angle, you’d think you’d have more distance between you and the target.

There are plenty of examples of shooting accidents at shooting ranges, too, where safety rules are supposed to be well-taught and strictly enforced.

But even very highly trained gun owners, who clearly know all about gun safety rules and have been in combat situations, still aren’t guaranteed to survive their gun fetish.

For instance, a 53-year old man who is described as a gun enthusiast, military veteran, and a master weapons instructor, had a number of pistols on his kitchen table and wash showing off his guns to friends, possibly intending to sell them.  He failed to realize that one of his guns was loaded, and fatally shot himself in the head.  You’d think a master weapons instructor might know better.

Here’s another recent case:  A soldier stationed at Fort Carson was cleaning his gun when it discharged unintentionally.  It hit him in the knee.  Sadly, it also hit an important artery there and he bled to death.  This soldier was a sergeant 1st Class with the 10th Special Forces Group.  You’d think one of our military’s most highly-trained soldiers would be more careful with his personal firearm.

These are just two examples I happened upon this week without even trying.  It's easy to find examples of well-trained gun owners who unintentionally kill or maim themselves with their guns.

To be semantic, these are unintentional injuries, not “accidents.”   The term “accident” suggests that it can’t be helped, like an act of nature.  But most of these accidental shootings are actually the result of stupid behavior, poor judgment, alcohol, or simply not being careful enough to follow those gun safety rules.  They are 100% preventable.

And I’m not even talking here about unintentional shootings by children who get their hands on their family’s gun.  We’ve chronicled hundreds of those so far this year over at the Kid Shootings blog, of children who get guns and harm themselves or others, or take them to school.  There is no shortage of irresponsible gun owners who leave their loaded an unlocked guns where children can access them, or who act irresponsibly with their guns around children.  That goes for children who have been trained in gun safety, too, such as this incident where a boy who lived at a gun range that his family tended, who had guns as an integral part of his family life, nonetheless unintentionally shot to death his older brother.  Every single one of these gun owners should know better, should accept responsibility for their bad choices, and should have their guns removed after an accident using their guns.  As my friends over at the MikeB302000 blog say, it should be a one-strike-and-your-out policy for guns.  

Wherever there are guns, there can be gun accidents.  Even the smartest people sometimes do dumb things or have accidents, even if they try to follow safety rules.  No amount of self-delusion will change this fact.  If you have a gun in the home, you have to accept the danger and hope you or your loved ones don't suffer a tragedy because of it.