By Chuck Nottingham
In fact, in the hands of the ignorant, a mechanical "safety" on a gun often becomes the ultimate danger.
Sorry, but "ignorant" is kindest of various terms for the multiple reckless behaviors last Friday culminating in a 14-year-old Sun Prairie teenager shooting his 15-year-old friend in the gluteus maximus.
As funny as getting shot in the butt is in movies, the errant bullet in this horror story "nicked" the older youth's "bladder and femoral artery" before blasting out through his "groin area," according to a local news story.
The good news is the "victim" was in satisfactory condition at the time of the article. Again, I quibble semantically. "Accomplice" is less kind, but may be more appropriate.
The investigating officer reports the 15-year-old "believed" the gun wasn't loaded and handed it off to the 14-year-old, who said he attempted to engage the gun's "safety," but actually managed to disengage it. Testing the safety by pulling the trigger, he shot his buddy in the back pockets.
If any worthwhile lesson comes from the two youngsters' suffering, fright, and embarrassment, it's always treat every gun as if it's loaded by strictly adhering to:
- Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
- Always keep fingers off the trigger until ready to shoot.
- Always keep guns unloaded until ready to shoot.
- Heard 'em before? Hope so. Been around a long time. If no one taught those basics to the two Sun River boys, then letting them near a gun was a major mistake. Had any one of those "always" guidelines been observed, no accident would have happened.
Along with "always" rules, we should also ingrain a few "never" rules:
- Never depend on the "safety" on any gun. Safeties are mechanical devices meant to augment the safe handling trio detailed above. Sometimes only a sharp rap is enough for a safety to fail, firing the round in the chamber.
- Never "test" a safety by pulling the trigger. Guns with mechanical "safeties" have indicators to show "safe" or "fire" positions. Look. Know the gun you're using if not, refuse it if handed to you. Incidentally, some of the safest guns have no mechanical safety at all. Almost all revolvers and most rifles and shotguns with exposed hammers don't. The hammer down in its "quarter-cock" position is a short-term, temporary "safe" after the chamber is loaded. But no gun is meant for extended carry with a round under its firing pin or hammer. Hunters and shooters carrying loaded chambers on "safe" or "hammer-down" for any appreciable time or distance are begging for mishaps. No game, no trophy are worth the risk.
- Many of the safest hunters and shooters never use a "safety." They never load chambers until ready to shoot, and they remove cartridges from chambers after shooting opportunities pass. The military term, "Lock and load" means to make guns ready to shoot.
It does not mean ready for vehicle travel.
It does not mean ready to stroll out to a firing point or traverse the hunting field searching out game.
It does not mean ready for storage.
It certainly does not mean ready to converse with friends.