Wednesday, September 26, 2012

He'll probably get more than 20 pushups for this.

Believe it or not, the military has historically never been on the cutting edge of firearms safety. Going back and watching WWII training films will make anybody with a modern eye towards the subject cringe; muzzle discipline can be casual, to put it charitably, and fingers constantly stray inside of trigger guards in those pre-Rule Three days.

Watching modern footage shows dramatically improved muzzle discipline and a passing awareness of keeping the finger off the trigger, but there remains this institutional notion that one can use a totem called a "clearing barrel" to create a mythical object called an "unloaded gun" which can then apparently be handled with abandon.

I suppose that when you have hundreds of thousands of young people with what is, at the end of the day, fairly rudimentary firearms training, sometimes accidents are going to happen, especially when they take that training home while off duty and adult supervision, in the form of irate NCOs, is lacking.

However you slice it, getting drunk and then using a pistol as a tool to scare your buddy out of his hiccuping fit so that he doesn't disturb the football game is a level of incompetence so advanced that it is indistinguishable from malice.

Further, I would like to nominate the unnamed police spokesperson for the Understatement of the Year Award:
Myers allegedly "produced a handgun and while handling it in an unsafe manner, discharged the handgun striking the victim in the face," police said.
That wasn't just any ordinary "handling it in an unsafe manner", that was very nearly the Platonic Ideal of unsafe gun handling compared to which all other unsafe gun handling is merely shadows on the cave wall.

26 comments:

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, we do have to take into account that Alcohol was involved. But having been to several Blogshoots/Blogmeets, I've yet to see any kind of "GunFoolery" take place after several Adult Beverages were consumed by the Attendees. So, yeah, it sounds like a case of the Rampant Dumbass to me.

Technical Question: Didn't the "Clearing Barrel" come out of the Police Community? I do know that your fellow Indy Resident Michael Z. Williamson made a Big Deal about them in his latest novel.

Of course, he mentioned how important it was to Function Check a Weapon before going OUT on a Mission, so maybe they shouldn't be used for Clearing when one comes back IN?

Of course, a lot of this kind of stuff wouldn't be necessary if everyone who used Firearms had it embedded into their Genomes the Four Rules....

But at least Today's Military doesn't have to Stand Duty with an EMPTY 1911 with the Ammo in pouches like I had to do in the 70s/80s.

Tam said...

"But at least Today's Military doesn't have to Stand Duty with an EMPTY 1911 with the Ammo in pouches like I had to do in the 70s/80s."

Tell that to the Marines. (The ones in Egypt, I mean, who surely must have chafed under the directive.)

Craig M. said...

I found from my six years in the military ending last year that firearms safety is stressed and enforced. Flagging is not tolerated even when training with B.F.A.'s. Muzzle awareness is enforced by punishment. When my unit was in Iraq we carried our firearms everywhere except the shower. We had one negligent discharge in country when a 19 year old kid was "cleaning" his weapon after a mission. He lost rank and was punished with an Article 15 along with being chastised daily for about a month after it happened. Maybe the Ohio National Guard is ahead of the power curve on safety, but unsafe behavior was not tolerated during basic training either. A clearing barrel is not a magical device, but has averted tragedy when sleep deprived, stressed soldiers have not been at their best after functioning for 48 hours at a time living on caffeine and nicotine.

Admittedly, this was just stupid, and a tragedy this young man will have to live with for the rest of his life.

Woodman said...

I did many stupid things while I was in the infantry. Alcohol and youth were at the center of most of them.

I don't think it ever occurred to me to point a weapon at someone in order to "scare" them. We'd light each other's hammocks on fire while sleeping in them, hang people off balconies in their sleeping bags, take people's clothes when they were in the shower, and the whole sophomoric routine.

Can't say I ever saw anyone point a gun at another soldier and not have someone slap him down. We were certainly pretty casual about weapons, but you didn't want to be the guy who tripped and shot his buddy in the back of the head on patrol, even with blanks.

We were infantry though, not REMF, so YMMV.

Chris said...

Back in 1972 I was a Range Safety Officer when a group of Basic Trainees were qualifying. When they began to move back from one of the advanced firing positions, one of the trainees was, IMHO, too casual about where his muzzle was pointing. So I jogged over to his lane and chastised him about keeping it pointed downrange, when he responded, "Huh?" and leveled the M16 at my midriff. Approximately a half-second later, three of the Range NCOs appeared on top of the careless young man and proceeded to disarm him. And very nearly "disarm!" him, too. I didn't really have time to react to the rifle pointing at me.

Joe said...

He should at least get credit for curing his friend's hiccups.

westofthewest said...

I... had a friend who once engaged the parking brake while driving 40 mph in an effort to cure his wife's hiccups. It worked!

Anonymous said...

LMAO on the Platonic ideal.

On the topic of the "unloaded gun" being a mythical object--on a recent range trip, my brother didn't check if the staple gun had staples in it before we got to the range. I said something uncharitable and he acted like he would get me with the staple gun.

When I protested, he blew it off saying it was empty and besides it's not a real gun. I countered that it had the name gun in the name and could cause damage, so the rules applied. His response was that he Had been pointing the "gun" at something he was willing to staple. See where this is going...

I made another snarky comment a few minutes later as I was unlocking the shop door and he popped me a few times with the staple gun. I yelped and he laughed thinking that the metal piston that drives the staples had hit me...until he noticed the staples in my clothes. Apparently the staples had been stuck down at the range, but then came un-stuck. I had one staple attaching my shirt to my back, and another affixing my jeans and Swiss Army knife together.

All ends well--no tetanus, and everyone now agrees that even Staple Guns should be treated according to the rules.

Tirno said...

I once scared the hiccups out of my wife with a gun.

Well, not an actual gun.

She was hiccuping as we sat down to dinner. I commiserated as I planned my attack.

A few minutes of relatively quiet eating later, I casually mentioned that I was thinking of buying a rifle.

Then came the astonished reaction, the what-are-you-going-to-do-with-that-you-don't-hunt, then the you're-self-employed-and-don't-make-that-much-money, and she was just launching into how-would-you-even-store-tha....

"How're your hiccups?" I interrupted.

Beat. Beat. "They're gone."

"You're welcome."

KM said...

From Joe,
He should at least get credit for curing his friend's hiccups

There's that silver lining we were looking for. ;)

Turk Turon said...

"That wasn't just any ordinary "handling it in an unsafe manner", that was very nearly the Platonic Ideal of unsafe gun handling compared to which, all other unsafe gun handling is merely shadows on the cave wall."

Marvelous!

Matt said...

Hey, at least I'll give the CNN writer credit for acknowledging that the dude who shot his buddy was handling his gun in an unsafe manner.

Doesn't take much age to be old enough to remember when any news story covering an event like this would be written under the assumption that this sort of thing _just happens_ when there are guns around. You know...conveniently ignoring the bit where a moron points a gun at his friend and pulls the trigger. That's still about the level of honesty I expect from the likes of CNN, so I'll happily give them props for doing better.

Windy Wilson said...

We can only imagine what the late, great Colonel Cooper would have said about this event, but I have no doubt that "that was very nearly the Platonic Ideal of unsafe gun handling" would likely be something he would have admitted to wishing he had said!

Anonymous said...

I ran a M-3 Greasegun range in Germany (90 round familiarization course required annually for all our mechanics who were issued the M-3 Greasegun. One fellow used to turn, cover the entire firing line as he moved from one position to another. A Sergeant yelled at him, and he turned the gun toward the sergeant, and got buried by the other sergeants.

Yes, Rules are important, and easily forgotten when doing something new.

Anonymous said...

Tirno, don't leave us in suspense-- what rifle did you end up getting?

Mike James

Anonymous said...

Alcohol, Firearms, Swimming: choose 1

CarlS said...

Strangely enough, after years in a Command Center taking reports of everything from everywhere, it's simply amazing, one would think, that there are so few firearms accidents in the military.

After all, thousands of troops carrying edged instruments, firearms and ammo, and "anti-personnel" explosives all day, every day. You would assume, given the "Oh God He's Got A Gun" factor drummed into kids in what passes for scholl in this day and age, that most of our armed forces would be "combat ineffective".

Curiously enough, it just ain't so.

Which part of the equation, of the pro versus anti crowd, do you think is in error?

Empirically speaking . . .

Firehand said...

From what son said, they were drilled very hard on safe weapon handling in Basic. With rifles. With pistols, it was classroom followed by "Take your magazine and move to the firing line. Point it anywhere but downrange and I'll kick the shit out of you." Unless your MOS was something like MP where you normally carried one, that was it for handguns.

When they wound up in a place where, leaving base, you left your rifle and carried a pistol and one mag, I was very happy he'd learned pistol stuff long before enlisting

Geodkyt said...

What Woodsman said.

(Oh, by the way, :

Woodman said...
I did many stupid things while I was in the infantry. Alcohol and youth were at the center of ALL of them.


Fixed it for you. {grin})

Sabra said...

At one point yesterday, the newschick on WOAI did indeed say he pointed the gun at his buddy and "the gun discharged."

Eric Wilner said...

A friend of mine was an NCO up North, many years ago. Tells the story of a time he was supervising a group of cadets at the SMG range, and one of them had a stoppage.
"Hey, Sarge, this gun isn't working!"
Friend steps over.
Cadet turns around, still working the trigger while muzzle covers friend's midsection.
Friend promptly decks cadet.
Then notices the CO looking at him. Eep. Punching an officer = how many years hard labor? (Sorry, "labour".)
"Sergeant, why did you strike that officer?"
"Sir! The officer-trainee pointed a loaded gun at me and pulled the trigger!"
"Carry on, Sergeant."

Woodman said...

"With pistols, it was classroom followed by "Take your magazine and move to the firing line. Point it anywhere but downrange and I'll kick the shit out of you." Unless your MOS was something like MP where you normally carried one, that was it for handguns. "

We didn't get that much. I was never officially handed a 1911 by my armorer. I borrowed them from medics the few times I shot them, and that was totally unauthorized and I only got away with it because I was part of the range crew that day.

I have only recently gotten back into guns, and until I owned my own pistol I treated them like nitro filled TNT sticks. When 80% of your time in service was as a SAW gunner, you have muzzle safety pretty down when it's a 16 pound weapon a yard long. When it's a couple pounds and fits in your hand, it was weird. I'm over paranoia now, but now I have to work at getting back a healthy respect, I think I'm getting too casual now.

Firehand said...

Bunch of years ago I heard a guy who taught a riflery class at a college say about the same thing: with a ten-pound rifle, everybody took the safety stuff seriously, but when handed a pistol(he always tried to have a day with a .22 so people could try it) you couldn't count on it; the small size and light weight, in comparison, didn't translate to "It's still a gun" in their minds.

Woodman said...

That and you don't often accidentally wave a rifle at someone. Notice most of these stories include people turning around with rifles.

With a pistol all I have to do is start talking about something and I'm waving the damn thing around. I have been working on putting the gun down before I get too animated.

Justthisguy said...

Tam, this is one of your best posts ever.

Ed said...

I was taught marksmanship basics in college by a Physics professor who was an NRA instructor on a .22 LR pistol. The concept taught was that moving up to a rifle would make everything easier, with a longer sight radius, more stability when the weapon is supported by both hands and shoulder, recoil absorbed by shoulder, etc., and that handling errors would be magnified in the pistol. I even learned to fire well with my weak hand because my vision and hands were cross dominant (right handed dominant, left eye dominant).

Once I knew how to effectively and safely fire a .22 LR pistol, later adapting to firing larger caliber pistols, revolvers and rifles was easy. Leading a flying clay target with a shotgun? Not so much, even left handed. Sigh...