Police recently released a video from a September 5th shooting. An innocent young lady was shot and killed at a gun range in Rancho Cucamonga. The video shows a 34-year-old male on the firing line while the 36-year-old female victim sits in a chair slightly behind him and to his left. The male is attempting to unload the gun. While doing so, the muzzle is directed towards the female victim. The female is aware of and watching the male but doesn't recognize the danger. As expected, the gun discharges when the male squeezes the trigger. A round grazes the male's arm and strikes the female in the abdomen. The female ultimately dies at the hospital and the male survives. This is just one of many tragic examples of an incident that is 100% avoidable.
I've been to many gun ranges across the country. Many of them are open to the public. Although I am not certain of the exact percentage, I am comfortable saying that in nearly every instance, I have witnessed awful firearm handling. I am not talking about poor technique if only it were that benign. No, the problem is far worse.
Muzzles pointed at humans and various body parts. Guns pointed in directions all around the shooting range, all except at the supposed target. Trigger fingers that seem inexplicably stuck to the trigger, regardless of where the muzzle is pointing. Basic stuff, yet the violations have been so prevalent that unless there are no other shooters on the line, I won't go to a public indoor range.
Any social media post reporting firearm negligence will be sure to have hundreds of comments from people who have never made a mistake with their firearm. I don't necessarily agree with those who say that just because of the incident, the person in the video had/has no business handling firearms. Really? I am willing to bet that every person who has carried and handled firearms routinely for several years has either knowingly or unknowingly violated a firearm safety rule. And no, I am not saying we should accept that, but as imperfect humans, we make mistakes. Especially so when we are learning or haven't had good instruction.
As a firearm instructor, the percentage of people that have an issue keeping their finger on the trigger when it shouldn't be is around 50%. These are new shooters and those who 'have grown up around guns.' They haven't shot themselves or someone else, not because they are safe with the firearm, which they are not. They don't have that story to tell because it just hasn't happened YET.
The truth is, 'growing up around guns' doesn't make you a responsible and safe gun owner. And it doesn't mean you safely handle the firearm because you haven't yet accidentally shot yourself or someone else. So what is the solution?
There isn't one thing, but for starters, we need to humble ourselves and be open to instruction. Regardless of how long you have 'been around guns' you need to educate yourself on proper gun handling. Before you buy a bunch of cool accessories and bedazzle your firearm, learn how to use it. Not on a square range, but how to handle the gun when there isn't a berm, a firing line, a bench rest, and an RSO. Look for reputable instructors whose teaching has been vetted not only by students but other instructors.
First, learn the fundamentals. Not the fundamentals of marksmanship. The fundamentals of firearm HANDLING. Many reputable instructors publish or make available videos of fundamental firearm handling skills. Who cares if you can shoot a bullseye if you can't keep your finger off the trigger? What good is being able to align the sights if you can't safely take the gun apart? Learn how to handle the gun safely, then you can progress to becoming proficient with it.
It is hard to practice, train, and become proficient because you shot yourself dead. And an incident where you negligently shoot someone else may keep you from ever wanting to learn how to use a firearm appropriately. Professional firearm training is not cheap. But how much is your life or someone else's life worth?