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?