Recently, I was requested by the owner of this Blog to produce a document on firearms safety. Initially, I was baffled about which direction to take to convey my message.
As a Commercial Pilot I spend innumerable hours strapped into the pointy end of the jets that I fly. Behind that closed door, my flying partners and I engage in all sorts of conversational subjects including politics, taxes, company operations, and aviation issues.
Because of the high tech, complicated environment we work in, inevitably the conversation will turn to the latest aviation event that is reported in the media. Without the capability of “being there,” to experience that event, the discussion leads to dissecting the event, including pilot actions, aircraft maintenance status, Air Traffic Control involvement, what the FAA is going to do and how the public is going to interpret what occurred. We attempt to learn from other aviation experiences.
Now you all may be wondering, in my rambling about my work environment, what that has to do with firearms safety.
“Proximate Cause?” What’s that?
When an accident or incident occurs, the investigating agency attempts to dig down and determine why that accident or incident occurred. And dig deeply they do. Ok, the aircraft / train / truck / cruise vessel hit something or did not stay airborne or ran aground or taxied off the runway, whatever. Any and ALL of those events were caused by human interaction. HUMANS make mistakes. We see those mistakes on TV, read about them in the media and hear about them on the radio.
This is where I transition to the topic of this Blog. “Firearms Safety.”
I have been a Range Safety Officer at the Black Diamond Gun Club approaching 5 years working with both the Public and Club Members. During that time I received my NRA RSO certification, have attended multiple handgun, shotgun, rifle training classes, and interacted with Federal, State and Municipal Law Enforcement agencies. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of assisting in teaching the Women’s Pistol Class at the BDGC.
Having experienced multiple levels of firearms proficiency, one item separates the proficient from those that require additional oversight while operating their firearms on the range.
Now, your probably thinking about all the mechanics that are involved with finally getting that high speed projectile down range and on the bullseye.
That’s not what I am thinking about.
When I am thinking about Training, I am thinking about “learning” which is demonstrated by a change in behavior. My focus in this article is the mindset we bring to handling firearms both on and off the range.
How often do we hear about an “unloaded” weapon being discharged, wounding or killing someone? Or, about a child or minor that somehow accessed a firearm in their house or a friend’s house and an accident occurred? Or viewed a video on YOUTUBE showing a new shooter overwhelmed by the high powered handgun or rifle their friend is introducing them to and something severely goes wrong?
Each of these accidents occurred do to the mindset of the owner/operator of the firearm. They were allowed to purchase or access a firearm without the training required to operate that firearm safely. They were not trained in the proper procedures and mindset to safely own or operate their firearm. In some cases, and from my own personal experience, I have interacted with individuals who were in denial. As Donald Rumsfeld said “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
What is your mindset when you handle a firearm? Do you acknowledge the responsibility that goes with that access and ownership? Do you keep an open mind and listen too your peers, your parents, your fellow shooters, when you purchase a new firearm or operate it in a new environment? Do you research how to accomplish that safely, legally and efficiently? (example: you obtain a Concealed Carry Permit and decide to carry your brand new, never been fired, larger caliber than you’ve ever owned before handgun on your person.) Are you willing to contact your local Law Enforcement Agency and have them explain the law to you regarding concealed carry on your person, or in your vehicle? Do you research the web to discover that you cannot carry your weapon into any Federal Facility such as a Post Office?
Continuing education is relevant for all of us. In the past few years I have had fellow RSO’s make suggestions regarding my firearms protocol’s and I found them insightful and embraced their suggestions.
As an RSO I have witnessed the wrong ammunition loaded and discharged in a rifle, 3 handguns damaged due to errors in reloaded ammunition, have had loaded and unloaded firearms pointed at me, and experienced shooters violate the 4 basic rules of firearm safety immediately after reviewing and signing a liability form that had those rules printed on the form. (can you run that list in your mind as you read this?) Do you believe these individuals were focused on the moment and the responsibilities that firearms ownership requires?
That being said, I have also had the pleasure of working with individuals who’s minds were in the moment. They realized that “Murphy’s Law” could be invoked in a heartbeat if they were careless about their interaction with their firearm. These were some of the most humble, focused individuals I have met in my life. They embraced a mindset of diligence and safety. They personally and individually acknowledged the burden placed upon them commensurate with firearms ownership and use.
As a good friend of mine describes it………..”Be as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.”
When flying the Jet, we as Pilot’s have to have the ability and motivation to say “NO, were not going to do that,” even if it means burning more fuel, arriving late, or diverting to another airport and not arriving at the original destination. At my airline “Safety and Compliance” are the foremost operating rules.
Do you have the mindset to say “NO” I am not going to let this happen? Do you have the mindset to obtain additional training? To speak up when you see a fellow shooter handling a firearm in an unsafe manner, even if they are a total stranger? To confront your neighbor or fellow family member when your child, or you, notice a firearm that is not stored safely?
We are all ambassadors to the shooting sports. I encourage you to rise to a more proficient level. Challenge your fellow shooters when necessary. Don’t be a part of the “Proximate Cause” when an accident or incident occurs. Coaching and support of your peers will accomplish more than if you approach the situation as an overbearing taskmaster. Perhaps your new found friend will allow you to try out that pistol you have been admiring but never had a chance to test. Open yourself up to being educated.
When I finish my pre-departure brief prior to pushback from the terminal I always open the line of communication with the other pilot by asking……. “questions, comments, suggestions?” I urge all of you to initiate a dialogue regarding firearms safety. You may be the person with the solution!