At a recent major pistol competition, an accident happened. One of the participants, while holstering his gun between strings of fire, got his trigger finger in the wrong place and shot himself in the leg.
Before you read any further, think about that. Think about what your reaction would be if you saw that happen, or if it happened at your club. What would you do? What would you think of the event, the shooter, and the sport? How should the club respond? How should the sport as a whole react?
Once you have an idea in your mind about your personal reaction, read on …
What assumptions did you make about the shooter and the incident?
By all accounts, the shooter will make a full recovery. He took full responsibility for his mistake. He is an experienced and respected competitor with a military background. No one ever considered him unsafe, unskilled, or irresponsible.
The range staff and match officials responded immediately and professionally to the incident. There was a plan in place and it was followed. The match was delayed but not canceled.
It wasn’t until after the match that it became a major problem. The online forum dedicated to the sport officially stated it would censor discussion of the accident. On another forum, it was suggested that perhaps the match official should have been able to prevent the accident by reacting in the split second between seeing the gun going into the holster and hearing the crack of a shot going off. Why? Because in the shooting world we treat an accident like a mortal sin.
But this wasn’t a sin. It was a mistake. It was a mistake made by an intelligent, experienced gun handler. That makes us uncomfortable. It tears away at our often self-righteous attitude that only idiots make mistakes. It threatens to overwhelm our religious fervor when we talk about how we would never make a mistake like that because we know the Cardinal Rules and always follow them!
The reality is that none of us is perfect. We have safety rules to minimize the chance of someone getting hurt, but if you are around guns often enough and long enough you are going to see mistakes happen. Eventually, you are going to make one yourself. The most dangerous gun handlers are the ones who think they’re too safe to worry about making a mistake.
As a community, we need to stop treating all accidental discharges as foolish and criminal acts. By placing every accident under the umbrella of sin, we do ourselves a disservice. We lose the chance to examine the details and learn from them. We lump the competitor who made a momentary transgression in with the idiot who’s never learned anything about safe gun handling. Worst of all, we create a mindset that tells us mistakes won’t happen to smart people (meaning, “us”) … which breeds complacency, which breeds more mistakes.
We have redundant safety rules specifically so that when a mistake does happen, it’s less likely to result in an injury. But “less likely” is not a guarantee. Remember that the next time you’re pointing your gun at the wall to your kid’s bedroom because you know you’ll keep your finger off the trigger … Or the next time a buddy hands you a gun without clearing it first because you both know you’re too safe to make a mistake.
And if you’ve read all this and still believe, “It’ll never happen to me,” good luck with that. I hope I don’t see you at the range. Or in the Emergency Room.
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG