Rules Exist for a Reason

20-Nov-13 – 11:41 by ToddG

irvingpolicecsutruckNBC’s Channel Five in Dallas reports the tragic shooting and death of a woman, mother of two, who was innocently sitting in her hotel bed when a bullet struck her in the chest.

The bullet was fired from an adjacent room by Michael Gray who was allegedly cleaning his gun when it “just went off.”

The interior walls of a hotel room are NOT a safe direction.

The gun did NOT just fire on its own. Someone pressed the trigger on a loaded gun. That’s how they fire. That’s how they’re supposed to work.

If more people would treat their guns like tools instead of magical talismans, these tragedies would be avoided. Too many people fall into the trap of thinking the gun is incapable of causing injury until the person behind the trigger wants to shoot someone. You see it all the time on the range with casual gun handling from folks who think guns can’t kill on the range. And if you were a fly on the wall you’d see it in homes and hotel rooms all across the country from people who think guns can’t kill when there’s no one around who deserves killing.

But guns don’t know who does and doesn’t “deserve” killing. They’re machines. They’re tools. They fire when the trigger is pulled. That’s how they’re supposed to work. The person holding the gun is the only one who decides when.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(hat tip to RoyGBiv on pistol-forum for the story)

  1. 20 Responses to “Rules Exist for a Reason”

  2. I always translate the idiotic “I was cleaning my gun and it just went off” to “I was d*cking around with my gun and negligently fired it”. I think these morons think that suggesting that they were “cleaning” it gives them some cover. After all, cleaning is good, right? Accidents happen. See, it wasn’t my fault.

    Nope. I don’t buy it.

    By Rosco on Nov 20, 2013

  3. If someone is actually “cleaning” a firearm, then by definition it is unloaded and typically dismantled, thus incapable of firing…

    By DocGKR on Nov 20, 2013

  4. You know, I hate seeing posts/stories/events like these, but I NEVER fail to read them! I’m a big believer in the “Scared Straight” principle. If I make a point of beating the danger and incumbent safety into my head, I believe I’ll stay scared enough to stay straight! You just can’t ever be safe enough with your firearms!
    What a sad story.

    By M.E.Hall on Nov 20, 2013

  5. The sad part is the roughly 20 times or so this same act likely occurred without any personal injury and no one took any action.

    By cmoore on Nov 20, 2013

  6. It is a good reminder/proof that “a safe direction” doesn’t just mean “pointed away from people in sight.” Horrible tragedy that someone died as a result. Negligent homicide I hope.

    By XKL on Nov 20, 2013

  7. Cooper’s rules #2 and #4 always seemed surprisingly problematic for how often they’re repeated. #2 is alright, but it doesn’t talk about what’s around or behind the point of impact. “The hotel wall is a non-target, so I’ll point the gun there.” #4 is alright, but it only covers aiming the gun at a target. “I’m not aiming when preparing to clean, so who cares what’s behind that wall?”

    The shooter in the story is still breaking the odd-numbered rules, but not the evens due to the loopholes above. Yeah it’s all semantics and nitpicking, but after all we’re talking about rules. Good rules have few loopholes, so there’s a clear opportunity for improvement here.

    We could rephrase and combine #2 and #4 to, “Always consider what may be around, in front of, and behind wherever the gun’s pointed at,” which handles visible and invisible objects, moving objects across your line of fire, as well as all times and types of gun handling. Or more concisely, “Beware what may be down range.” It says “what may be” because you have to consider more than what you can see. You need to consider the people that “may be” behind the wall.

    1. Gun is loaded until you clear it.
    2. Off the trigger until you’re on target.
    3. Beware what may be down range.

    Fewer rules and fewer loopholes for better understanding and better compliance. I appreciate the significance and history behind Cooper’s 4 rules, but I appreciate progress even more.

    P.S. Ever notice that military and LEOs in TV shows and movies generally do better with the even rules than the odd ones? They’ll muzzle themselves and their partners with the finger on the trigger about once every fifteen seconds, but they usually avoid shooting at a suspect fleeing towards or near other people.

    By Curby on Nov 21, 2013

  8. Good post and good reminder. People too often forget that walls do not stop bullets — and far, far, FAR too many people completely Miss The Point of the first rule of gunhandling, when they rewrite rule one to say, “All guns are always loaded until you’ve checked them.” Checking the gun does not give you a free pass to ignore the rest of the rules. As we’ve seen over, and over, and over again, people often make mistakes when checking the gun — with tragic results if they don’t have a reliable set of safety habits that they continue to follow even when they think the gun’s unloaded.

    But rule one isn’t the problem. We know this because far more people come into the gun culture through the NRA and its set of three rules: ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until you’re ready to use it.

    Even with the capitalized emphasis on ALWAYS, and even without any rule-one based confusion at all … people still keep doing stuff like this. And walls still do not stop bullets.

    Somehow, for far too many people, ALWAYS really just means sometimes, if it’s not too much hassle…

    It’s not a rule problem. It’s a stupid-human thing.

    By pax on Nov 21, 2013

  9. Curby… All four of the Gunsite Safety rules were violated in this case…….and someone got hurt.

    The rules don’t need to be changed, the way they are taught and the context is often left out. Everything you are talking about is covered in proper training using the 4 basic safety rules. The guy violated all of yours as well. The key is that most issues are the violation of the rule everybody wants to change-#1. If people would take the precautions of not violating any of the other three rules when they “think” that a firearm is unloaded it would cover typical human imperfections into account and no one would get injured.

    By nyeti on Nov 21, 2013

  10. I think Pat Sweeney in one of his 1911 books recommended the “Safe Direction” line of gun cases specifically for times like this. You don’t know what’s behind that hotel wall, but you know that the Safe Direction case is designed to stop at least one round. You’re still stupid for the ND, but you’re less stupid because you pointed it in a positively safe direction. Of course bullet proof vests and barrels of sand work too.

    By mer on Nov 21, 2013

  11. Let me restart. I agree the guy was careless and irresponsible, and better training and instruction could have prevented this tragedy. My argument is tangential. You’re always going to have people who don’t take the training they should. For those people, your best hope is that they’ve absorbed the basic rules of thumb that get repeated and passed around in the community. For those people, the rules are all they have, so they must be as memorable and watertight as possible.

    How do we get there? What are some characteristics of great rules of thumb? They are simply stated, easily understood, and widely applicable. They are few in number for easy memorization. They are not narrow or nuanced, nor do they require a lot of training and context to understand or apply.

    With those criteria, Cooper’s rules are good but not great. Along with proper training, they can produce exceptionally safe shooters. However, Cooper’s rules by themselves have holes. If you need extensive training to fully understand basic rules of thumb, your rules need work.

    To state what may be obvious, I’m going by:

    1. All guns are always loaded.
    2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
    4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.


    As they stand on their own, #2 and #4 were not violated as explained in my first post. However, a rewording could fix that. A rewording could create fewer, more widely-applicable rules that can stand on their own.

    By Curby on Nov 21, 2013

  12. The problem isn’t the rules or how they are written. The problem is the careless person who violates them anyway, no matter what they say. It’s my view that MOST of these incidents, not involving kids or a person who has literally never handled a weapon, are the result of someone not obeying the rules, as a result of carelessness, rather than ignorance.

    By M.E.Hall on Nov 21, 2013

  13. This tragedy was caused by carelessness, but just because someone was careless doesn’t mean everything else is perfect. As I see it, both of the following are true:

    1) People need to be careful and follow the rules.
    2) The rules themselves could use some work.

    Of course, I know the chances of either of those actually happening are minimal.

    By Curby on Nov 21, 2013

  14. A 5 Gallon bucket at Lowes or Home Depot with a lid and 50 lb bag of sand makes a cheap place to point your gun when you are charging or clearing it.

    By steve b on Nov 21, 2013

  15. Old body armor panels make a great backstop for unloading, loading, and dry firing…

    By DocGKR on Nov 22, 2013

  16. Someone pressed the trigger on a loaded gun.

    Or someone did not have the firearm pointed in a safe direction when cycling the action.

    33% of the unexpected loud noises outside of a range environment for which I have been present was caused by a mechanical failure of the firearm on loading, no finger involved.

    Shootin’ Buddy’s only AD was with an 870 at a Shootrite class, closing the slide on a gauge in a SHO drill. There wasn’t a finger within a foot of that Remington’s trigger when it sent a charge of buckshot into an Alabama hillside.

    A lot of people get way too complacent in the loading/unloading process.

    By Tam on Nov 23, 2013

  17. (The other one to which I referred was a broken FP safety spring in a P7M8, causing a slamfire.)

    By Tam on Nov 23, 2013

  18. I’ve never understood all these people who try to clean loaded guns. What are you cleaning? All the stuff that would need cleaning is covered up when the thing is all together and loaded.

    ‘Course it’s just an excuse but at least come up with one that makes sense.

    By Mark on Nov 23, 2013

  19. Tam,
    That’s something I always worry about. I know my Glock shouldn’t fire when I drop the slide on a full mag, but I can’t shake the feeling that someday it will. So, I always make sure if it does, it pointed in a kosher place.

    By Wes on Nov 24, 2013

  20. Just another example of poor weapon handling. I agree with Todd, regardless of what the suspect said, I would almost guarantee the trigger was pressed. Mechanical Malfunctions with firearms are rare. Another reminder that walls are not safe.

    By Kenny T on Nov 27, 2013


    Jesus, just stop playing with your gun. It’s a loaded weapon, designed to kill. DO NOT FUCKING PLAY WITH IT.

    By STOP PLAYING WITH IT. on Nov 29, 2013

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