Lessons from a Georgia Police Chief

After drafting an editorial the other day about what we can possibly learn from the firearm accident involving a two year old shooting his mother, I’ve been requested by a reader to do a similar analysis on another news story about an accidental discharge. In this case a chief of police discharged a firearm on his bed that hit his wife. He called 911 to request an ambulance and the rest is in the news for anyone to read.

I’m not saying this will start a trend or promising anything of the like, but this provided yet another “teaching moment” for gun-owners across the US to learn from, so I decided to write it up. If I can work it out with my free time, then I’ll see about keeping up the trend as new stories develop in the news. Maybe we can leverage the mistakes of others to help avoid them in our own lives.

As an NRA instructor and concealed carry instructor myself, there is a mantra we teach our students and live by ourselves; or should anyway. The proper use of a firearm requires three things; Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude. Every firearm accident can be attributed solely to one of these three things not being present. Its right on our homepage as a cornerstone of our beliefs here at the academy. \

So what happened in this story?

According to the news report from ABC I read, a police chief picked up a gun lying on his bed to move it and it discharged, hitting his wife. She was heard on the 911 tape breathing and talking to him, and did not appear in any way to be screaming “Dear God Help me, he shot me” or anything of the sort, so I’m inclined to believe it was an accidental discharge at this time unless the story proves otherwise as more details unfold.

Individuals commenting on social media sites immediately began clamoring about all the things wrong with this story. Why was the gun on the bed? Was it under a pillow? He should have known better. He must have been trying to kill his wife. He deserves to be fired. He should burn in hell. All guns should be banned. Please take everyone’s guns away and this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.

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The hype-mongering of the radical anti-gun nuts out there can’t be reasoned with and can’t be met with common sense no matter how hard we try so I won’t waste my time. Even the news commentator at 2:30 into the video says “She brings up a good point. Who goes to bed with a loaded gun?” The inference here is that this is a bad idea. Lady, where I come from EVERYONE that has a gun goes to bed with a loaded gun within arms reach. That’s the entire purpose of having it.  Hell, my wife and I go to bed with a loaded arsenal of firepower at our disposal, available to us within 1 to 2 seconds. Not once have those firearms jumped up and shot someone accidentally.  Anyway, like I said, you can’t reason with these people. What I will do instead is pose a scenario where this could have happened to anyone and explain a few facts.

Fact: Everyone that owns a firearm will eventually have an accident of some sort. It’s a statistical impossibility that nothing will ever go wrong, supposing of course that you actually carry it. It’s not a matter of skill; it’s a matter of time. Maybe it will be a discharge or maybe it will be your gun falling off the night stand and landing with the barrel pointing at your feet while you fight the urge to urinate on yourself in that microsecond that you have to wonder whether or not it’s going to go off and blow your ankle off. Either way, something will happen if you handle firearms long enough.

Similarly, I don’t own a bakery and don’t work in a deli, but if I did I could state with certainty that eventually I would do SOMETHING to injure myself with an instrument that could kill me. Maybe I’d just cut my finger slicing tomatoes or maybe I’d fail to pay attention one day and lose the end of my thumb in a meat slicer. Regardless, the same three rules we have with firearms applies; Knowledge, Skill, and Attitude.

How do you do your best to prevent firearm accidents? Knowledge, Skill, and Attitude.

Knowledge – Know your firearm front to back, top to bottom, and be able to completely understand how each part works and why. If you can’t field-strip your firearm yourself, don’t have the tools to do it, and don’t have the supplies to clean it then I can state without equivocation that you have no business owning that firearms. You don’t have the knowledge yet to know how to protect yourself.

Skills – This is only procured through practice. If you bought a gun and a box of ammo and you’ve put it in a drawer and never taken it out to the range to practice and learn to get better with it, you have no business owning that firearm. If you don’t routinely shoot at LEAST one box of ammunition through it a year during practice sessions, you don’t deserve to own a firearm. You don’t have the skills to use it properly in the manner in which it was intended. And yes, it IS most definitely a perishable skill. If you don’t shoot all the time, your skills degrade and the do so quickly. Notice by the way that skills is a plural term, not singular. It doesn’t require skill to use a firearm. It requires skills… more than one of them. How to carry, how to transport, how to draw, how to aim, how to shoot, how to clean, how to reload quickly, how not to muzzle flash others while doing any of the aforementioned items, etc. You need to practice ALL of them ALL the time to have the skills necessary to safely own and carry a firearm.

Attitude – This is the kicker; the one that causes most accidents. The word “attitude” might should be changed to “respect” but I’m not the one in charge of how the NRA chooses to market the terms, but the intention is the same.  People with a LOT of skill and a LOT of knowledge are more likely to have a careless attitude than those who don’t. Newbies to firearms are rightfully scared of them. Seasoned professionals tend to be the ones who cause accidents through improper attitude, or failing to treat the firearm with the respect it deserves.  That’s what happened here. A lax attitude put a firearm in a place it shouldn’t be and an accident happened.

Who puts their gun on the bed?

gun-on-bedIdiots, err.. uhh. I mean “people” on social media started clamoring with this one right off the bat. Listen up, LOTS of people put their firearm on the bed, even momentarily while they undress. Look at the photo here for a moment and think about it. That’s my gun, my belt, my holster, and my flashlight. I went into the bedroom and took them off this afternoon and just for the purpose of this post, laid them on the bed while I put away other things and cleaned off the nightstand. A few moments later I picked them up and put them all where they belong. Can you see where this could EASILY be something each of us would do in the course of a day? Police officers do it daily, sometimes multiples times a day. So do concealed carry owners, moms, dads, single adults, security guards, and millions of others.

gun-on-nightstandBy contrast look at the second picture. My gun is in its holster, pointing in a direction in my house that I always put it in; a direction that I KNOW 100% would not shoot through a wall, injure my children, injure my wife, or injure anyone else. It might injure ME if it went off in that particular location, through shrapnel, but it’s not likely with the kind of rounds I carry in it for defense. It’s put in the same spot every night. It’s always put in its holster as well, and for good reason. The extra second it takes me to remove it from the holster is muscle memory, because that’s how I carry it all the time. It also stops me from freaking out at 3:00 in the morning and accidentally putting my finger inside the trigger guard by mistake in a panicked frenzy. Inside the gun safe are three or four more, depending on the day. They’re all laid grip out, barrel to the right, in their holsters in the same position as the one shown here.

So what can we actually learn?

The thing to take away from this incident with this police chief and former firearms instructor is this; even the professionals are liable to make mistakes. If THEY do it, we can do it too. Work on improving your firearm attitude and you’ll go a long way towards preventing mistakes in your own home. I tell people to always pretend as you go through your day that there is a laser beam coming out of the barrel of your firearm, except when it’s in the holster. Practice a few times (with an unloaded firearm) going through your daily routine. Pretend for just a moment that the firearm is hostile and looking for ANY OPPORTUNITY to fire by itself and kill or injure someone. You’ll quickly realize that there are a LOT of things you do that you should do differently.

What direction are you facing when you put on your belt and holster in the morning? If you get dressed next to your wife, like I do, then you probably muzzle flash them with the barrel while you’re putting on your belt. I purposefully turn away so I’m facing in a safe direction when I’m handling my guns. I learned from a friend’s mistake to NEVER rely on the safety and now I have changed my habits to act accordingly.

If you keep it unloaded by the bed at night, where are you pointing it in the morning when you rack the slide to chamber a round before heading out? I learned to never chamber a round in my home, unless it’s an actual life-or-death emergency after a friend had a faulty sear pin in his 1911 fail to engage properly and almost kill his child. Now, I chamber facing the glass window or outside the house. I learned from the mistakes of another.

Don’t Get Lax with your Attitude

This is probably what caused the news story today – failure to maintain a proper attitude because Hey.. nothing ever happens when it’s just lying there, right? You’re right, but when you interact with it again you’re expected to bring your attitude back into play. Never place or leave the muzzle in a direction that could harm another person. Rule number one. This police chief forgot that rule for a moment and it almost cost his wife her life.




Lessons from a Georgia Police Chief — 1 Comment

  1. The media historically tends to ignore those stories. The NRA publishes them monthly in their Rifleman magazine and in their newsletters, but I’m hardly holding my breath for someone from the media to A) have an NRA membership, or B) share one of the “good guy” stories.

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