It’s no surprise to gun owners that firearms have become a taboo subject, and as such, they are shunned and avoided to the point that few people know how to handle a firearm safely. Despite the avoidance and shunning by those that don’t want to handle a gun, some of them may have to handle one anyway at some point in their life. The necessity may come from finding a firearm in a taxi, or finding a gun on a playground, or even as a police officer handling a gun from a crime scene.
HOW TO HANDLE A FIREARM: CASE IN POINT
A recent, tragic example highlighting the need for EVERYONE to learn at least the basics of firearms handling, comes from South Africa. A prosecutor in the KwaZulu-Natal province was killed in the courtroom after a shotgun being submitted as evidence went off and struck 51-year-old Addelaid Ferreira-Watt in the hip. It was believed that the shot severed an artery. On the surface, the story sounds rather cliche, just a freak accident, because there have been so many people killed by “unloaded” guns, but it’s preventable. There are a couple different versions of this particular case. The Dailymail.co.uk reported that the shotgun was dropped, while the Washingtonpost.com reported that the shotgun was being held by a police officer at the time the gun fired.
If we take the falling shotgun, or negligent police officer out of the equation, the fact that a weapon being admitted into evidence was still loaded at all, could and should have been avoided. The Washington Post’s story went a little more in-depth as to the backstory of this particular case.
The criminal trial at hand, led by Ms. Ferreira-Watt, was for a 2014 burglary in which the shotgun was stolen, but police captured the five perpetrators and returned the shotgun at the request of the victims so they could protect themselves. Police returned to collect the shotgun for the trial. When the police asked if the shotgun was loaded, the lady of the house admitted that she didn’t know if the gun was loaded or not. This means that not only did the owner of the shotgun not know how clear the weapon that she relied on for her safety, it also means that the police officers that handled it didn’t check or didn’t know how to clear the weapon themselves, which led to the death of the person that was attempting to bring justice to the area.
HOW TO HANDLE A FIREARM: FOUR EASY RULES
The following rules are the most commonly accepted safety standards within the firearms community. Even if you never plan on owning a gun, learn the rules anyway in the off-chance that you’ll need to pick one up, even if only for a few seconds. If your loved ones handle guns, you can also address unsafe handling if you see it.
All guns are always loaded
Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
Following the simple rules above could’ve saved a lot of people over time. Since this is the most basic safety reminder (or primer for some), in the near future, I’d like to put together a “make it safe” pictorial article using various types of firearms and how to clear them.
Have you witnessed someone handle a firearm in an unsafe manner, or worse yet, seen someone injured or killed because of it? Feel free to share this if you agree that firearms safety is everyone’s issue.