The Secret Service protects in only one direction. Saturday Harry Whittington became the first person in American history to be shot by a sitting American Vice President and live to tell about it. Dick Cheney filled him with birdshot during a Texas quail hunt.
The incident was ruled an accidental shooting. Pellets from Dick Cheney’s shotgun hit Whittington’s cheek, neck, and chest.
Just as an aside, if you accidentally shot someone how quickly do you think the matter would be dropped? As quickly as this one? More important, in today’s Amerika if you ever properly defend yourself against an attacker who uses deadly force against you, what are the odds that our justice system would rule your shot as justified? The odds are against that happening. Yet, as most wise gun owners can be heard saying, it’s better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6. I, too, will take my chances with a jury as opposed to pallbearers if I must but I’d rather not have to.
Getting back to the Vice President. He doesn’t know the four rules of gun safety. If he knows them they are not ingrained in him enough to handle a weapon safely.
The term "accidental shooting" is a bad term. If a firearm is in your possession you are responsible for that firearm. When you shoot a gun you are responsible for your shot. A more appropriate term for "accidental shooting" is "negligence." The Vice President should be charged with negligence just as you and I should be if we hold a gun that goes off when it shouldn’t.
Anyone properly trained in the use of a weapon knows the four rules of gun safety. These are the immutable laws developed by Colonel Jeff Cooper, the Father of Modern Pistolcraft. Violate any one of the four rules and you are negligent in your weapon handling.
Are the four rules of gun safety ingrained into your gray matter? Before you even think of touching a firearm you’d better make sure know the four rules of gun safety. That is, unless you can exercise Executive Privilege and get away with negligence.
Rule #1: All Guns Are Always Loaded
How many times have you read about an "accidental shooting" where the shooter said, "I didn’t know the gun was loaded"? I’d guess the majority of accidental shootings have been done with guns that were not loaded. (The shooters probably were loaded.)
Your mentality from this point forward should be Rule #1: All Guns Are Always Loaded.
If you ingrain that into your head can you ever accidentally shoot a gun you thought was unloaded?
Before you clean your weapon unload your weapon. Then check again to make sure it’s unloaded. Always err on the side of, "I may not have unloaded the entire weapon, I’d better double-check." If it’s a semi-automatic, lock the slide back and physically stick a finger into the hole to double-check there’s no chambered round. (Be careful, if that slide racks back on your finger it’s gonna hurt bad.)
Why check physically as well as visually? So the habit is ingrained so even in the dark you’ll always physically check that there is no chambered round when you think you’ve unloaded a weapon.
When you put a gun away and pick it up again, even if you’ve not walked away from it while it was down, check to make sure of its loaded condition. You’ll always assume it is loaded. For your concealed carry weapon it probably will be loaded if you’re the one who last put it down but the habit is an essential one. If you rely on the weapon for protection and someone else unloaded it "for safety" while it wasn’t on you, how much safety will that weapon give you if you have to defend yourself against a violent attack later in the day?
As you can see, by habitually assuming it’s always loaded and checking constantly before you put it away for any reason and after picking it up for any reason you help ensure the safety of others as well as yourself. Your gun’s current condition will always be known to you.
Rule #2: Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until Your Sights Are On Target and You’re Ready to Shoot
Although Rule #1 must precede this one since Rule #1 is the vital assumption for any weapon either in or out of your hands, Rule #2 is the rule that would save the most lives if religiously obeyed.
This is the rule most broken in Hollywood movies. Sadly, anti-gun Hollywood is the one teaching the world how to handle guns by saying, "Keep your finger on the trigger even if you’re not ready to shoot."
Some cynics among us would say that Hollywood knows what it’s doing. By promoting extremely dangerous gun handling they help ensure future gun negligence. They hate the fact that the poor and middle-class non-actors carry weapons to protect their families. They see themselves as the only ones who should be allowed that right.
Most holsters are designed so you cannot put your finger inside the trigger guard when you draw your weapon. Train yourself now to keep that finger alongside and outside the trigger guard until your sights are on target and you’re ready to pull the trigger. Practice, practice, practice, then practice some more, then practice quite a bit more. When you’ve got it down automatically, practice some more.
Get it in your eternal shooting mental state that the sight touches the target before your finger touches the trigger. Make it so ingrained that it’s impossible for your finger to enter that trigger guard if your sight isn’t on target. That’s possible to do. Once it becomes second nature, then you’ll be ready to practice this some more. Once you do that, then in the heat of battle your "muscle memory" should keep that finger out of the trigger guard during the time your weapon covers everything but the baddie. Once it’s on target your finger will then move to position.
Rule #3: Never Let Your Muzzle Cover Anything You’re Not Willing to Destroy
The nice thing about a gun is you know exactly where it will shoot. When someone pulls that trigger the bullet will fly out of one place and that’s the muzzle at the end of the barrel.
Knowing this why would you ever point a gun at anything you don’t want to destroy?
There is absolutely no exception to this rule (or the other three rules) in life. You are responsible for the ammo’s trajectory. It’s not like you don’t know where the bullet will come out.
Rule #4: Be Sure of Your Target and Beyond
Is your gun loaded (yes)? Are your sights on the target? Are you willing to destroy the target? If so, your decision to fire (or your negligence if you "accidentally fire") has one remaining responsibility: not only are you responsible for what the bullet hits first but you’re responsible for where the bullet goes next.
Is the thug who just threatened your life standing in front of a sheetrock wall or window? If so you don’t know what — or who — is beyond your target. If your life or your family’s lives are in grave and immediate danger, you might have to go ahead and shoot to stop the threat. But when you do you always take on the immediate responsibility for that bullet’s path. You own your bullet’s path.
Some of us don’t believe in carrying any weapon that doesn’t begin with a 4 or 5 (.40, .45, .50). That .45 very likely won’t stop if it hits only flesh or light bone and sometimes that .45 won’t stop after smashing heavy bone. It keeps on moving. The window behind your threat? Won’t stop anything short of a 9mm. (Sorry, that’s a joke. We all know that 9mm bullets bounce off glass…)
To save your family you probably think you’d still shoot if the threat is immediate and deadly even if you were unsure of what was beyond your target. Honestly… I might also. I might. But that 4-year old toddler on the other side of that window is going to feel your shot too. Are you ready for those consequences?
Responsible Gun Owners Are Prepared but Not Paranoid
The more you learn about protecting yourself with a firearm, the more you learn that taking the shot is not always the best option. Unlike the portrayal of gun owners in the media and movies, the responsible gun owners I know understand the grave responsibility of carrying a weapon.
They aren’t cocky; they don’t have to be cocky because they know if they have to they are trained to ultimately stop the fight if it escalates to that point. They will do everything they can short of pulling that trigger if there is any way to avoid it. That means they will happily back down from a confrontation to avoid a greater confrontation that they might have to end.
Be alert everywhere you go. When you enter a store, look around you for options available if a situation breaks out. Your goal is to avoid the fight and save yourself and your family if called to do so.
Is this paranoia? It’s strongly rumored that Switzerland requires each family to be in possession of a fully-automatic weapon. Switzerland also has the best civil defense fallout shelters of any country today. Do you perceive the Swiss as paranoid? They are the opposite of paranoid because they have the luxury to be calm and assured. They’ve taken steps of protection that our country is too timid to take. Yet, they’ve never entered into physical confrontation in more than a century have they? (I’m a recovering public school victim so I don’t know history extremely well; I’m fairly certain this Swiss account is accurate.)
How Responsible is the Vice President?
The Vice President broke rules #2, #3, and #4 as I see it.
As a responsible gun owner I’m ashamed that he did that. His negligence helps nobody (especially Harry Whittington). He’s set the gun owner’s movement back a bit. In Amerika, there’s not a lot of room for the gun owner’s movement to be set back too much more.
February 14, 2006