The United States has long been, and will likely forever continue to be, embroiled in a debate about firearms. What firearms are okay to own, where is it okay to carry them, and how to prevent nefarious types from getting their hands on them are the subject of polarizing arguments around every national election. My position on the debate is pretty easy to surmise, though I do support logical gun legislation (while some in the pro-gun camp would rather see none at all).
In my mind, part of the problem is that there are a number of different types of gun owners, all lumped into one category, and generalized by many in the anti-gun camp thanks to the actions of an ignorant few. As long as anti-gun types keep seeing headlines about idiots accidentally discharging weapons at gun shows and the like, they’ll continue to maintain the mindset that guns are too dangerous to be owned by anybody.
I’ve owned guns of various sorts for my entire adult life, and I can attest that not one of them has ever gone off without me telling it to. Triggers are wacky like that, they very rarely gain sentience. Guns are wacky too – if they’re unloaded, they hardly ever grow their own rounds in your absence. As a general rule, unloaded guns tend to stay unloaded right up until you load them, and guns don’t fire until you pull the trigger. So if the guns aren’t loading themselves or firing at their leisure… who is to blame for all the news stories we keep hearing about gun-related accidents? How are children finding firearms and killing one another? How does a police officer shoot himself by accident during a presentation held in a school?
Easy. Some people are idiots.
The Number One Rule of Firearm Safety Is Not Being an Idiot
Okay, okay, I realize that sometimes accidents are outside our realm of control, and I’m willing to acknowledge that unforeseen circumstances can lead to unforeseen outcomes, but even if we dismiss those well-meaning and responsible adults that are victims of fate and fortune, we’re still left with lots of mishaps caused by good old-fashioned stupidity, irresponsibility, and immaturity.
When I bought my Blackhawk Serpa CQC holster for my 1911, I was immediately questioned about how safe it is from some of my friends. They had heard that because of the placement of the release on the holster, shooters often accidentally pull the trigger of their pistols as they draw. If that sounds too ridiculous to be true, here’s a video of a guy doing exactly that:
Here’s the thing, I already knew how to resolve this safety issue well before the UPS guy delivered my new holster to me. It’s called trigger discipline, and it’s literally the second firearm safety rule… keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. I’ve drawn who knows how many times from that holster to date, sometimes in quick reaction drills, sometimes while casually shooting at targets in my back yard, and somehow, my finger has never managed to engage the trigger before I wanted it to. It’s almost as though these gun things are designed not to shoot until you tell them to? Crazy, I know. I told you they were wacky.
This is the part of the article where I would normally backtrack a bit on my tone, and make allowances for the people who got lumped into my descriptions of idiocy and irresponsibility because I know nothing in this world is simple. We’re all people, with things going on in our lives, we all make mistakes, we have screw-ups. Maybe that cop that shot himself during a class presentation was just having one of those days. You know those days, where nothing goes right, your car won’t start and your wife is mad about something you don’t remember doing… who can blame you for losing track of those pesky firearm safety rules for just that one instant?
Me. I can blame you. I’m not going to backtrack, even if he’s the nicest guy and an incredible cop – because in that instant, he was an idiot. “Tex” Grebner may well be a full-time idiot, for all I know, but for the sake of argument let’s assume he’s not. He can be a rocket scientist in his day job, but if he puts his finger on the trigger of his pistol while it’s pointed anywhere other than something he’s planning on shooting… you guessed it. He’s an idiot.
Silly little mistakes are a part of life – but they can’t be with a firearm. Owning and carrying a firearm is a commitment to yourself and the people around you. When you strap your holster on, you’re making a promise to the people you care about, and the people who care about you, that you’ll use that weapon to protect them if need be, and that you won’t be an idiot with it. It’s the reason I maintain a DUI rule with my own firearms – if I shouldn’t drive, I shouldn’t carry. It’s the reason those of us (in the vast majority) that have never shot ourselves or anyone else without meaning to do it pay close attention to the basics of firearm safety.
It’s the reason our families aren’t riddled with holes.
Those of you who have read a lot of my work know that I maintain as strict an adherence to objective reason and conversational empathy as I can when it comes to politics. I know having a different belief than me doesn’t make you a bad guy, and I recognize that we’re all wrong sometimes. I maintain that mindset because I think of us all as peers, with different experiences shaping our beliefs, and the common goal of an improved world for us all. Not idiots though. I don’t have any time for idiots.
Having made my stance on idiots clear, it’s important that I point out that each of us, no matter how many years of experience we have handling firearms, have the capacity to be an idiot. It doesn’t take much; a slip of the finger, absent-mindedly leaving the safe unlocked, forgetting to check if a weapon is loaded while you show it off… but that’s all it takes. With guns, you can’t afford to become so comfortable that you think the rules don’t apply to you anymore… because we all know what that makes you.
Don’t be an idiot. Respect your firearms, respect the rules of firearm safety, and respect the population of gun owners you might be representing when you accidentally pop a round off into your thigh at the state fair.
The life you save might be mine – and I really don’t want to be killed by an idiot.
This article was originally published in June 2019. It has been edited for republication.
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