Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gun Rules

I don't have time to dig up all the links, but gun-safety rules -- how many of 'em and what they otta say -- is a hot topic, again.

Here's the thing: those rules -- whatever set you like -- are just a tool. What's the tool supposed to do? They're supposed to keep you from perforating things that hadn't otta be perfed -- walls, floors, friends, family, that guy over there and his dog. And they're supposed to keep you from scaring those around you, too.

Take Cooper's Rule One: "All guns are loaded all the time." LOLwhut? I know some of mine aren't, a lot of the time.... But I do not know about yours; so if you'll please bear in mind that as far as I know, I am looking up the very nostril of Death Incarnate when you sweep me with the muzzle of that unloaded gun, and therefore refrain from so doing unto me, we'll get along fine; I neither know nor care if it's Jeff Cooper or Emily Post who makes you mindful of why it's considered rude.

Do your rules encourage mindfulness? Do they keep you and those around you safe? Then good on yer. If not, well, me and ROs, we've got some questions. Kind of questions. Like, "Would you like to leave now?"

Don't be that guy. Be the safe guy. I don't care what creed you use to accomplish it.

Update: I was not sufficiently clear. My message to shooters is not the cheap and easy, "Be safe!" It's something a lot more harsh: Conduct yourself in such wise that those around you will judge you a safe shooter. And you don't get to quibble. Giving J. Random Guy a peek up the muzzle, breaking 180 on the line, standing way off the firing line and muzzling your wheelchair-bound girlfriend in the back of the head while stuffing a fresh mag in your Makarov and dropping the slide: these are all behaviors I have seen and either spoken up about or departed in haste because of.

The Internet is just some people talking. In the ultimate analysis, anything shared therein about technique or philosophy is just so much hot air that you paid pennies to read. It's what you go out there and do in the physical world that counts. Pick any blamed set of rules you like -- make them up -- tell yourself whatever you need to; but understand that if you are not safe, I will call you on it. Tam will call you on it. Or we will leave, rapidly. A good RO -- and they're not omniscient or all-powerful, so they are gonna miss stuff -- will call you on it.

Tam put it best: Assume you're an idiot. You don't get to decide if you are the safe guy or the horrible example; your behavior will tell those around you which you are. Not your words. Not your cuddly-wuddly wuvability or your big strong silent machismo. You can't chop-logic your way out of crappy weapon-handling, you can't get big, teary anime eyes and be excused, there's no staring it down, you can't appeal to Saint Cooper or the graybeards at the NRA: if you go to the range and do unsafe stuff, you are the guy not to be like. No matter your creed or how many classes you have taken, you don't get a badge or a ribbon or a diploma that allows you to endanger persons or property. You don't ever, ever get a pass on safe behavior; every time you go shoot around people (or in range of ruining their day), you are in the scales of judgment. You were an idiot yesterday and got sent home? You don't have to be one today. Conversely, yesterday's Miss Safety may trip over a brain fade and screw up. See ya! Do better next time!

When you mess up with firearms, people can die. This is not student council elections.

(And another thing -- I'm a faithful member of the Four Rules Church, myself; they're so close to the gun safety my Dad taught me at the ago of 12 it's amazing, considering he was a hunter who never owned more than the same .22 and shotgun all his life and never heard of Col. Cooper, as far as I know. It's comforting to me to hear his, "Always assume it's loaded. Always check to make sure. Don't point it at anything but the ground or a target. You don't touch the trigger until you are lined up and ready. Think about what's behind what you are aiming at, think about where the bullet will go and be sure you understand it," echoed more succinctly. Dad taught me those things in his on-edge, exasperated, you-must-learn-this way, rules he worked out for himself or was taught by his father, brothers and friends and I know they worked. And he taught them not by rote, but first Socratically, as leading questions, and then by example, with the rifle in my hands and his hands hovering ready to make sure I didn't break the rules. Yeah, I use Col. Cooper's rules to guide my shooting and to judge yours. I grew up with them; I know they are a tool and I know that tool does the job).


John said...

I prefer "All guns are loaded until proven otherwise." If I put a gun down, turn around, then pick it up again, my first action is to check the chamber.

Tam said...

Once you've proven otherwise, though, what does it really change?

I don't care if someone proves it otherwise; I'd still appreciate them not pointing it at me.

Tango Juliet said...

Even I "prove otherwise" and know for certain, I don't point a gun at anything that I don't wish to destroy (or pay for.)

It's amazing how quickly bad habits become ingrained in the human mind.

WV: "whines". Yes, believe it or not.

Divemedic said...

I have to agree with John. If we blindly say "All guns are loaded all the time" then we can't dry fire. Ever.

If we say "Never point a gun at what you do not intend on shooting" then we cannot wear a horizontal shoulder holster, as we are sweeping everyone behind us, nor can we ever dry fire.

The same goes for not touching the trigger until we are ready to shoot. Unless of course, you do all of your dry firing at the range.
The rules are there to remind us to be safe, they are not commandments brought down by Moses from the mountaintop.

Tam said...


That's the problem with the phrasing of the Four Rules.

I only dry-fire at stuff I wouldn't mind shooting, and only if I'm sure of the backstop. Do you dry-fire while pointing the gun at your family? If not, why not? After all, the gun is "unloaded".

The gun in the horizontal shoulder holster (or gun safe or gun store showcase or pistol case in your luggage) doesn't count. The Four Rules were intended to apply to guns in your hands. A gun not in anybody's hands is an inert object. You need gun + human for dumb stuff to happen.

(WV: "grabs" As in "Don't try to grabs the falling gun.")

pax said...

@ John ~

"All guns are loaded until proven otherwise."

Yeah, here's the problem with that non-rule: Glen's story. Checking it doesn't mean you get a free pass to do stupid stuff. At bottom, Rule One means the other rules always apply, no matter what else you think you've done with the gun.

@ Roberta ~

"Be the safe guy."

It's not enough to say "be safe" if you don't define (or can't agree on) what safe is.

If someone points his firearm at himself or another person and then brushes it off by saying "...but it wasn't loaded" or "...but the safety was on," that person is an idiot. He is That Guy.

When you suggest that the only important rule is "Don't be That Guy," that's true enough. Nobody wants to be That Guy. But here's the kicker: That Guy never realizes that HE is That Guy. He's not capable of realizing it; if he was capable of realizing it, he wouldn't be That Guy in the first place.

That Guy read your words, but he doesn't have the foggiest idea you were talking to him. Even if he did, he's That Guy and that means he doesn't have the foggiest idea what you actually meant.

And that's why we need specific rules, not just some generalized plea to "be safe."

John said...

Tam -- I meant that's my version of Rule #1. It's not the only rule.

Bubblehead Les. said...

When I was on the the High School Rifle Team (yes, Virginia, at one time...), we had to learn like 12-15 NRA safety rules before they'd let us near the Rifle.

In Navy Boot Camp, we had to memorize the "11 General Orders of a Sentry".

With the Youbook/Facetube Generation, I'd be happy if they get with the "Borat" rule: "Is Gun. Is Dangerous. No point it at anything unless you want to Keels it. No can Keels it lessen you put finger on trigger lever. You no want to Keels it, no finger, no point. But still is Gun. Is Dangerous".

Sad thing is, no matter how many Rules you try to pound through some people's head, they think that they don't apply to them.

Funny thing is, when I was at the Northcoast Blogshoot a couple of weeks ago, my "Spidey Senses" never tingled like they do when I go to my local range. Probably the safest shooting event I've ever attended. And that was due to knowing that all the Grownups knew and LIVED the 2/3/4/10/14/ Gun Safety Rules.

It's not the number, it's the Mindset.

Roberta X said...

While I agree rules are needed, I disagree that one specific set of rules are needed.

The goal is a specific set of behaviors. maybe just one behavior: you never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. --Or, actually, you never do it when there is the slightest chance you'll be caught at it. 'Cos I don't care what you do all by your lonesome, as long as it doesn't go through your wall, my wall and me or mine.

There is no policing what others do when nobody is watching; there is never any controlling their thoughts. What matters are actions. If the NRA's three Rules do that, if the Army's 14 in their guide to the 1911 pistol do that, if something you dreamed up does that, I don't care; I only care how you act.

People will hem and haw but lookie her, any set of gun rules is a teaching tool that becomes a comforting creed. I like mine. You like yours. So what if we won't sing one another's hymns, as long as we are not pointing guns at one another, or at things that had not ought to be shot?

Readers, have ROs thrown you off the range? If yes, your rules aren't working. If no, then so far, so good.

Be mindful of that thing in your hand. It makes high-velocity holes.

Jeffro said...

It's the result that counts, not the process.

Tam said...

"Readers, have ROs thrown you off the range? If yes, your rules aren't working. If no, then so far, so good."

I've seen plenty of people who should have been thrown off the range, and would have been, too, if the RO's had been moderately competent or even paying attention, so maybe that criterion isn't absolute.

pax said...


You missed my point. Maybe I didn't make it very well.

"Stay safe" isn't enough because there's no consensus on what "safe" actually means -- especially if we go by what That Guy thinks. Making up your own rules as you go along only works if you're not a moron. That Guy is a moron, but he doesn't know it.

In other words, defining the concept "safe" as it pertains to gunhandling is a primary function of the rules, and hence all the haggling over them.

That Guy thinks it's safe to point his unloaded gun at you. If the RO tosses him off the range for his sins, that doesn't change his mind; it just convinces him that the RO is a "rules nazi."

Then he goes home and writes a blog post about it.

John A said...

Not on topic, maybe, but

"that as far as I know, I am looking up the very nostril of Death Incarnate when you sweep me with the muzzle of that unloaded gun"

Is it coincidence that the recent episode of The Mentalist (Season 3 Episode 4) eliminated a pair of suspects because when handed a pistol they did a "muzzle sweep" of the area?

Roberta X said...

Pax: I think I was unclear. "Safe" is not what the shooter thinks is safe; it's what the other people on the range think is safe.

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
--Robbie Burns

Anonymous said...

"'Safe' is not what the shooter thinks is safe; it's what the other people on the range think is safe."

A community standard for safety?

What if the other people on the range do not know safe from a hole in the ground?

Shootin' Buddy

Roberta X said...

What, SB you don't have any rules that guide your behavior? Yours is the only behavior you can control, the only behavior where you can be certain you know the underlying rules and philosophy.

There's a community standard for driving safety -- be dangerous enough and people star giving you all manner of room. Eventually Officer Friendly offers you a free ride downtown.

We can control our own behavior; we have to evaluate the behavior of others and decide -- should I call a cop? An RO? Should I leave? Should I run like the very devil was on my heels?

John said...

Roberta X wrote:

My message to shooters is not the cheap and easy, "Be safe!" It's something a lot more harsh: Conduct yourself in such wise that those around you will judge you a safe shooter.

I like this standard. Don't give anyone around you reason to be nervous.

Stranger said...

Be safe is a very good standard. While I was taught ten rules, with the first being "If you don't know how to operate it, leave it alone until you do," all ten rules were safety rules. But being safe requires you to know what is safe.

Muzzle up? Maybe. Muzzle down? Maybe. Action open displaying an empty chamber? In most cases, yes.

And that is what rules, whether one rule or forty, are for.