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Reholster without looking? Grab for a falling gun?

So here’s a surveillance video of an off-duty cop in an elevator, talking to his wife. Apparently, the gun riding in his holster just behind his right hip felt uncomfortable to him, so he took advantage of a private moment inside the elevator to adjust the way the gun was riding.

[Watch the video.]

You see him chatting with his wife as he fiddles with the holster. He’s got an armload of packages in his other hand, and he’s clearly quite comfortable with both the gun and the situation. Not nervous, not worried, not a new gun owner. Just a relaxed guy talking to his wife while he settles his gun to ride more comfortably.

But something’s not working. He fiddles and fumbles with his clothes while he talks. Just can’t seem to find the right spot. No big deal.

A few moments later, you see him take the gun entirely out of the holster. He’s still not upset or even concerned. He’s just talking to his wife, paying attention to her. He glances briefly at his gun hand as he talks and you can clearly see his finger is off the trigger at that point. Then he moves to put the gun away.

It gets tangled in his coat. He bobbles the gun, fumbles, and …

BANG.

His wife first grabs for her ears (in an enclosed elevator … ouch!), then kneels down to see if he’s okay. He’s not, not really. Shot himself in the stomach. In the news reports, his injury was described as not  life-threatening, but if you’ve ever had an abdominal problem that required hospitalization, you know just how painful and serious a “non life-threatening” wound to that area can be. Bad juju.

When I came across the video on Facebook, several of my acquaintances opined that the unintentional discharge was a “booger hook and bangswitch” problem. If only he’d kept his finger off the trigger, they said. Obviously a bad gun handling habit, they said. Darn those poorly-trained cops anyway, they said.

From my watching of the video, I don’t see it.

The one clear glimpse we get of the gun in his hand, at 0:25 on the linked video, you can clearly see his straightened trigger finger alongside the frame as it should be. Of course, he could have casually allowed his finger to drift to the trigger a moment later as he was putting the gun away, as so many untrained shooters do. But given that brief glimpse of excellent finger discipline we do see on the video, and also given that this well respected officer has been on the force for a number of years, I don’t think that’s what happened.

I think he reflexively grabbed for the gun when it got tangled in his coat.

Does that mean this was just one of those things that happened to happen, and there was nothing he could or should have done differently? Not exactly. He definitely made some serious mistakes, and some of them look to be ongoing bad habits. As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than an embarrassing mistake, is an embarrassing mistake nobody learns anything from. So let’s learn from him.

Lessons:

  • Stop touching it. Unless you need to use it to shoot someone other than yourself, the safest place for your gun to stay is inside your secure holster. Keep it there. Don’t take it out of your holster unless you really, truly need to do that.
  • Pay attention to the gun. If you do absolutely need to handle your firearm for whatever reason, pay attention to it! It’s a deadly weapon. Give it the respect a deadly weapon deserves. Don’t multi-task. Unless you have something more urgent demanding your attention right freaking now (by which I mean, someone is trying to kill you), the gun is the only thing you should be thinking about whenever you handle it. Not the packages you’re juggling in your other hand, not the friend you’re chatting with on your cell phone, not the road in front of you as you’re driving. 1 Just, you know, pay attention to the thing in your hand that could kill you if you disrespect it.
  • Look before you holster. When it’s time to put the gun back into your holster and it’s reasonably safe to glance down (by which I mean, nobody is trying to kill you right now), take a moment to look at your holster to be sure it’s clear of obstructions. Yes, it’s really nifty if you’re so familiar with your equipment that you don’t have to look every time. Now that you’ve learned that skill, forget it unless you absolutely positively need it or need to practice to stay good at it. Most of the time, there won’t be six ninjas prepared to attack the moment you glance away. But there will always be a distinct improvement in your focused attention on good gun handling if you use your eyes to keep your hands out of trouble.
  • If something goes wrong while you’re holstering, STOP! Don’t keep moving, don’t shove the gun in harder, don’t just flip the obstruction out of the way without thinking about it. Just … STOP. Breathe. Think. If for whatever reason you weren’t paying 100% attention to your gun and gunhandling before, take a moment to reset your brain now. Take a deep breath to oxygenate your brain cells. If there’s something in your other hand, set it down or hand it to someone else so you can deal with the gun without distractions. If you’re having a conversation — on the phone or in person — stop talking so you can think about what you’re doing. Do this by habit, every time, as a lifetime habit. Fight the temptation to get complacent or lazy with the gun in hand.
  • Never grab for a falling gun. This includes guns that are slithering down inside your clothing, guns that are almost-but-not-quite still within your control, and guns that you think  you can probably catch. No matter how embassed you might feel if you drop your firearm (and given some surroundings, that can be very embarrassed indeed!), nobody has ever yet died of embarrassment. We can’t say the same about  grabbing for a falling gun.

So there you have it. Stay safe out there, friends. 2

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Footnotes

  1. Protip: Don’t handle firearms while driving. It’s a little like texting while driving, but noisier.
  2. As always, like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers. More information may come out as the investigation goes forward. My blog post is based on the news article linked above which reflects information available to me on 1/5/2015, not on anything that may come to light in the future.
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Warning Shots

First, the news: Man Arrested for Firing a Warning Shot at 9 Men Threatening to Rape His Fiancee. 1 That’s pretty much the entire story right there in the headline, but do follow the link and watch the video which includes interviews with both the man and his fiancee. 2

Actually, here’s the embedded video for those who don’t want to go off-site. Please note that it was recorded by an anti-gun source.

Predictably, a lot of people in the gun culture blew their tops about this one, feeling (quite rightly) that it was wrong, wrong, wrong that the aggressors were not arrested. For a lot of very good reasons, regardless of how the would-be victims respond, no one should be able to get away with that!

But is it “right” that this man was arrested for the warning shot? Without getting into any moral questions, I’m going to say it was the correct legal call. That’s because we are responsible for every bullet we fire, not just the ones that hit their appropriate targets. Firing into the air is illegal because it endangers innocent people, people who have absolutely nothing to do with the assault.

If you’re going to carry a gun, you should be 100% prepared to use that gun in defense of your own life and the lives of innocent others. On a practical level, throwing a bullet into the air wastes the bullet (and that’s a bad thing if you later need it to save your life). More important, it endangers innocent people. If the gun is the appropriate tool in the situation, then the appropriate place to put the bullet is into the body of the attacker. Nowhere else.

Just to be clear: given the information available to me as I write this on 11/16/14, I believe this was a deadly force attack (yes, even if the attackers were “only” threatening a rape and not a murder). Given that, I think the gun was the right tool for the job. But I also believe the victim used the gun in the wrong way, because just being threatened does not give the victim the right to endanger other people. Carrying a gun is a heavy responsibility and a serious one, not a choice to take lightly and not one to make if you’re not willing to understand how the laws apply to your use of force.

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Footnotes

  1. As always, like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers. More information may come out as the investigation goes forward. My blog post is based on the news article linked above which reflects information available to me on 11/16/2014, not on anything that may come to light in the future.
  2. Firmly resisting the rabbit trail marked, “… but we were well trained!” According to the interview, these folks had taken only a single short class, which is the bare legal minimum requirement to get a carry permit. That’s not well trained.
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Tab clearing

Lots of food for thought here. If you only have time to read one of these, take the first one. It’s vital.

  • Five NEVERs of Self Defense. Normally, I’m not a big fan of “always” or “never.” But the five items on this list are ones that I can get behind 100%. Never, never, never, never, never!
  • Woman Protects Her Own Life. Okay, that’s not the headline the evening news used about the woman who defended herself in a shootout with a violent criminal, but you know it’s accurate. In a more perfect world, her shooting would have been likewise.
  • Human Sacrifices for Gun Control. This review of Brian Aitken’s memoirs provides some tough but important reading for principled gun owners. As Aitken discovered, the New Jersey Supreme Court really meant what it wrote in State v Pelletieri: “When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril.” Aitken’s chilling tale provides a lesson for all law abiding gun owners to remember no matter where we live.
  • Why Innocent People Plead Guilty. Ever wonder why–? Hopefully, this will never apply to you or anyone you care about. But if it does, the information in this article might change the way you think about our legal system.
  • The Stupidity of the American Voter. Thought twice before putting this here since it’s a bit afield from my usual topics. Instead, I’m putting it up with a simple disclaimer: Don’t bother clicking this link if politics don’t interest you. But also? Please don’t ever vote if politics don’t interest you. 1

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Footnotes

  1. Just to be clear, I absolutely do not judge you if politics are not your thing, or if you vote differently than I do. That’s okay and not the end of the world. But can we both agree that voting should be reserved for those who care enough about it to understand what their votes will do to their families and communities?
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XD Loaded Chamber Indicator pictures

Answering a question that came up on Facebook about how readily visible the loaded chamber indicator might be to others. A picture is worth a thousand and all that…

The first picture shows a gun that is probably not loaded and probably does not have a round in the chamber, while the other probably does.

This gun probably does not have a round in the chamber.

This gun probably does not have a round in the chamber.

This gun probably does have a round in the chamber.

This gun probably does have a round in the chamber.

If you can’t see it at a glance, the difference we’re looking for is circled here.

sm-unloaded chamber circled

The loaded chamber indicator is flat against the slide, indicating there’s probably nothing in the chamber and the gun is probably not loaded.

And here, on a gun that is most likely loaded.

The loaded chamber indicator has popped up, indicating there's probably something in the chamber and the gun is most likely loaded.

The loaded chamber indicator has popped up, indicating there’s probably something in the chamber and the gun is most likely loaded.

Close ups.

Loaded chamber indicator is flat, meaning there's probably nothing in the chamber.

Loaded chamber indicator is flat, meaning there’s probably nothing in the chamber.

Loaded chamber indicator popped up, showing that a round may be in the chamber.

Loaded chamber indicator popped up, showing that a round may be in the chamber.

For those who wonder, there’s a specific reason I keep using the words “probably” and “most likely” to indicate whether the gun has a round in the chamber. That’s because like all mechanical devices, loaded chamber indicators can fail and when they fail, they lie.

Always follow all four of the Universal Safety Rules whenever you handle a gun, no matter what the bump on the slide tells you about the gun’s status.

Stay safe!

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Misc

Clearing the clutter out of my brain and tabs…

  • If you live in WA state, please vote — and please vote against 594. It’s a bad law. As it’s written, it would make felons out of most firearms instructors and their students. Pardon me for getting political here, but I just don’t think that’s a good thing and I’m not sure how I’m going to manage my training business should it pass.

(Edited to add: the irony of knowing that a lot of female not-too-serious gun owners are voting yes, which then makes it illegal for them to ask their husbands to clean their guns for them? That would be priceless if it weren’t so tragic.)

  • Good article at Reason about mass public shootings written by Grant Duwe, who has published multiple peer-reviewed studies of the subject: The Truth about Mass Public Shootings. Are public shootings really getting more common?
  • By now, probably everyone with an interest in self-protection has probably seen the video of the woman walking through NYC over a 10-hour time frame. Lots to think about on that one and maybe I’ll revisit it one of these days. Meanwhile, here are two things to think about.
    • First, for women: her decision to not acknowledge people or set verbal boundaries — that is, deciding that she would never look at the panhandlers or street hustlers and also never give them a firm, “NO” when they talked to her — seems to have a negative effect on quite a few of them. Some of them clearly regarded her ignoring them as a challenge that they needed to overcome, and that could have become a problem for her. Giving them a non-inviting level eye gaze that acknowledges their presence, an equally uninviting nod of acknowledgement when appropriate, and a brief verbal “No” or “Not interested” without breaking stride would go a long way toward getting those guys to back off without setting yourself up as a challenging conquest.
    • Second, for guys:  I’ve heard a lot of guys laughing about how she should have regarded the catcalls and personal remarks from strangers as compliments. One friend of mine pointed out that if a woman told him his butt looked nice, he’d be pleased all day! That may be true, but it’s not analogous. Guys, because of the size and strength disparity between men and women, a much closer analogy that might help you understand why (many) women feel so unhappy about these situations would be thinking about how it would make you feel if two or three very large and physically powerful biker dudes told you they like your butt as they crowded into your personal space. Maybe they mean it as a compliment in their world, but you a) are not interested in being sexually attractive to those particular people, and b) may quite reasonably feel physically threatened and lack full confidence about your ability to get away from these guys if they decide to grab you. You can work on your physical skills to improve your odds of surviving an assault from them, but the size and strength disparity will still be there regardless. So don’t be too quick to dismiss or minimalize some women’s discomfort and distress about situations like this on the street.
  • Brigid‘s book is out! The Book of Barkley talks about life and love through the eyes of a labrador retriever. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brigid’s heart-warming style of writing (I have), you’ll enjoy her book too. And no, it’s nothing to do with the topic of this blog, unless like me you realize that the whole purpose of learning about self-defense is to be able to live the lovely life you want to live, full of peace and joy and all other good things. And for those who love them — dogs.  ;)
  • Fear and the Freeze Response, a blog post I wrote last February, has been making the rounds online again. Love to see people realize that “old” material can still be important and worth reading. The brave and true story it’s based on (Abuse, Abduction, Self Defense) from Limatunes is worth reading too. Or worth reading again, especially for those who have daughters entering their dating years.
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Myth-tical theories: Getting Sued

Some folks out there have the apparent impression that dead guys can’t sue. This is not true except in the most narrow technical sense. Dead guys sue people all the time — or rather, their estates do. And so do their surviving loved ones. It’s called a Wrongful Death Lawsuit, and it’s one of the most common types of lawsuits in America.

Other people have the apparent impression that dead guys can’t testify against you in court. This may be technically true — but the physical evidence left on scene, including the dead guy’s body, certainly can and will testify to the facts of what happened.

For some reason, these two myths just won’t die in the self defense community. It’s probably because they reflect a strong desire to make the attacker pay for the things he and others like him have done over the years.

But as I’ve said before, self defense isn’t about justice. It’s not about fairness. It’s not about punishing the bad guy. It’s just about survival. It’s just about staying alive until the authorities arrive to clean up the mess and haul the bad guys off to jail. That’s it, that’s all, end of story. All the fancy lawyer words on the books pretty much amount to making sure that when you use deadly force in self defense, self defense is your entire purpose and goal.

The only way to protect yourself from a bad outcome in either type of court, civil or criminal, is to be absolutely righteous in your actions when you defend yourself in the first place. Guard your mindset so that your plan and your goals always stay on the right side of the law, and your actions will most likely follow.

If you’re not sure how to do that, the first step is to do your homework. Learn the law and how it applies to you.

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Just a joke…

Always amazed at the things I see online. Here’s one that showed up in my feed the other day: “Due to the price increase on ammo, do not expect a warning shot!”

This kind of thinking does not go to a place I ever want my heart to go.

It’s just a joke, and I get that. It has to be a joke, because a good person would not really believe that the cost of a round of ammunition is of less value than a human life, nor would we ever kill someone just to save fifty cents if that’s all it would cost to warn them away so they wouldn’t get hurt or killed.

Warning shots aren’t smart, for a whole lot of very solid reasons — but the heart-cold callousness that says something like this and then laughs about it … well, that’s not something I’d want said of where my heart was if I ever faced the heartbreaking choice to save an innocent life at the cost of a criminal’s life. In the best of all possible worlds, such a choice would never be needed.

So I can’t laugh at that callousness here either.

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After the shooting…

Okay, so the worst has happened and you needed to defend yourself from a violent attacker. He 1 is down and apparently unconscious. Now what?

That’s a complete conversation I am happy to have with card-carrying good people in class. It’s not one I’m willing to have with the internet at large because there’s just too much room for misunderstanding and foolishness, not to mention criminal misbehavior. However, I can tell you what not to do next.

DON’T:

1 – Assume it’s over too soon. The immediate physical threat is not over until the cops have taken over the scene. The legal threat won’t be over for a long time to come. Maybe even a very long time. Even though you may feel shaky and adrenalized, or hyped up and talkative, or exhausted and ready to shut out the world, or some weird combination of all of these at once, now is not the time to quit. Stay aware of what’s happening around you. Do not relax your physical vigilance until law enforcement takes control of the situation, and don’t relax your personal vigilance until you can turn your legal worries over to a lawyer in private.

2 – Mess with the evidence. Don’t “drag the body back inside.” Don’t “put a knife in his hand.” Don’t rearrange the scene in any way you can avoid. That’s a crime and a stupid one.

3 – Fail to call the cops. If the violent crime being committed against you was serious enough that you needed to pull your gun, it was serious enough that you need to call the cops to report it. What, you think there were no witnesses? Don’t count on that. More likely someone caught the whole thing on video and it’ll be on YouTube before you get home. Besides which, you’re on the side of the angels. You’re the good guy. Act like it and be willing to testify against your attacker.

4 – Leave the scene except to get to a safer location where you can immediately call the cops.

5 – Point a gun at the cops when they arrive. (Hint: this means maybe you should position yourself where you’ll see them arriving and won’t be startled into turning around with a gun in your hand.)

6 - Lie. About anything.

7 – Trust your brain. Be aware that the influence of adrenalin on your mental processing abilities means that you Do. Not. Know. (really, truly, literally do not know) the answer to any question involving distance, timing, or even the sequence of events. Your adrenalized brain will lie to you about what you know, and you may even feel quite confident about it, but that’s not the same thing as really knowing. Which means that you will literally be making stuff up if you answer questions like, “How far away was he when you fired?” or “How much time did this take?” Whether you mean to do it or not, making stuff up is one way to end up in a whole lot of legal trouble. So don’t trust your brain’s ability to answer questions immediately after a shooting.

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Footnotes

  1. Or she — attackers come in both sexes and all ages.
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