This one hit me right in the gut. It happened about an hour up the road from my house. A young man was cleaning — or getting ready to clean — his AR while his even younger wife was sitting at the computer. For whatever reason, he pointed the “unloaded” rifle at her head and pulled the trigger. She’s dead, he’s in jail. 19 and 20 years old. Same age as my kids.
The thing that gets me about this kind of thing is that it’s so senseless. If only he hadn’t been steeped in the military culture that says we’ll just keep the guns unloaded and ammunition out of the way, and as long as there’s no ammunition around we can do whatever we want with the gun … maybe his wife would still be alive right now.
Everyone always wants to blame tragedies like this on “not checking” the gun’s loaded or unloaded status. If only he’d checked more carefully, we think! If only the gun wasn’t loaded! If only he’d followed Rule One!
But the other three rules matter too.
She would still be alive today if he had not pointed the gun at someone he wasn’t willing to kill.
She would still be alive today if he refused to touch the trigger until he had consciously picked out a safe place for the bullet to land, just in case there was a bullet in the chamber.
She would still be alive if he had checked and double-checked that he was okay with the bullet going where it ultimately went.
He didn’t do any of those things, and yet people hearing this story will almost always stop with, “Well, he should have checked it…”
- All guns are always loaded. (Treat them so!)
- Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
If only this poor guy had stubbornly created a solid, no excuses, built-in habit of always treating the “unloaded” gun with exactly the same respect and caution he’d give a loaded one… but he didn’t.
And his life is ruined and hers is over. 1
As always, 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 articles linked above which reflects information available to me on 10/19/2014, not on anything that may come to light in the future. ↩