A firearms instructor accidentally shooting a student is just about the definition of irony. But, that’s exactly what happened during an Ohio concealed carry class this past weekend. The instructor was holding what he thought was an unloaded Ruger .357 revolver. Unfortunately, it had a full 5 shot cylinder of .38 special rounds. He accidentally fired the gun during instruction, the bullet ricocheted off a desk, and struck a student in the upper arm. Fortunately for the student, there were three registered nurses attending the class and they helped tend the wound until the student was transported to the hospital. He was discharged the same day, bullet still inside his arm.
This unsettling story carries with it a few lessons for all shooters:
1. Complacency Is Dangerous.
The first is just how dangerous complacency is when dealing with firearms. When those who have handled firearms without incident, a comfort with their operation arises. Getting familiar with firearms isn’t in and of itself a problem—on the contrary, someone more familiar with their guns is apt to be a better shooter than those who are less familiar. The issue is when that “comfort” with firearms fosters a lack of vigilance with firearms safety. Lapses in diligent gun safety is when accidents happen.
2. Trigger Discipline Is Crucial.
As with the negligent discharge discussed recently, maintaining trigger discipline, that is, keeping your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you’ve made the decision to shoot, is key. Keeping your finger away from the trigger like that is the last “mental” line of defense against a negligent discharge. The man in the concealed carry class survived, but the round that embedded itself into his arm could just have easily struck somewhere more vital.
3. All Guns Are Loaded.
As the first rule of safe firearms handling teaches us, there is no such thing as an unloaded gun. I’ve personally witnessed someone safety checking a shotgun, and handing it off, as a cleared gun, to another shooter… who then accidentally fired a round. When someone hands us a “cleared firearm” how can we know if they haven’t just gone through the motions of clearing through rote habit without paying attention to what they saw? Or what if they’re tired? Distracted? Because we can’t share another’s mind, it is our responsibility as firearms owners and operators to verify the safety conditions of a gun put into our hands—every time. In the case of firearms classes, such as the one in this news story, it’s important to have more than one person verify the safety condition of any of the guns in the room to better ensure everyone’s safety.