Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where Jeff Cooper Erred

A US Navy sailor killed his girlfriend by shooting her with what he thought was an unloaded gun:

MILWAUKEE — A Wisconsin sailor told police in Virginia he didn’t realize his gun was loaded when he pointed it at his girlfriend’s head and pulled the trigger, killing the woman.

A report in the Newport News Daily Press says the 22-year-old Mackie, from Chippewa Falls, told investigators he was playing with his gun at his Navy apartment in Newport News, Va. Thursday, walked up behind Trask, pointed the weapon at her head and pulled the trigger. A criminal complaint says Mackie then called 911.

USMC Colonel Jeff Cooper, as all conscientious gun owners should know, formulated four rules for safe gun handling:

1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)
3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

Cooper showed great insight in formulating these rules. When it came time to teach them to my nephew, I distilled them down to three, substituting one of which was my own:

1. A gun is not a toy. Don't play with it!
2. A gun is always loaded.
3. Never point a gun at anything you aren't ready to destroy.

The sailor in this story violated all three of my rules. He was treating his gun as a toy, putting himself in the mindset of a child, and engaging in childish behavior. Had he been taught my rules, he wouldn't have been playing with the gun, he would have known that the gun was loaded, and (hopefully) he wouldn't have pointed it at his girlfriend's head.

But it all boils down to the very first rule I taught my nephew: he treated the gun as a toy. I think that perhaps Jeff Cooper, as great an authority as he was, failed to realize that the behavior of a human that picks up a gun must be addressed more firmly than in his Rule 1. It's all very well to be taught that all guns are always loaded, but if you aren't taught the proper mindset when faced with a firearm, violations of Cooper's Rules will continue.

A Gun Is Not A Toy. Please, emphasize this to those you train, for all our sakes.

1 comment:

Ronsonic said...

I remember Elmer Keith ranting against cap guns, he considered their very existence an insult to the respect due a firearm. He reasoned that a child would be able to learn to handle a real gun soon enough and not having to unlearn anything was an advantage.