Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Carlton Jackson III

Once again into the breach Dear Horatio, as TTAG risks the slings and arrows of outraged readers, wondering why anyone would pile criticism on top of tragedy. To which I can only respond: to prevent another tragedy. Guns are lethal. To turn away from the circumstances surrounding their negligent discharge is to downplay firearms’ inherent dangers. If we failed to live up to our url and tell the truth about guns and gun owners, we’d be conspirators in a code of silence that encourages lax gun safety and puts gun owners in harm’s way. And we’d give aid and succor to those who would deny our right to bear arms. The truth hurts. And how. So . . .

The Chowan County 911 central communications director was killed Saturday after his son’s hunting rifle accidentally discharged.

Rifles don’t discharge themselves (unless they’re Remington 700s, apparently). Once again, the mainstream media (hamptonroads.com and others) sugar-coat a simple fact: an irresponsible gun owner shot and killed an innocent bystander. In this case, the shooter killed his father. A man whose work must have taught him both the fragility of life and the importance of discipline. A lesson that his 25-year-old son failed to learn, or observe, in a single, fatal instant.

Carlton Franklin Jackson Jr., 46, director of Chowan County Central Communications, was killed at 2 p.m. Saturday when his son’s deer hunting rifle discharged into his chest at a family member’s residence in Plymouth, said Lt. Kevin Sawyer of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Jackson, his son, Carlton Jackson III of Elizabeth City, and other family members had been hunting in the morning and were returning for an afternoon hunt when the accident happened. The younger Jackson was checking his rifle to make sure it was not loaded and safe for travel when it went off, Sawyer said.

One of my go-to gun gurus, a combat vet, once told me “It’s only a matter of time before you have a negligent discharge.” The words chilled me to the bone. There I was thinking I’d never fire a shot “by accident.” I’m too careful. Too conscious of the dangers. Too well trained. And yet . . . the clock was ticking.

“Muzzle discipline is the Mother of All Safety Rules,” he said. “It’s the one thing you MUST control. Without fail.”

And so I focus on muzzle discipline first, last and always—to the point where I can’t go shooting with some of my gun buds. They just don’t get it. “It’s not loaded.” “It’s not pointed at you.” It’s the same difficulty I encounter in my local gun store, where the salesman feels free to wave the muzzle around like it’s a light saber.

Gun safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you’re in a hunting party or on the range and you see someone inadvertently pointing a gun at human flesh, chew them out. I hate to do it. But I do it. Because gun owners like Carlton Jackson III don’t mean to shoot people. They will spend the rest of their lives wishing they hadn’t done so. But they do. Unless we stop them. If we can.

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