Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Detective Bret Starnes

Remember, leave guns to the experts. Which means the police and the military. It’s just too dangerous to have regular citizens running around with guns. Oh. Wait… (sigh) Another abysmal example of gun handling by a member of the law enforcement community. This time, it’s 12-year Denver PD veteran Detective Bret Starnes . . .

columbinecourier.com reports that Det. Starnes had been getting in some range time (yes!) when his pistol jammed. So he returned home to pick up another heater.

Starnes tested the second gun in his master bathroom, “dry-firing” it without ammunition, the report states. He later loaded a 17-round magazine into the gun but said he forgot it contained live rounds when he pulled the trigger again, hitting his left hand. The bullet apparently went through a bathroom mirror but did not go through the wall.

It seems that nature called and Starnes was playing with his gun while on the throne. Fortunately, his wife and children who were in the next room weren’t hurt, too.

Never mind the extreme fail displayed by playing with your gun in the can. Have you ever pulled the trigger on a gun – loaded or not – with your hand in front of it? Me neither. Why the hell would you?

As the good detective should have learned, there are four pretty simple rules for firearm safety.

1-Every gun is always loaded
2-Never point a gun at something you’re not willing to destroy
3-Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
4-Know your target and what’s behind it

You have to break a minimum of two rules for something bad to happen. Starnes managed to violate three of them. Maybe he’ll bone up on the rules now.

41 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Detective Bret Starnes

  1. avatarDeployedBubba says:

    This type of stuff happens in deployed locations more often than you would believe. There is nothing worse than wasting an aircraft to airevac some knucklehead that shot himself in the ass of all places, because he had an itch and his M4 muzzle was the most logical thing he could find to scratch it with. My brothers in arms…*sigh* Most of the guys will tell you that the reason they don’t complain more about wearing their battle rattle on post isn’t because of indirect fire from the enemy, it’s poor weapons handling technique by their comrades.

    Oddly enough, I never hear stories about our female warriors putting themselves in these types of situations. I wonder if there’s something to that?

    • avatarChurchSox says:

      It was ever so. In Vietnam, there were five incidents in which live fire hit close enough for nightmares. Three of them were friendly: A ricochet off a concrete wall, a 105 mm round that fell short, and an M-79 round that was accidentally discharged and exploded against a utility pole. Only twice did the fire come from anyone who actually meant me any harm.

  2. avatarCUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    Don’t you know he was only trying to catch the bullet in his free hand?

  3. avatarRalph says:

    He shot himself in the hand while in the crapper? Wow, is he lucky that he didn’t have anything in his palm at the time.

  4. avatarsdog says:

    was his hand over the barrel, how did he shoot his hand?

  5. avatarbobby b says:

    Well, it WAS a handgun.

  6. avatarMark O'Brien says:

    Actually, it sounds like he violated all 4 rules at once!

  7. avatarHeatSeeker says:

    In my town, we had a young woman who had just been hired as a police officer. All her life she had dreamed of this job.

    She was shot and killed in an accident. On the range. At the Police Academy. By her firearms instructor.

    She was 23. Her name was Tara Marie Drummond.

  8. avatarVT-pistolero says:

    Sounds like Det. Starnes doesn’t get enough practice at the range. Typical cop…

  9. avatarSteveP says:

    What an idiot. This reminds me of the ATF mall ninja that told a classroom full of kids that he was the only one in the room qualified to handle a gun a few seconds before he shot himself in the leg.
    Like my father taught me, if you don’t know the condition of your weapon at all times you have no business carrying one.

  10. avatarFirehand says:

    So he put in a loaded mag, RACKED THE SLIDE, and then forgot he’d done it and pulled the trigger?

    Bleep.

  11. avatarI see says:

    I suppose he called the rest of us “civilians” too?

  12. avatarDave says:

    By my reading, he broke all 4 rules.

  13. avatarteapartydoc says:

    The explanation given doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    • avatarSonnyJim says:

      17 round mag pretty much means the ubiquitous Glock. An empty Glock is top-heavy piece of crap. A fully loaded Glock is balanced, but twice as heavy. There’s no way that you don’t know that you have a 17 round magazine inserted in any pistol with which you are familiar at any rate. This chowderhead had, as we say, a negligent discharge, not an “accidental” one. He knew the weapon was loaded. He may not have realized that their was one in the pipe, but I doubt that seriously. Sounds like a failed suicide attempt to me.

      • avatarSVT says:

        Doesn’t pass the smell test. First, you can see the rounds in the magazine. Second, you can feel the weight of the rounds. Third, Glock slides lock back on empty magazines. If he put an empty magazine in a Glock 17 and racked the slide, the slide would lock back and he would have to release it to dry fire. If it didn’t lock back, that was proof that there had been at least one round in the magazine that had been transferred into the breach.

        And for all the Glock bashers below – sorry that you are flummoxed by the whole “pull the trigger, gun go boom” principle. Watch out for those revolvers!

  14. avatarThomasD says:

    One day an acquaintance of mine (we used to shoot at the same gun club) was waiting for his wife to get ready to go out for the night. Being a CCW, he decided to get in some dry fire practice. Carefully unloading his pistol, making sure it was empty, he then proceeded to dry fire at images on the tv screen.

    A short time later his wife said she was ready, so he loaded the pistol, put it on safe, and holstered it. Just before they got out the door the wife decided she had a couple more things to take care of, so he calmly returned to the couch and resumed his practice. The TV did not survive the sole live round to center mass.

    Prior to hearing that story I used to dry fire just about anywhere. Now I only do so against a reliable backstop I would actually be willing to shoot.

  15. avatarDaveP. says:

    It’d make sense if it was a Glock and he was trying to fieldstrip it. You need to retract the slide and pull the trigger to strip a Glock, and I know of at least one other case where a user shot himself through the hand because he was pressing the front of the slide back with his hand (instead of pointing it in a safe direction and pulling the slide back by the serrations) and forgot the gun had a live one in the barrel.
    Just like this here:
    http://www.thegunzone.com/nd.html

    Also note the description of a “17-round magazine”. Glock 17… any bets?

  16. avataregoist says:

    An analog for his puberty days, in the same setting.

  17. avatarCrawdad says:

    Our local force doesn’t have a range of its own so for a while they used a commercial range. That is until the owner banned the entire force from his establishment because of ongoing problems with their lack of gun safety. They now use an outdoor range that I sometimes frequent. The last time I was out there I started noticing bullet holes in the roof, fascia and even posts that cover the firing positions. Another patron told me he had been on hand when a couple of those holes were added . . . by the same group of law enforcers.

  18. avatarsonoranian says:

    Heh – I’m still trying to figure out the use of the word “too” in the article (Fortunately, his wife and children who were in the next room weren’t hurt, too.). Is this in reference to the fact that the wall wasn’t hurt?

  19. avatarMean Granny says:

    My daddy taught me how to handle a gun when I was a kid. That was probably 45 years ago. He’d roll over in his grave if he read this. Kinda scary to think the police are so careless with guns, especially if they come knocking on your door at 5 AM for no good reason.

  20. avatartim johnson says:

    Great post, great website.
    But you should be shot (metaphorically) for using the phrase “begs the question,” the wrong way.
    You meant “raises the question,” or some such other way of saying it.
    “Begging the question,” has a particular and time-honored meaning which should not be violated……
    by the way: Have you stopped beating your wife?
    An example of begging the question (which does not require the question format)

    Remember, first they come for our language, then our guns.

    Here’s the late, great Safire to explain
    How to (and how not to) Beg the Question

    From “On Language: Semantitheft,” by William Safire
    the
    The New York Times, May 13, 2001

    If the issue I raise today cries out for an answer, if the point of this article invites close cross-examination, am I begging the question?

    No. Though my trickle-down convictions may beggar my neighbor, I will not beg the question, because I am not in the fallacy dodge. Of the many fulminations from specialists about the distortions of their vocabularies by the lay public, this mendicant phrase leads all the rest.

    Here’s how it is mistakenly used: Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, noted that a downturn in the economy would reduce tax revenues and said: “So it begs the question, how large the tax cut? And it begs the question, how long the tax cut?”

    “As a retired teacher of logic,” writes Daniel Merrill, who taught philosophy at Oberlin College, “I implore you: give the technical use of beg the question back to the logicians!”

    A Rutgers University philosophy professor, Tim Mauldin, agrees: “Let’s stomp out this abuse!” He explains: “If the defender of the thesis asks (begs’) that his interlocutor accept as a premise of the argument the very issue in dispute (the question’), then he or she has begged the question. This error is sometimes called ‘circular reasoning.”‘

    Example of circular question-begging: “Parallel lines never meet because they are parallel.” That takes you right around the barn and back where you started.

    Example of linear question-begging: “Anything Safire says about anything is suspect because you can’t believe what you read in the newspapers.” All the people who fervently believe that to be true make no legitimate argument because they take for granted a premise that is unproven. Their solution to that would be to offer proof: “Safire is suspect because he misspelled the name of James Madison’s wife (Hello, Dolley!).” That causes me to beg pardon, not question.

  21. avatarMike M. says:

    For bad things to happen, I think you only have to break one rule when a Glock is involved ;-)

  22. avatarLou Gots says:

    Guns don’t accidentally shoot people; stupid people accidentally shoot people.

    Ast this moron and his pig superiors whether or not they would have charged a non-police moron who touched off a round like this with some sort of “reckless endangerment” or “endangering welfare of minors,” something like that.

  23. avatarTimothy says:

    Sounds like this cop broke the 2 biggest rules my Dad told me about Guns!
    1-Always treat a gun like its loaded!
    2-Never point a gun at something you don’t plan on shooting!
    Oh and he was also a believer in knowing what your shooting at before pulling the trigger. Thing is my Dad never had any Formal Training. He just grew up in South East Kentucky where everybody had guns and in his day done alot of Coon Hunting! If my Dad knew that with no formal training a cop should know that to. If not he ain’t got no bussiness being a cop!

  24. avatardon says:

    Yeah, the experts, it’s probably better they use the 9mms today; the round has less penetration when contagious fire happens, and the ladies can better handle the recoil. Yup, a 44. mag round will go through 6 court room walls when you have an accidental discharge in the jury box playing with the gun. You know you’re going to have some uniform issues when you notice the bullet hole in your locker door. There’s no excitement like getting hit in the side at the range by the entire 357 magnum revolver flying through the air after it left the female deputies hand when firing hot loads. Of course, that’s not counting the exciting deputy who fired a 45. into his buttock holstering his Colt auto loader. But accidently discharging a 45. in a gun locker while depositing the Colt and feeling the heat flash comes close . Yeah, experts, they even get fired sometimes, usually for accidently shooting the County Managers desk while occupied, the bullet traveling through multiple walls. After awhile it’s no longer an adventure, it’s just a job.

    • avatarCat says:

      I’m a lady. I take issue with your “ladies can better handle the recoil” comment. I shoot my colt .45 and have shot a desert eagle .357 (one handed) just fine at 5’1″ 120 lbs. Women shouldn’t have any trouble with big guns if they know what they’re doing. Just gotta know how to handle it. Like this guy didn’t. You need better deputies. Playing with a gun while loaded? Now that’s some kinda stupid. Like other commenters have said, something doesn’t sit right with the story.

  25. avatarBill N says:

    Well, then there’s actually getting hit in the head (left temple) by a ricochet at an outdoor range. Fortunately enough energy had been spent that it was only painful, not damaging.

  26. avatarMilo says:

    The same thing happened here in Weehawken last year only it was in the squad room filled with cops. He didn’t hit anyone, but it sure left a big hole in his hand. It was a Glock. Gee, I hate Glocks. I guess cops like them because they look so “mean”.

  27. avatarRichard says:

    I learnt those rules when I was 14 years old. And living in England, where owning that weapon would be illegal (unless you are a “reformed” IRA or UVF terrorist, but that is a separate political idiocy from the idiocy of the ban on handguns).

  28. avatarAnon says:

    Cops preference for Glocks is not about looks. The price and reliability are the main points of interest.

    This Detective obviously chose a place where he would not need to change his underwear, but that is about the only good choice he made. I would hope his department at least sends him for serious remedial firearms training- after he heals, I mean.

  29. avatarLarryG says:

    Some time back I had some dumbass cop try to counsel me on the use of weapons. The only problem was I am a Viet Nam grunt veteran and have fired more weapons than that punk could ever dream of. Got no use for dimwit NAZIs

  30. avatartim says:

    Paid vacation buddy!

    This guy has to be an idiot, why didn’t he fix the first gun at the range. OR did he buy some un-reliable pos that jams. Get an XD DA!!!

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