We’ve seen some tragic instances of people forgetting the check the chamber lately. In addition to other egregious rules violations, that little detail has tripped up some gun owners and cost two bystanders their lives. Now, it appears to have happened again, this time to a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division certified Concealed Weapons Permit course instructor. While he was teaching a Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) class. And it nearly cost the wife of another deputy her life . . .

Calvin, “Skip” Smith’s a Spartanburg, South Carolina Sheriff’s Deputy. Yesterday, Skip was training CWP students. The report from groupstate.com isn’t completely clear. It appears that Crystal Smith (no relation) was taking the class, too, standing next to the student with whom Skip Smith was working.

Deputy Calvin “Skip” Smith was showing another student in the course how to properly grip her gun when it discharged, and Crystal, who was standing beside the other student on the firing line, was shot. Wright said the bullet passed through Crystal’s arm and entered her side.

Wright said Smith, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division certified Concealed Weapons Permit Course instructor, was unaware a round had been chambered into the pistol. He was off duty when the accidental shooting occurred.

The .22 bullet went through Crystal Smith’s arm and into her side. She’s now in stable condition after recovering from surgery.

“If we learn anything from this, we have a very well trained guy that had an unfortunate accident that could have cost somebody their life,” (Spartanburg Sheriff Chuck Wright) said.

He said to always make sure a pistol is unloaded when it’s handed to you and stressed how important it is to be careful when handling weapons.

“The instructor should have checked the pistol, and he didn’t do it,” Wright said. “It was just a mistake.”

Wright (above) probably didn’t want to get into too much detail during a press conference. So he left out the part about Smith failing to keep his finger off the trigger. Oh, and pointing the gun in an unsafe direction, too. But look at the bright side: Deputy Smith provided an unusually vivid lesson for the rest of the class in how not to handle a gun.

“This was a very unfortunate accident that has taken an emotional toll on everyone present. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. Smith, her family, friends and all those present at today’s class,” Lt. Tony Ivey with the sheriff’s office said in a written statement.

Truer words, no? This incident demonstrates a simple fact: no matter how experienced you are or much you know about guns – and we don’t doubt the deputy is very experienced and knows all of the rules – it only takes a momentary lapse of attention (and breaking two or three rules) for something really bad to happen.

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46 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Calvin “Skip” Smith

  1. Say what you want about revolvers, but they make it hard to overlook a round in the chamber. The design of the modern revolver may be a little older than modern pistols, and revolvers generally hold fewer rounds, but the design is inherently safer than the design of pistols. I’m not knocking pistols. I’m praising revolvers.

    • +1
      Ruger LCR looking better every day. I don’t want an 18 round capacity as much as I want less ways for things to go wrong.

  2. I do not believe anyone wants a negligent discharge to happen.

    With that point established, as gun owners we must accept two truths with firearms:One, someone else out there will make a mistake. Two, we have the personal duty to ensure that someone isn’t us.

    Do not make the mistake of reading this article thinking people who have negligent discharges are some kind of retrograde individuals. All of us who own guns are one split second of inattention away from winding up on the IGOTD list.

    • I do think that he is a retrograde individual. Not only did he take the responsibility for the gun, but he decided to train others. If you follow at least 2 of the 4 Jeff Cooper rules of gun safety at all times, even if you have an ND, no one will be hurt. If that sounds too hard, then sell your guns. Don’t make excuses.

    • I disagree, ST.

      Anyone can make a mistake. I make mistakes. But it takes a special kind of person to make FOUR mistakes at once, like Skippy here did.

      1. He made a mistake about whether the gun was loaded.
      2. He made a mistake about where it was pointed.
      3. He made a mistake about putting his finger on the trigger.
      4. He made the final mistake then actually *pulling* the trigger.

      The ONLY way that happens to someone who has had a minimum of basic training is if they decide they know better, and can ignore one or two of the rules. This isn’t a case of a trigger snag, or Grebner-type accident where a guy was trying to train at a higher speed than he was ready for. We’re talking about administrative handling- no pressure, no rush, and in fact where the whole point is to talk about the safety rules. There’s no excuse for Skippy- he decided to ignore the rules. That isn’t something that just happens by accident.

  3. At first I thought that the round indicator on the top of my ruger was overkill, but after reading the latest rash of these incidents I cant help but wonder if the indicator would have kept these events from happening.

  4. I knew I recognized the picture and name of the sheriff. Sheriff Chuck Wright is a forceful advocate for CCW, especially for women.

    http://www.wyff4.com/r/29638219/detail.html

    The post also says: Wright (above) probably didn’t want to get into too much detail during a press conference, so he left out the part about Wright failing to keep his finger off the trigger. It was Deputy Smith who pulled the trigger, not Wright.

  5. This is exactly why gun ownership, and carrying guns should be licensed and only done by people who have training. Only trainers are professional enough to teach people how to safely handle guns.

    Not.

    We need to abolish the requirement to have a license to carry a weapon and we need to at least stop the silly training requirements before being licensed.

        • Most state-mandated training isn’t about training. It’s about public relations, entry barriers, pacifying the ultra-left, keeping the poor(er) away from legal guns and a lot of other things, but it’s not about training.

  6. I think my Walther PP has a simple chamber indicator, but in reality I tend to treat my guns as if they are loaded, even when I know they are not loaded. I also do not fully trust the safeties on guns either.
    I actually had an aquaintance who allegedly dropped a gun from a tree with the safety on and the gun discharged and killed him.

  7. “was unaware a round had been chambered” — Rule #1 FAIL

    “how to properly grip her gun when it discharged” — Rule #3 FAIL

    “Crystal, who was standing beside the other student on the firing line, was shot” — Rules #2 & 4 FAIL

    Honestly, how hard is it to follow the freaking rules?

    • I’ve been thinking over the last week or so, with the theme of these IGOTD postings, that would be a good Question of the Day: how hard is it to follow the rules?

      Yes, the rules are simple. But people really do seem to have a hard time following them all the time. How many times have you (you meaning the AI, not just Henry) had a momentary lapse in judgement and broke one or more of Cooper’s rules that didn’t result in a ND, but only because you got lucky? How recently? What, if anything, distracted you? Just how bad would it have been if luck hadn’t broken your way?

      What I’m getting at is, I wonder how well Cooper’s rules really work with human nature. There’s no arguing with their logical soundness, and how nicely they overlap and support each other. But empirically, it seems when people break one of the rules, they often end up breaking more than one at the same time. It can all come apart rather quickly.

  8. I have received lots of formal firearms training (Boy Scouts, U.S. Army, CCW class, and 80 hours of training at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute in Nevada), but I fervently believe that training must not be required of citizens in order to exercise a fundamental and individual Constitutional Right.

    That being said, common sense and sound judgment should lead responsible citizens to obtain such training. Citizens exercising their rights without training are not bring responsible, but they are within their rghts. A way to make this work, and encourage training, would be for the government to grant those who undergo training a cap on civil damages should they ever be held liable for their use of a firearm.

  9. Poor training results in failure. Good training has positive results. Mastery cannot be achieved without training.

    I spent two summers training teenagers as an NRA – certified instructor to shoot .22 bolt actions and Remington 870 twelve gauges without an incident. “Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction” was clearly an epic fail in this story, but certainly does not invalidate all firearm training.

    I vehemently disagree the CCW holders should not have any sort of training requirement. Certainly the level of mastery varies, but if you cannot prove your competence to at least one other person under minimal stress, than you have little to argue that you are worthy of the right to carry. I’ve done more than 30 rifle, pistol, shotgun, and taser qualification courses for work, so I have some perspective on the matter.

    • Wow! Talk about an authoritarian. I didn’t realize someone must prove themselves “worthy” of exercising their inherent, inalienable rights.

    • Well, heck fire! Let’s bring back literacy testing in order to vote. Voting has wider ranging consequences that are longer term for more people. How about proving a mastery of the English language and critical thinking before being able to exercise free speech?

      • Let’s also remove that pesky licensing requirement before allowing people to drive! Clearly cars and guns can’t be that dangerous, so why bother with training?

        Yes, I’m that terrible authoritarian that believes people should receive some sort of training and demonstrate a minimal level of competence prior to obtaining a CCW or driving a car because misuse of either can be fatal.

        • The right to drive a car is neither a fundamental human right, nor a right specifically enumerated in the constitution.

        • Cars weren’t around when the constitution was created. If you want to promote a lack of training and reasonable certification, that’s your business, but it certainly won’t be mine.

        • No, cars weren’t around when the constitution was drafted. But pointing that out really raises more questions than it answers. Is it your contention that driving is a fundamental right, or that keeping and bearing arms is not? Would the people who wrote the constitution and bill of rights have put driving in there as an inalienable right if there had been cars?

          Also, I’m not promoting a lack of training. I would encourage anyone who handles guns to get just as much training as their time and money will allow, and to do it before keeping or carrying a loaded firearm if at all possible. But I believe keeping and bearing arms is a human right, so the training should be voluntary. In fact, I doubt you’ll find anyone on this site who “promote[s] a lack of training” per se.

        • We both promote guns and training. My concern is not those who are well – trained, either by private training, government training, or both. Rather, I support that most states (as far as I know) require some training and legal review prior to issuing a CCW (or CHL if you prefer). Not everyone is as responsible with firearms as the members of this site, and that is where a reasonable amount of mandatory training has the most benefit. A CCW class, for an experienced and knowledgable shooter, is redundant waste of time. But it does offer him or her the opportunity to share skills with less experienced shooters.

  10. Is it just me, or does this post seem a bit like covering a tired driver’s careless left-turn crash in Road & Track? WWBYC (What Would Brock Yates Cover?) I assume Deputy Smith’s brain had been anesthetised by the person of female gender whom he was instructing. Aren’t revolvers a mixed bag for safety? The adult owners seem less accident prone. Found by children (as of course they never should be) they seem more frequently the source of tragedies. The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, received from Franco a revolver for his 14th birthday. He killed his little brother with it by accident. Nonetheless, I want a 642.

  11. When I was a child my Dad taught me
    That a shotist was a satisfying thing to be.

    He showed me a pistol and a rifle true
    A variety of armament a time or two.

    CHORUS: A variety of armament a time or two.

    I was taught to handle weapons so carefully
    That the safety rules are truly now a part of me.

    CHORUS: I was taught to handle weapons so carefully
    That the safety rules are really just a part of me.

    All guns are always loaded as they ought to be.
    Always check a gun yourself and always look to see.

    And you never let the muzzle of a gun (even a toy)
    Cover anything that you’re not willing to destroy.

    CHORUS: Cover anything that you’re not willing to destroy.

    All guns are always loaded as they ought to be
    If they’re not they’re really hardly any use to me.

    CHORUS: All guns are always loaded as they ought to be.
    Always check a gun yourself and always look to see.

    Be certain of the target that you wish to hit
    What’s behind, beneath, beside, on top and under it.

    Keep your finger off the trigger only just until
    Your sights are on the target and you’re set to kill.

    CHORUS: Your sights are on the target and you’re set to kill.

    All guns are always loaded as they ought to be
    If they’re not they’re really hardly any use to me.

    CHORUS: All guns are always loaded as they ought to be
    Always check a gun yourself and always look to see.

    Now these are the rules in songlike form
    They’ll be easy to remember if you’re like the norm.

    Just take these safety rules to heart you’ll see
    You’ll be safe as any human on this earth can be.

    CHORUS: You’ll be safe as any human on this earth can be.

    These rules are so important – as they ought to be.
    To be safe as any human on this earth can be.

    CHORUS: Just take these safety rules to heart you’ll see
    You’ll be safe as any human on this earth can be.

    -Jeff Coopers Commentaries, volume 11 No. 13.

    • Intended to be sung to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan’s song “When I was a Lad” from Act I, HMS Pinafore…. typical Cooper-as-late-Victorian….

      • I was nodding along to it thinking this really sounded like it needed a gang of prissy english dudes. Now British Tar is going to be stuck in my head all day.

  12. If he would have followed just ONE of the four rules of gun safety the lady would not have been shot. That is almost ALWAYS the way it is. An accidental shooting is caused by not following ANY of the four rules.
    * * * *
    RULE I: ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED
    * * * *
    RULE II: NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY
    * * * *
    RULE III: KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET
    * * * *
    RULE IV: BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET

  13. “If we learn anything from this, we have a very well trained guy that had an unfortunate accident that could have cost somebody their life,” (Spartanburg Sheriff Chuck Wright) said.

    Really… “very well trained”… a bithering idiot that failed miserably to demonstrate the most fundamental level of firearms capability is what this moron of a sheriff calls “very well trained”. To think this moron had that blithering idiot as a CCW instructor and calls such a level of gross negligence “an unfortunate accident” is very telling of this department’s level of incompetence. Perhaps private gun owners that actually know how to handle a firearm should be licensing the sheriffs rather than the other way around. I sure as hell don’t want to see what he calls moderately trained.

  14. Events like this and the NYPD’s stellar shooting record inspire me to state that gun control really does have a place-in the sense that only shooters who are law enforcement or soldiers should be mandated to have professional training as a condition of carry.

  15. It seems that the “pros” are often the ones that get casual with the rules, because hey, they know what they’re doing, right? We follow the four rules precisely because we are fallible. Breaking one rule is generally a harmless mistake. Breaking all four is criminal negligence.

    That said, any time anyone hands me a gun, I clear it, and I always clear a gun before I hand it to someone else (with the action open). I consider it bad manners to do otherwise.

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