Hunting in the United States is an extremely safe sport, much safer than swimming, football, baseball, or soccer. Accidents are rare. Accidents involving five-year-olds are rarer still. When they happen, though, they make national news. In Humble, Texas, a five-year-old accidentally shot himself while he accompanied his 11-year-old brother who was hunting dove . . .
I started hunting independently, about the same age, often accompanied by younger brothers. I can relate, and feel an intense sympathy for the young man, his brother, and the family.
Neighbors filled in the gaps, telling us the boys often go dove hunting. This time, their parents were left at home. The older brother got into the water-but the younger boy went back to get the gun and accidentally shot himself. Neighbors then say the 11-year-old tried to save his brother, desperately getting the attention of neighbors for help.
I have a theory about what happened, because I have taught gun safety and hunter safety for many decades. Dove are attracted to ranch water reservoirs, called “tanks” in Texas, usually in the morning and evening. They are prime spots to hunt. Dove are normally shot on the wing, and it’s common for a shot bird to fall into the water. It’s very likely that the older boy put down the shotgun to retrieve a downed bird. That would explain why he was entering the water.
The shotgun appears to be a single barrel model. He probably had reloaded the gun, but we don’t know if he had closed the action.
Then, for some reason, the five-year-old decided that he needed to bring the shotgun to his older brother. Perhaps a wounded bird was getting away; perhaps he saw more birds approaching. Whatever the reason, it would have been easy for him to grab the barrel of the shotgun to drag it toward the other boy.
This is an action that gun safety instructors specifically warn against. It’s all too easy for a branch to slip off a safety or cock a hammer, a twig to find its way into the trigger guard, and then as the person drags it, the gun fires. If the action were left open, the five year old might have closed it. He would have seen his brother do this many times.
If you look closely, you can see the exposed hammer. You can easily see how it could catch on a branch or root and become cocked or partly cocked, and then released, firing the gun. These type of guns are considered one of the safest because they only hold one shot, and it’s easy to determine if they’re loaded or not. No gun is meant to be dragged toward you by the barrel, but a five-year-old likely doesn’t realize that, and so a hunting tragedy occurs.
Those events may sound unlikely, and they are. It only takes once to create the extremely rare circumstances that lead to the kind of accident that the story recounts. The five-year-old is in the hospital in critical but stable condition. My prayers are with the family in Humble, Texas.
Two actions could have prevented this accident. First, the gun could have been unloaded before the 11-year-old put it down. Second, the five-year-old could have been taught not to handle guns on his own.
I will use this incident to teach new hunters how to prevent future accidents.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.