Alexander MacLachlan (courtesy nydailynews.com)

I grew-up in an anti-gun culture: the east side of Providence, Rhode Island. I didn’t hold a handgun until I was in my twenties. Prior to that point, and for some time thereafter, I didn’t know how to load or unload a handgun or the four safety rules or how a gun behaves under recoil. Neither did anyone in my family. What if I’d gone to a friend’s house and he’d pulled out a gun for us to play with? What if a drunk co-worker in Atlanta had done the same? Who knows what would have happened? I grew up amongst a disarmed populace. I was gun ignorant. I was gun unsafe. So the “revelation” that the father of the girl who shot her Uzi instructor is from Weehawken, New Jersey is instructive, in the sense that . . .

Alexander MacLachlan probably had no prior experience with firearms before he took his family to Bullets and Burgers. Which means he had no way of knowing that the instructor gripped the gun incorrectly. Or, indeed, that an automatic Uzi is not the ideal choice for an 9-year-old’s first introduction to firearms. That a bolt-action .22 would have been a much better way to go – at least initially.

I’m not exactly sure why nydailynews.com focuses on Mr. MacLachlan’s wealth, rather than his firearms background or presumed lack thereof. This isn’t supposed to happen to rich people? Sensible, poor people are better off because rich people are so stupid they mess around with guns when they escape from New York? Or simple human interest?

In any event, can we blame Mr. MacLachlan for allowing a firearms instructor to put his daughter’s life at risk? The world is based on trust. We trust the airline pilot not to kill us. We trust the chef not poison us. We trust our parents to protect us. A huge part of that trust is based on knowledge.

We know not fly Aeroflot. We know not eat at a hideously filthy restaurant. But how can we know whether to trust a firearms instructor – whether he’s putting our child at risk – if we know nothing about firearms? In short, ignorance is not ballistic bliss. Not in a world full of guns.

65 Responses to This is What Happens to a Disarmed Populace: They Know Nothing About Gun Safety

  1. gun safety needs to be a class in school, just like sex ed. Between my dad, my uncles and my grandmother and the NRA and the boy scouts I knew about gun safety.

    But the kids being raised in non gun homes? They need to be taught for their own sake and societies at large.

    • 1. More kids are killed by drowning in swimming pools than by guns.
      2. I you want to protect your children from drowning, TEACH THEM TO SWIM!

      So why not teach your kids about safe handling of firearms?

      • Agreed. Upon completion of 12 years of education a student should know how to safely shoot a .22 firearm, how to swim, how to drive a car with a manual clutch, how to balance a checkbook and how to establish a household budget as well as the standard subjects. Of course this is teaching self reliance which is not part of the agenda.

      • For starters, I’d bet there are plenty of NRA instructors who’d be happy to volunteer for a couple days a semester to teach kids gun safety.

        • Appleseed is a great program for teaching kid safety, HISTORY, and marksmanship. Mucho better than Eddie the Eagle.

      • Local law enforcement for a start.

        The Republicans would be smart to introduce REAL gun safety legislation.

        Every grade school child twice a year gets to hear –

        1 – STOP!

        2 – See a gun? DON’T TOUCH IT!

        3 – Leave the area!

        4 – Tell an adult!

        For the young ones, just that.

        I’d really love to see Obama refuse to sign such a bill.

        I’d even more love to hear the Progressives objection to that law.

        Real gun safety. Who’d thunk it?

        • I’m a big fan of the stop, don’t touch, tell an adult stuff, but I’m not so convinced I would trust the schools to teach my kids. I remember leo’s tried to scare the crap out of us and probably made some kids even more curious. Look at all the examples todat of teachers who give their personal interpretations of history. I don’t want those same people teaching my children about the shoulder thing that goes up or how fully semi-automatic kills more people ecery year than every war combined. If I want my kids to know something I will teach it to them. It is my responsibility as a parent, not the schools or anyone else’s.

        • When I was in grade school in the ’50’s, they periodically showed a training film about of all things, blasting caps! Their primary message was DON’T TOUCH IT! Nothing about guns, but this was rural Minnesota, so everybody probably already knew about guns.

        • I remember that film from the early ’70s. Was not all that long ago that explosives and blasting caps were rather common on farms.

      • I grew up in Hawthorne, NJ (not far from Weehawken) in the 60’s and 70’s. The local gun club had turkey and ham shoots that allowed us youngsters to handle/shoot a few shots
        with .38’s and 410’s. They also had hunter safety classes and had an annual junior rifle match. (My 1972 first place trophy still has a place of honor on my desk) Today, no turkey shoots, and the public in NOT invited to come and shoot or handle firearms. A sad state of affairs indeed…

  2. THIS!

    If you don’t know how it works, don’t touch it. If you can teach your kid that an oven top is hot, that a busy street is not a place to play, that knives are sharp and shouldn’t played with, then you can (and damned well should) teach your kids (but first yourself if you’re clueless) this valuable lesson.

    Teach them to be safe around guns if you’re going to have them in your home, too, folks. Ignorance is what breeds death.

  3. Whether I’m a gun safety expert is debatable, but placing a full-auto Uzi in the hands of an 11 year old (thought she was 9?) year old girl is not. Whether standing in front of the muzzle or to the immediate left side of the muzzle is not safety debatable.

    For me, there was no safety lesson learned from this incident. Dumb people sometimes die doing stupid things. Tragic? Sure. But more asinine than anything else, and completely preventable.

    So I believe, as I always have, that gun safety should be taught. I did so as an NRA-certified instructor in Boy Scouts with bolt action .22s and singly-loaded pump 12 and 20 gauge shotguns. Zero mishaps after hundreds of customers, and never stood in front of loaded guns.

    And one of the things that keeps me up at night is the stupidity of our population, and how easily their thinking can be controlled by statist politicians who will use this incident to push for more gun control. That means that the days of independent thinkers / gun owners could be well and truly numbered.

    Still, gun owners outside of CA are doing well, so there’s also cause for celebration. For the most part, people are pretty safe with guns. It’s the notable exceptions such as these that make the news.

    • Those who truly hold power in a democracy are those who control public opinion.

      Sorry, I think I just have you a new reason to be up at night.

    • Whether I’m a gun safety expert is debatable,

      You probably are, but I still want to take a moment to appreciate your modesty. Hubris costs lives, especially when it leads you to think you can hand a 9-year-old an automatic weapon and it will be okay. I wish more people would internalize that simple phrase, “I’m not an expert…”. Maybe then they’d think through what they’re doing and things like this would be less common.

  4. I hate to bring this up, but the two examples used, airlines and food industry, are very heavily regulated by the government. Would RF agree that the government needs to ensure that gun owners and operators prove that they are properly trained to operate potentially dangerous equipment? And to be fair, I usually trust anyone that is a NRA certified firearms instructor more than anyone else.

    Its also ironic that groups that bill themselves as advocates for gun safety fight an organization that has done more to educate and train gun owners than anyone else in the country. But we already knew that.

    • Regulated or not, there are some airlines you just don’t fly, i.e. Aeroflot. Or Air Malaysia.

      And restaurants are lucky (or unlucky) to get one visit a year from the health department, depending on where they’re located. If you’re counting on local government to ensure every kitchen is clean and food is properly handled, you’re in for a big surprise.

      If you took from this post that RF is somehow arguing for gun owner certification, you’re reading it wrong.

      • Ok, maybe not gun owner certification, but definitely some sort of instructor certification? How else are we to know if a certain instructor knows his stuff or is just a wannabe? How else do we know who we can trust? Experience? I’m a “pistol expert” with 7 years military experience, yet the only time I have ever touched a gun in uniform was when I went for the qual. On paper it looks great but would you trust me to instruct a handgun course?

        • I didn’t see anything about requiring certification for anybody. RF is just saying that if you’re not familiar with how things operate, and you don’t know the history of what you’re working with, you just don’t know. Educate yourself. You know how to figure out if a restaurant is dirty. Based on Aeroflot’s history, you might want to reconsider flying with them. If you’re going to buy a car, you probably want to do your research and learn to use it. If you’re going to shoot, get some of your own knowledge so you have an idea if the instructor is out to lunch like this one was.

        • Sorry, Sergio, but certifications and licenses are like ash sholes, pretty much everybody has one. This certified NRA gun instructor that got himself shot in the face with a full auto UZI is a case in point. (By the way,I don’t have a problem with children learning to shoot a full auto weapon, when done properly, like learning to use any dangerous tool, is completely safe.)

          Certifications can be a starting point, but most people that want a good mechanic, good contractor, good dentist, good anyone at anything you want as a service from another person asks friends, looks at feed back from the Better Business Bureau, from on line feed back about different industries, does a company give good customer service?

          That’s a big one here with POTG. If I buy a new gun from a gun company, which company has the reputation of not only a good product, but has a reputation of good customer service?

          The problem that too many people have is that they allow a government mandated license or certification replace their own need for due diligence in checking the reputation for the quality of the work being provided by the person or the company.

        • Another case in point, I did home repair and major appliance repair for fifteen years. I started with a yellow page ad and a belt pager, way back before cell phones and the internet.

          But once I started my business, in six months, most of my business came from word of mouth because people would tell their friends and coworkers and give them my number.

          Any good contractor or mechanic is often backed up for weeks or even months because they have such a good reputation for the work they do.

        • Certifications have value, depending on how hard it is to get one (and it it’s hard for the right reasons)

          The word-of-mouth method is good because once you know it, you can find good contractors by asking around. It’s also bad because most people get burned at least once before they learn to ask around, and that would happen less often if you had to jump through a couple hoops to legally call yourself a contractor or handyman.

  5. I think as a society we are pretty well off with gun safety.
    Groups like the NRA make it easy to introduce kids to gun safety, boy scouts have been doing it forever, and there are a million good resources on the internet. The only gun control anyone needs is their brain and their two hands.
    2/3rds of gun deaths are suicide (aka unpreventable by gun control) and the vast majority of the remaining 1/3rd are not accidental. In fact, most sources state that the majority of the 1/3rd non-suicide gun deaths are gang related.

  6. I have taken newbies shooting, wife, son, 2 grand kids, a couple friends and have swapped weapons with other shooters at the range after observing their competence
    Newbies all had safety training and crash course in firearm function and 1 round starting with a 22 LR pistol and rifle to start just to get used to recoil, how they handle it and I hovered to be able to keep weapon down range
    Now a man is dead and a 9 year old has to deal with killing a man
    Bucket list includes firing a full auto Thompson for starter, semi first then full auto
    Hand a full auto anything and a UZI pistol at that to a 9 year old
    I put all the blame on the “instructor”

  7. I recently chewed out a “firearms instructor” for heading down range before I had a chance to make sure my weapon was clear. Obviously, the instructor should have asked and checked for himself that my weapon was clear. Fortunately, the weapon, an M1 Garand, was laying on the table, so, I could just leave it be until he came back.

    I was polite enough not to get on him in front of the couple he was training.

  8. We live in a post-technological world where it’s entirely possible to live *in* the world without actually having much understanding of how anything works. Whole generations of families grow up completely divorced from their ancestor’s knowledge of how to fix things, skills that, in their, time were essential for survival but are no more. I seriously doubt that somebody with an everyday understanding of the practical uses of guns would have allowed something like this to happen. But, if you don’t have that practical knowledge . . .?

    • I know an airline Captain, a computer programmer with the CDC, and a board member of Coca Cola who all have paid contractors to hang a ceiling fan. Well educated grown men that can’t splice a black wire to the red one, the white to the blue, and the green to the ground nut. Unbelievable! And no…I am not an electrician.

      • To be fair, sometimes it’s just easier and cheaper to hire someone else to do the job for you. I had to replace a solenoid transmission in my previous car one time (not a hard job actually), and I knew jack about cars. I learned everything I could from youtube and forums. However, in retrospect, given the amount of time it took for me to track down the parts, get the necessary material, time it took to actually replace the parts, disposal of old transmission fluid, etc I might just seek out the mechanic next time.

        • Well that did seem like it could be a mess. But I am talking about a cieling fan. The instructions come with it. Twist some wires together and cap with wire nuts. Ten minute job if you have done it before 20 minutes if you haven’t. Why wait around all day for a guy to come charge you $75 just for the visit plus another $30 for labor and $10 for parts to hang a $45 fixture? You don’t even get dirty.

        • Over the years I have worked with and for people who fall into the category of “highly intelligent”. Some were razor sharp and perfectly capable of handling pretty much anything they decided to do. And then there is the majority of them.

        • “Ten minute job if you have done it before 20 minutes if you haven’t. Why wait around all day for a guy to come charge you $75 just for the visit plus another $30 for labor and $10 for parts to hang a $45 fixture?”

          Because your time is that valuable to you, and you have things to do with your time that have more value to you than dicking around with a ceiling fan.

          Which brings to mind a joke: The surgeon called the plumber, and when the plumber finished the job and presented the bill, the surgeon said, “My God! I don’t get that much for surgery!” The plumber replied, “Yeah, I know. Neither did I when I was a surgeon.”
          <rimshot>

  9. I’ve flown on one of the “Baby Flots” (Uzbekistan Airways). Putting your seat back into the full upright and locked position is all well and good until said lock fails to lock and you just slide back down into your recline.

  10. I swear to God, if you guys don’t stop one of the ads from opening my App Store to try to get me to buy Sims, I will never read TTAG again. And I’ve read it daily for over 3 years.

  11. If you want to generalize about New Jersey, don’t. I grew up there, my family was from the areas around Weehawken, specifically Jersey City and Secaucus, and I grew up learning how to shoot and about gun safety both in New Jersey and in the Catskills where my family had property. I’m 42 now, and most of my friends who grew up in the Bergen county area of New Jersey also had positive firearms experiences growing up. While New Jersey does have a many draconian gun laws which defy reason and logic, there are several million people in that state (whose total population nears nine million) who are not only gun owners but pro-2A. Unfortunately the politicians in that state do not speak to the will of the people.

    I can guarantee that there are millions of people who grew up in the typical pro-gun areas of the country, who have been hunting since childhood, who are members of every pro-gun organization in the world who couldn’t tell when an instructor is holding an automatic weapon improperly and/or giving bad advice to someone shooting one.

  12. I disagree with the fundamental premise behind this post. You can’t expect every person to grow up learning about guns from their Dads – doesn’t matter if it’s New Jersey or New Mexico.

    I think everybody should know how to fix a busted pipe, roast a chicken, change the oil, and replace a hard drive, too. It would have been nice to learn those things at my parents’ hip, but I didn’t, so I picked them up later in life. Not everybody can be expected to know everything at all times – so we learn about it as we go.

    Firearms are no different – and what’s the #1 most recommended way for an inexperienced person to learn about firearms safety? From a firearms instructor, just like these parents. This was not on them, but on the absolute moron who traumatized that kid and earned himself a Darwin Award.

    • Parents and instructor share equal blame in this, and they should be punished for their part in it. Instructor already was.

      • I blame Ronald Reagan. He signed the bill that banned the creation of new machine guns …. which means less people have access to them and experience with them….. which also means that the creation of safer machine guns, ie 22lr, can not be built.

        The NFA and Ronald Reagan had a hand in this accident as well.

        • Oh, and pretty sure there are multiple companies in America today making new “machine guns” as we speak,er, type, so I ain’t really feelin’ ya.

        • Really?!? Thats funny. Guess you best call up the BATF snitch line and tell them about that gang of terrorists in Ohio making automatic weapons and selling them. Who knows, you might get a Obamacare gift certificate out of it.

        • Oh, I thought we were talking about LEGAL machine guns. If somebody’s building ILLEGAL machine guns for civilians, and YOU know about it, why don’t you report them? And what’s obamacare got to do with it, by the way? Just curious why so jumpy…

        • So you are saying Ohio Ordnance is making illegal machine guns? Wow, wonder if Jerry knows this?!? I’ll email him and ask.

        • You must have gotten your signals crossed or something. I have no idea who Ohio Ordinance even is… You’re the one that said someone was making automatic guns for civilian use.

        • And you say they are not. Which flies in the face of the fact there are SEVERAL firearms manufacturers in America producing automatic weapons which American citizens can purchase.

  13. Firearms handling and safety instruction in schools. A very easy and cheap fix to a problem the left has created. Next.

  14. I considered myself a gun noob when I bought my first hand gun a year and a half ago. Unlike what the lefties say, that gun owners are “just looking to shoot someone”, my main concern was and always is: preventing a negligent incident. Even counting all the time on the range, over 90% of the time I spend around my firearm is keeping it in a non shooting yet at the ready condition. Doing so safely is the first priority. It is all I think about every time I touch it. This is not a fear of the gun…it is a confident respect.
    I guess I am not such a noob in that sense. I just took for granted that anyone with common sense would carry these same habits. Now thinking back to my upbringing, I always had toy guns, cap pistols, and even a Daisy BB gun and I had shot .22s when visiting my Grandfather’s farm in Chumuckla.
    My dad was not a shootist but he kept an unloaded FN 1910 and Winchester 30-30 in his closet. As a latch key kid, I would “play” with his guns, loading them, using the action to eject the rounds, taking up a snipers roost at an upstairs window and aiming at mailboxes and other targets below…never people. So I guess I familiarized myself to guns naturally, and therefore, never understood how someone could be so ignorant of guns, especially given all the war movies and Westerns on TV. Then again, I never understood kids going through High School never taking a PE class.
    I guess to each his own. I just wish the anti gun folks would shut up about that which they have no knowledge. The fat lazy kids in High School never told me how to play dodge-ball.

  15. Hey, Farago, don’t rip on Aeroflot’s safety. I flew it back in the 1980s, and they took great care to make sure all the passengers fastened their seat-ropes.

  16. These types of issues always boil down to personal responsibility. I have found that gun owners, in general, take pride in being as self-sufficient as possible. This includes taking the responsibility of educating oneself.

    It’s not just a “gun thing”. I take pride in understanding how my car works, how my house is built, how my body works, how the financial world works…etc. None of these topics have much to do with how I make my living, yet I simply want to be educated about the world around me.

    For all their education “liberals” typically default to “I don’t know anything about that” – it’s the other guy’s job.

    It’s sad really.

    • If you’re talking about the way they write gun-control laws (i.e., without having meaningful knowledge of what they’re trying to regulate) I agree with you. If you’re suggesting that the MacLachlan clan are Liberals, there’s zero evidence of that and it’s not relevant anyway. If you’re suggesting that they shouldn’t have “left it up to the other guy” and trusted the instructor, I don’t agree with you. Sure, if something seemed amiss, they should have spoken up. But if they had no firearms experience, how could they have known something was amiss?

      I agree that owning a gun brings with it a responsibility to educate oneself. But in this case, how do you know that the Bullets ‘n’ Burgers outing wasn’t, in the MachLachlans’ view, the beginning of their firearms education, under the tutelage of a qualified instructor?

      Sadly, it was indeed the beginning of said education. But if they were assured that the Uzi was safe for their daughter to shoot, and the person doing the assuring appeared to be qualified, and they had no knowledge of their own, then the only thing left to stop them would have been irrational fear. And aren’t we always complaining about the irrational fear of people who know nothing about firearms, and aren’t we always complaining about how they listen to that fear instead of listening to those who do know about firearms?

      We can’t say it was obvious or that they should have used common sense — especially if their knowledge of firearms came only from movies and video games. They listened to someone they considered qualified, and he apparently made a huge mistake that cost him his life, and that will cause the little girl and her family anguish for years to come.

      All of us have a first experience with firearms under the guidance of someone we trust. It’s how we learned. And it’s also how we teach.

      • Knowledge can be self-acquired without formal instruction. We as a society have forgotten how to learn on our own.

        Yes, formal instruction is helpful, but self-learning and discovery is the best learning.

        I seek formal instruction where I feel it could be helpful, but there are plenty of times where I simply go for it and let life teach me a lesson.

        Are we that far divorced from good judgement that we can not trust anyone to teach themselves something new?

  17. You may ask: ” how can a highly educated man allow his child to shoot a dangerous deadly weapon?”
    There is no common sense, only knowledge from movies antd TV which defines their reality.
    . Guns are glamorized and used as a power device. Die Hard, Terminator, Rambo are the schools for the fools of the world.Guns are toys to these fools.
    People talk about ” celebrities” like they mean something to the world! These behaviors are linked to our heredity as herd animals. The media is the great all knowing “God” of the tribe. This happens on a genetic level. The media is obsessed with guns as they provide drama to their goal of overtaking the unconscious minds of all.
    Beware of the military, industrial- ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX!!

  18. It takes several people making poor decisions before you reach the point where a nine year old with no shooting experience is about to pull the trigger on a loaded full auto firearm. The instructor has the most fault, but there are plenty of other mistakes in the chain.

    Maybe it starts with going to a place called Bullets and Burgers. To me, guns should be treated seriously. If you name your business Bullets and Burgers, it says something about your attitude; the kind of attitude that allows nine year olds to use full auto in your business.

  19. I don’t know what you’re all complaining about. The little girl was taken by her father to a gun range, and given a try out of a machine gun. She not only learned how hard it is to shoot a machine gun, she also learned what happens to people when shot in the head by said machine gun. This sounds like a successful lesson to me.

    Whether that was an ideal way to learn the lesson is open to debate. That it was a comprehensive goat fvck is not. The combined level of stupidity and incompetence is mind boggling. And I don’t think that firearms trainer was having a bad day, it was just the way he did things. Well, at least that has come to a full stop.

    Maybe it shows that if you’re from NJ and have an interest in weaponry, perhaps membership of a certain ethnic criminal fraternity might be in order, to minimise ignorance of firearms.

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