One of my regrets is never taking a firearms class from the late Louis Awerbuck. My impression of him is that he brought a deadly seriousness to his classes that only someone who had ‘seen the elephant’ repeatedly – and had lost family members to violence – could. Louis used a deactivated 1911 with a plugged barrel for demonstration purposes while he taught. I recall one of his students testifying that Louis showed the gun to his class, then asked if any of them wanted to examine it. When no one took him up on his offer, he immediately chastised them . . .
They should take no one’s word on a firearm’s state of readiness — not even, and especially his, since he made mistakes just like everyone else. When it comes right down to it, if you’re training and someone is pointing a ‘dummy’ gun at you, you’d better be damned sure that the gun is the dummy, and not you.
That rang in my ears when I read the story of Tom Carter, a member of the Tombstone Vigilantes, a troupe that re-enacts old West gunfights and mock hangings in the town of Tombstone, Arizona. The Washington Post has the story.
…(O)n Sunday afternoon, what should have been a quaint spectacle turned deadly when an actor in an O.K. Corral gunfight re-[enactment] and a bystander were shot after live ammunition was used.
“The Tombstone Vigilantes were engaged in a street skit involving animated gunfights in the 400 block of Allen Street,” Cochise County Sheriff Mark J. Dannels said in a statement. “During the skit, Actor Tom Carter and Victim Ken Curtis were faced off against each other and when Tom Carter fired his firearm, Ken Curtis fell to the ground after being struck by a live round.”
It was not clear why live ammunition was used. Tucson’s KVOA reported that one actor “was late to the show and his weapon was not checked before the reenactment.”
“The vigilantes immediately stopped the show and Tom [Carter] was relieved of his weapon,” the sheriff said. “During inspection of his weapon, it was discovered that there was one live round in the cylinder with five expended casings indicating the gun had held six live rounds prior to the skit. It was later learned that at least two of the live rounds struck businesses located at the East end of Allen Street, approximately 680 feet from the skit, with one bullet striking a woman standing in front of the Bird Cage Theater identified as Debbie Mitchell and additional bullet fragments striking nearby buildings.”
To recap: two people wounded, and some property damaged because the person using a firearm during a re-enactment didn’t bother to check to make sure that the gun did not contain live ammunition. It isn’t clear from the story whether Carter was using his own gun or not, but regardless, it’s still the responsibility of the man with the pistol to make sure that he’s not in danger of harming anyone unintentionally.
Curtis, the other actor wounded, was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery, reports the Post.
No word on whether or not Carter will be allowed to participate in future Tombstone Vigilante events. Regardless, we hope that the next time he handles a firearm for theatrical or other purposes, he will mediate on his shiny Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day award, and take a little extra time for safety.
DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.