“Know your target and what’s beyond it” is the red-headed stepchild of the four rules of gun safety. Most people fixate on the “what’s beyond it” part– and not without reason. The most likely mistake when not following this rule: shooting at a target and hitting something that isn’t a target. A target, not a person. Despite gun control advocates’ [disingenuous] hand-wringing, I’ve yet to encounter a defensive gun use where a [non-police] armed civilian shot at a bad guy and hit a good guy. But the first part of this rule — know your target — is where bad things are more likely to happen. At home. For example . . .
Recently, at exactly 3:30am, I heard the distinctive thump of a schnauzer jumping off my bed. Normally, the sound lets me know that Rosie has a pressing need to defecate. If I don’t get out of bed and put her outside, she leaves a gift on a 200-year-old Afghan rug (her favorite repository). Groggy as a drunken sailor, I rousted myself and headed downstairs. Without a gun. Mistakenly, but in this case, fortunately . . .
I turned off the alarm, opened the back door and called my canine. Nothing. I went back into the house to find her. Rosie Von Schnauzer was standing in front of a half-opened hall closet, staring into its depths. I knew someone was in there, hiding. Luckily, my brain was working well enough to make a quick assessment. If it had been an intruder, Rosie would have been barking an alarm, not wagging her tail.
When I caught sight of a tie-dyed T-shirt I knew my daughter and her sleepover guest were hiding in the closet. I called them out and dressed them down. “Staying up late is one thing,” I growled. “Not identifying yourself in the middle of the night is another.”
So now you know why I wrote “fortunately” for not carrying a gun downstairs. If my daughter’s BFF had seen me holding a firearm and reported the incident to her parents that would have been the end of Farago sleepovers. And maybe her friendship with my daughter. Maybe a lot of friendships. (Not fair obviously, but that’s how things sit in the liberal heart of The Lone Star State.)
Of course, it could have been a LOT worse — if I didn’t abide by the “know your target” gun safety rule. There are more than a few examples of homeowners shooting the “wrong person” in a bump-in-the-night scenario. A drunk entering the wrong house. A cop who failed to identify himself properly during a wrong-house raid. The home owner’s own child.
It is imperative that you ID a target in your home before resorting to an armed response. And don’t get to thinking that simply calling out is enough. Years before the closet episode, I sensed a stranger hiding in some bushes in my back yard. “Who’s there?” I demanded, putting my hand on my gun. No response. In a flash, a teenage boy jumped out of the bushes and leaped the back fence in a single bound. An aspiring boyfriend for my teenage step-daughter.