We’ve been accused of looking for examples of police misconduct and gunhandling faux pas ‘cause we’re anti-cop. We don’t. And we’re not. Really. We comb the Intertubes daily looking for interesting gun fodder. And plenty o’ folks throw stuff over the transom at us, too, just in case we miss something (which is pretty much inevitable). There’s no shortage of non-cop IGOTD material in this category. But it is true that police NDs have a certain editorial piquancy. After all, LEOs are in charge of enforcing gun control laws. And more than a few antis tell us that law enforcement officers are the only people with sufficient training and expertise to be entrusted with such potentially dangerous tools. Yes well . . .

How is it that so many cops manage to handle their guns – the ones for which they’ve received all that training and developed all that expertise – so poorly? Take Chief Walt Sanford of the Adirondack town of Fort Edward, New York. As portstar.com reports, he just put a 9×19 through his left hand while doing a little routine maintenance.

Sandford said he was cleaning the gun, a personally owned weapon that he does not use for police purposes.

He was breaking down the gun to clean it and moved the slide back, believing there was not a round in the chamber, when the gun discharged.

“Obviously, I thought the round had ejected,” he said. “I was doing something I’ve done thousands of times.”

We’re not sure if that makes us feel any better about it. You?

Bad habits die hard. Maybe pushing the slide back while lasering his own hand rather than pulling it back from behind (or at least on top) will finally go the way of the dodo for the Chief. And we won’t even mention clearing the gun and that whole trigger thing. Oops.

“My pride was hurt more than my hand,” he said.

We’re glad the injury was relatively minor – if any gunshot wound can ever be considered minor. The point here isn’t that cops are dumber or handle their guns less safely than the general population, even if it seems that way. It’s that the vast majority of all gun owners – cop and civvy alike – know how to handle a heater and do it safely, day in and day out without incident. The boys in blue are no better or worse at it than the population at large.

In the mean time, Chief Sandford will be receiving our IGOTD laurels. We know that may not do much to salve his pride, but we hope his left hand will be a little safer for it.

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56 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Chief Walt Sandford

  1. So when he clears a gun on the street he removes from a suspect, will he observe proper precautions to prevent a round going down the street? I hope so.

  2. I’d be real worried about loading up my personal hubris/karma magazine if I were taking such glee at the firearms-related brain farts of others. It will only be a matter of time before that imbalance is restored. 🙁

    • Sorry, but I don’t think so. Only a moron owns a gun and doesn’t have it fully ingrained in their mind that you ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS double or triple check that a gun is empty – empty magazine and empty chamber – before pulling the trigger if it’s not pointed downrange at a target.

      • I love it when I agree with Totenglocke.

        But what should happen to such an moron, T? Is that where we part, when I say he should lose his right to own and use guns?

        • Why should someone lose the right to gun ownership if they don’t cause harm to anyone else?

        • my uncle lost his thumb using a circular saw when his glove was caught in the blade. Should he lose his right to use the saw?

        • No, but he shouldn’t blame the saw or the rules about safe handling of tools.

          Guns are more lethal and potentially dangerous than saws or other “tools.” My one-strike-you’re-out idea only applies to guns.

        • I’ve cut myself shaving. Do I lose my right to own a straight razor?

          I’ve injured myself skiing. Do I lose my right to sharp ski poles?

          I’ve cut myself with a fighting knife (a weapon). Do I lose my right to own knives?

        • No, the restrictions I propose apply only to guns, which are more lethal and potentially more dangerous than disposable razors and skis.

        • The issue isn’t whether this dumb-ass should lose his right to own a gun. This is a NY cop, so that’s never gonna happen.
          A non-Cop (peon NY citizen) might lose his pistol permit (this being NY State, you must get a county-level permit to own) over an ND. This being a rural county, the “Issuing Authority” would probably cut the NYer some slack.

        • Mike, you claim that accidents with guns are more dangerous than the examples of other dangerous items cited:

          Let’s examine that:
          There were 23,000 non-fatal accidental shootings in 2000 and 2,000 fatal accidental shootings in 2007. Combined total: 25,000 accidental gun injuries.

          According to the WMS,* there are approximately 135,000 medically significant snowsports injuries.

          According to a study of LEO slayings**, 8 of 10 knife attack victims succumb to their injuries, while only 6 of 10 GSW victims do.

          So clearly skiing is more dangerous and knives are more lethal than guns.

          *http://www.wms.org/news/snowboard.asp
          **http://www.folders-r-us.org/statistics.htm

        • Dan, is this really your argument, or are you making an attempt at satire?

          I get that you are trying to make Mike’s argument seem ridiculous by making a similar argument, but you’ve failed badly. In order to say that “skiing is more dangerous…than guns” (which actually makes no sense, since skiing is an activity, whereas a gun is an object — but I digress), you would need to show what % of total skiing occurrences the 135,000 skiing accidents represents, just for starters. Then you would need to show how many of those skiing accidents were from negligent practices, in order to compare it to your statistics about accidental shootings.

          And as for your accidental shooting statistics: why would you combine one statistical number from one year (23000 non-fatal in year 2000) with an entirely different stat from another year to get your “combined total”. Again, I don’t know — maybe you were trying to sound ridiculous as part of your satire, because certainly no one could reason like this and still function on a daily basis.

        • 1. There is no reason to believe that the incidence of gun related injury changed drastically between the two years (which I combined because they were easily available, and I’m tired of putting effort into debunking Mike’s bull)

          2. If you had read the article linked, you’d see that there were about 54million skiier visits (1 skiier, 1 day) per year that resulted in those 130k injuries. There are around 40million firearms owners in the US. In other words, people are on skiis less often than they’re around firearms.

          Having been on a Ski Patrol, I can count on one hand the number of injuries caused by “freak accident” rather than negligence that I saw.

          3. Mike claimed that Guns were more dangerous AND lethal than tools, skiis, etc and knives.
          Showing that skiing causes more injuries than guns, and showing that knife wounds are more lethal than gunshot wounds thoroughly debunks Mikes claim (not that it needed responding to, since Mike, as always, provided no evidentiary support for his claim)

        • Please don’t bother linking to that silly report that says knife woulds are more lethal than gun wounds. Even your own side can’t swallow that one, and that’s before I mention the incidents of multiple and mass shootings vs. multiple stabbings.

        • Ah Mike, you’re still missing the point.
          If you’re trying to ban/control guns because people accidentally get injured by them, then you have to ban/control in the same way anything that’s involved with as many or more accidental injuries. Otherwise you’re just inconsistent.

          So it comes back to this: What is the main societal benefit you are trying to achieve by banning/controlling guns?

        • “then you have to ban/control in the same way anything that’s involved with as many or more accidental injuries.”

          Who says? Now who’s pulling ideas out of his ass? Guns are different from swimming pools and cars. They don’t need to be regulated the same.

        • If your goal is to reduce accidental death and injury, how are accidental deaths and injuries from other causes different from those caused by GSWs?

          Are dead people less dead?

  3. How is it even possible to push the slide back on a semi-automatic from the front without the barrel getting in the way of your hand motion?

    • This is done by gripping the slide at the top of the business end, and pushing rather than pulling. If the operator is not careful, the fleshy edge of the hand tends to cover part of the barrel initially, although it rides over the barrel as the slide is pushed back. Just letting you know so that you don’t lose any sleep over it.

    • What, never seen front slide serrations on a 1911?
      I don’t think the gun discharged when he pushed the slide back. Rather, he racked the slide to eject the last round, but didn’t eject the round, then released the slide lock and pulled the trigger, like you have to do with pretty much every striker fired plastic pistol. Compact Glock, maybe? It’d be easy to get the hand in front of a 3″ barrel.

      • “I don’t think the gun discharged when he pushed the slide back. ”

        Why, just because it’s an impossible and stupid explanation for how the gun discharged itself?

      • Oh, I’ve seen the serrations. My XD has them as well. Just never made sense to me to grip with my hand that far forward of the muzzle. Being a lefty, my palm tends to block the ejection port when gripping over the top anyway. I prefer to grip the rear serrations from the rear.

  4. I get that the so-called “plastic fantastics” are really reliable. And accurate. And nicer on the hip for everyday carry. And they typically hold more than 8 rounds. And a host of other things. Really, I get that. I do. Thing is, my EDC doesn’t require me to pull the trigger during disassembly. Not sayin’, just sayin’.

    • ‘Shine, my ED pistol is an S&W M&P, which is a plastic, striker-fired pistol. Pulling the trigger to field strip the M&P is NOT required.

    • I agree and that’s why I prefer hammer fired pistols over striker fired (though I do have striker fired too), but it’s only an issue if you’re not smart enough to know how to unload a gun first.

  5. “The boys in blue are no better or worse at it than the population at large”

    So, naturally, Detective Dipshit up there is going to be criminally charged with negligent discharge of a firearm, right?

    Just like anyone else would be. Right?

      • While entirely inaccurate, I do feel the consonance in my labeling adds a certain something to the description of what is likely a complete and utter bastard*, and as such, I stand by it.

        *What else can be said about those who chose to make it their life’s work to ride around and ruin people’s days all the time?

        • Yeah, I’ve had a pretty dim view of the piglets and their firearms training ever since a cop in Roseville Minnesota screamed at me to move from from where she had told me to stand while she illegally searched my truck for the Sig I told her I was legally transporting in a latched box unless “you want a gun pointed at your face.” (She got mad because she was both too stupid and too weak to pull the slide back).

  6. Back in my days in the Army, my sergeant (my replacement when I got busted) cleared his 1911 by racking the slide back to eject the round in the chamber (before he dropped the magazine) and then proceeded to pull the trigger. He put a rather large hole in his hand just down from his middle and ring finger. So I guess it doesn’t matter if it’s a striker fired plastic firearm or an all metal 1911, stupid is stupid!

  7. This is why, when I’m clearing a gun, I look for the ejection of a round, then I visually inspect the chamber, then I stuff a finger into the chamber. If I can’t get a pinky into the chamber, then somethings gone way wrong and further inspection is necessary.

    Racking the slide/action is necessary, but not sufficient.

    • I drop the mag, rack the slide 3-4 times, then lock the slide back, point the barrel at a light source, and if I can see light coming out of the chamber it’s safe.

      • That sounds like a good way to do it – as long as it’s not preceded by something along the lines of, “Here, Hon, can you hold this flashlight…?” ;o)

        • Haha, the only time I’d be tempted to say that was the time she loaded a gun, put the safety on, then proceeded to drop it while holstering it and it landed pointing straight at my foot.

  8. I like what james said, because it’s so true. There will be irresponsible gun owners everywhere, no matter what occupation, but it seems like the boys in blue just dont get prosecuted, they get a slap on the wrist from the boss.

  9. It’s not just that the police ought to know better. It’s the fact that control freaks like the Bradys claim that cops are one of the privileged groups. Of course, in their heart of hearts, they likely want to disarm cops, too.

    One disturbing thing here is that this was the Chief’s personal firearm, not just one that he’d been issued. He should have known better for that reason as well.

  10. Rob / any other TTAG editor – how about we do TWO sections? We have Idiot Gun Owner of the Day and we also have an Idiot LEO of the Day.

  11. I like that they never actually say that he pulled the trigger. Just that he pulled the slide back and then *shazzam* the gun fired.

    Reminds of a ND in a bar in Northern Ohio area I read about a couple of years ago. A freshly minted CCWer has some pocket .32 in his coat pocket without a holster. Decides to d!ck around with it and fires a round into his girlfriends leg. The story, told by him and repeated by the paper and the GD chief of police, was that he had grabbed his gun looked down and saw that the slide was back…… and the gun went off. That’s it, the slide was back and it discharged. Somehow not only did the gun fire without him pulling the trigger, but he simultaneously had a catastrophic Out Of Battery discharge that not only didn’t blow his hand off but managed to actually send a round down the barrel. And worst of all, they bought that story. He wasn’t charged with the illegall discharge but I believe he was dinged for bar carry.

    Funny side note. The round went through his coat pocket, through his GFs jeans, into her cell phone…… and stopped. Mouse Gun > No gun my arse. 😆

    If I can find it I’ll post a link.

  12. There’s no need to apologize to the people who criticize your choice of stories: “We’ve been accused of looking for examples of police misconduct and gunhandling faux pas ‘cause we’re anti-cop. ” The police consider themselves above and exempt from the law, and they are completely intolerant of behavior in the regular populace that they routinely tolerate and excuse in members of their own ranks. This attitude needs to be changed, and the best way is to expose it’s falsity. How many times have you seen this story (answer – never): “A local ne’r-do-well accidentally shot himself while not paying attention. The police decline to release his name, and he’ll get off with a little sensitivity training and nothing more. He’ll be on administrative leave from ne’r-do-welling until he completes his sensitivity training, but he will receiving full pay and benefits while on leave.”

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