A wise man once told me “you are you own worst enemy.” In which way does that pronouncement not suck? It doesn’t mean my enemies aren’t terrible; it just means I’m a greater threat to myself than they are. How great is that? Not so great. Add firearms to the mix there are lots of ways I could claim the ultimate victory over my ultimate enemy. You know; by inadvertently taking myself out of the picture. To avoid that fate, I’m a safety Nazi [sic]. I clear and safe guns like an OCD sufferer checking the gas stove before leaving the house (if, indeed, they can). OK, it’s not that bad. But the Four Rules are a code that I must live by. The One Rule to Rule Them All: always point the gun in a safe direction. [NB: pointing it at a bad guy is a safe direction.] Here’s how that can go wrong . . .
Lassiter Basket bought his .22-caliber handgun in 1963 and in recent years has fired it just twice a year — on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. He says he uses blanks for safety and shoots in the privacy of his Forest Park row house.
“Other people fire firecrackers,” the white-haired 82-year-old said. “It’s just a noisemaker.”
You know where this one’s going. There’s a whole ‘nother discussion here about protecting yourself from people who don’t always point a firearm in a safe direction. And another one about when and how and whether to remove Dad’s or Grandpa’s access to guns.
But let’s leave that for another day and follow this one to its logical conclusion via baltimoresun.com:
He said he had walked out of his bedroom on the second floor, pointed the handgun down the hall and pulled the trigger, confident he had loaded it with blanks he keeps in a purple cloth bag that once held a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey. He said he keeps his real ammunition separate, in a Remington box.
To his surprise, the bullet wasn’t harmless.
“She said, ‘Granddad, I’m hit,’ and I said, ‘You can’t be,’ ” Basket said.
Doctors tended to Holley’s wounds and X-rayed her wrists but found no life-threatening injuries. Holley sat on the front porch of her house Friday with gauze bandages around both wrists, which were resting in her lap over pink Snoopy pajama pants.
“I wasn’t surprised when it happened, but I was surprised when I saw the blood,” Holley said. “I’m glad it’s all right.”
Keeping blank ammo in the same universe with real ammo is a bit of a problem. Make that a “challenge”; the challenge being to examine each and every bullet before you load it into the gun. Because the safe thing to do is to assume that a bullet is a live round until proven otherwise. And maybe even then.
If eyesight is an issue, it’s probably a good idea to forget the whole thing, celebratory gunfire-wise. In fact, a firecracker beats a gun for that sort of thing ten times out of ten. But that’s not my point. I’m simply pointing out that insanely rigid safety protocols—storage, cleaning, labeling, transporting, manipulating, slavishly following the Four Rules, etc.—aren’t so insane.
In fact, obsessively eyeballing other people’s safety habits isn’t a bad idea either. I once saw an ex-military trainer take out a full magazine of hollow points from his Glock carry piece and lay it on a table littered with both boxed and loose Simunitions cartridges [not shown]. So I guess I’m not always my own worst enemy. Then again, I was paying him for training.