“Jeffrey Giuliano got a call from his sister next door saying that someone might be trying to break into her home,” theeagle.com reports. “Giuliano grabbed a gun and went outside to investigate, troopers said. He confronted someone in a black ski mask and black clothing and opened fire when the person came at him with a knife, police said. When officers arrived, the teen was lying in the driveway of his aunt’s home with gunshot wounds and the father was sitting on the grass . . .
The teen was pronounced dead at the scene. A state trooper pulled back the ski mask to reveal that the victim was Tyler Giuliano . . . Police said the youngster’s intentions were unclear and they were investigating whether he was actually trying to burglarize the house or if it was some type of prank gone wrong.
I’m not so sure it matters. The boy’s mask prevented his fifth grade teacher father from identifying his son. If indeed the young man moved towards his father knife-in-hand, the his fate was sealed.
I don’t see how Mr. Guiliano could have played this differently. If his neighbor wasn’t his sister, one could suggest that he should have let the police handle the situation. But that kind of timid response would have been distinctly unneighborly, and Tyler may still have ended-up at room temperature anyway, courtesy of the cops.
Nope. This was a tragedy in the Greek style, where the victim’s hubris delivered his own downfall. But we can learn something more. The calamity highlights the importance of the oft-neglected fourth rule of gun safety: identify your target, and what is behind it.
I won’t insult your intelligence and remind you to make damn sure that the person you’re about to shoot needs shooting. You know the drill: you can only shoot someone who poses a credible, imminent, lethal threat to your life or the lives of other innocent people. Or is about inflict grievous bodily harm. Or to prevent a kidnapping.
You know as well as I do that daughters can let boyfriends sneak into the house, drunks can wander into the wrong place and police (yes them) can get the wrong address. Just because someone’s not where they should be doesn’t mean they’re a lethal threat.
My constant refrain in response to these tragic tales of mistaken identity: practice drawing, aiming and NOT shooting.
I’m not suggesting that Mr. Giuliano drew, aimed and fired without pause. Or that if he HAD paused before pulling the trigger his son would have self-identified and saved his life. There’s not enough information to even guess at an alternative outcome.
That said, this homicide flags the fact that the decision to shoot another human being should involve a sequence of mental trip wires. Ideally, you should decide to draw your gun, decide to bring it to bear on the target (or not) and decide to shoot.
Remember: I said ideally. Given the role of instinct in matters of self-preservation, it’s entirely understandable if you either don’t think or don’t remember thinking before shooting to stop a lethal threat.
But one thing is for sure, if you shoot every time you clear leather or aim a gun at a gun range—which people do tens of thousands of times over decades— you’re most likely to shoot when you clear leather in a defensive gun use (DGU). Regardless of whether or not you should.
In other words, unless you practice aiming your gun and NOT shooting, chances are you’ll deny yourself one last chance to reconsider your decision to shoot another human being before you shoot another human being. So practice bringing your weapon to bear, finger off the trigger, aim and STOP.
I know: hesitation kills. But the fourth rule exists for a reason. Shooting the wrong person can be just as—if not more—devastating than not shooting the right person. Or not shooting at all when you should have. Or, for that matter, shooting the right person.
Hey, it all sucks. Train for every eventuality (e.g. the possibility that you ID an innocent at the last possible moment before pulling the trigger) and at least you have a chance of avoiding a tragedy that will haunt you for the rest of your life.