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 Bruce Holbert and friend (courtesy

The New York Times would have Americans believe that guns are too dangerous for civilians—unless those civilians are police officers. To that end, Joe Nocera’s been running a running tally of shootings in his recurring feature The Gun Report. Of course, propaganda by simple repetition isn’t enough. The Old Grey Lady needs to wave a bloody shirt; to provide anecdotal evidence of the inadvisability of exercising your Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. And so we get this “true story” of manslaughter by and from novelist Bruce Holbert. Something about his mea culpa, cultural condemnation and implied warning to JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE just doesn’t sound right . . .

It was the second week in August, a Friday the 13th, in fact, in 1982. I was with a group of college roommates who were getting ready to go to the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race. Three of us piled into a red Vega parked outside a friend’s house in Okanogan, Wash., me in the back seat. The driver, who worked with the county sheriff’s department, offered me his service revolver to examine. I turned the weapon onto its side, pointed it toward the door. The barrel, however, slipped when I shifted my grip to pull the hammer back, to make certain the chamber was empty, and turned the gun toward the driver’s seat. When I let the hammer fall, the cylinder must have rotated without my knowing. When I pulled the hammer back a second time it fired a live round.

My friend, Doug, slumped in the driver’s seat, dying, and another friend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, raced into the house for the phone.

I blame society. Well, no, I don’t. But Holbert does.

Like many other young men, I mythologized guns and the ideas of manhood associated with them.

The gun lobby likes to say guns don’t kill people, people do. And they’re right, of course. I killed my friend; no one else did; no mechanism did. But this oversimplifies matters (as does the gun control advocates’ position that eliminating weapons will end violent crime).

My friend was killed by a man who misunderstood guns, who imagined that comfort with — and affection for — guns was a vital component of manhood. I did not recognize a gun for what it was: a machine constructed for a purpose, one in which I had no real interest. I treated a tool as an essential part of my identity, and the result is a dead man and a grieving family and a survivor numbed by guilt whose story lacks anything resembling a proper ending.

Perhaps the New York Times would consider publishing a defensive gun use from someone who owes their life to their ability to use guns safely and appropriately? Or describe a country where gun rights don’t exist, where criminals run rampant (e.g. Mexico)?

Or maybe just explain how they’re OK with Mr. Holbert owning a gun given that

Though the charges against me were eventually dropped, I have since been given diagnoses of a range of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and adult attention deficit disorders. The pharmacists fill the appropriate prescriptions, which temporarily salve my conscience, but serve neither my story nor the truth.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m OK with it. I just thought the Times would be a bit more consistent in these things. Silly me.


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  1. He pulled the hammer back to check the chamber was empty?

    I dunno about that. That’s what’s wrong with this story, IMO.

    • Twice, apparently. And dropped the hammer twice. (Apparently with a sloppy grip from Attempt One and the muzzle pointed directly at his friend’s back on Attempt Two.) A sad case of Darwinism-by-proxy. (And a LEO handed this lethally clueless idiot his own loaded weapon to play with behind his back?)

      Sorry, this guy fits the rule: “If I can’t trust you with a gun, you probably need a custodian.”

    • And turned the gun toward the drivers seat. See, thats the problem, “and” did it. Just more gun taking over brady crap, Randy

  2. Nothing like a 31 year old story to prove todays issues. This Jackass should be a statistician for King Barack Hussein. “90% of the population bought 40% of their guns with out a background check”.

  3. I once saw a black rifle, you know, the ASSAULT kind like at Sandy Hook, jump off the shelf of a gun shop I was visiting, and shoot everyone inside, except for me because I am known for my ninja-like reflexes.

    Yep. True story. I ain’t lyin’. Yep.

    The police said I was nuts, but I know what I seen.

    • I was the first officer on the scene. It was a bloodbath but WR2A was calm and collected. Although there was security camera footage, we felt that the responsible thing to do was support an unlikely recollection that fits a forced narrative. Hand to God.

      • Had the exact same thing happen to me, but unfortunately I’m an OFWG with no moves. I was only saved because I knew the AR personally. It took pity om me and only gave me one of those intentional TV flesh wounds.

        Well, better than dead, right? And it’s not like we were related.

    • My comment left to that tool at The New Yorker:
      What if? What if it hadn’t happened? What if a law-abiding citizen carrying a concealed weapon had been able to stop them? What if The New Yorker had seen your article for what it was and decided not to publish it?

      Sorry, Mr. Cassidy, that the facts of the event didn’t serve to further your agenda. Wishing it so won’t make it so.

  4. If this story is true, and my bs meter is pegging right now, what leo gives a loaded weapon to a citizen crowded into a car to examine?

    • Yeah, that’s one of the first turds in the pile of bullshit. For many years no one I hung around with even knew I was a cop, let alone got to ‘play’ with my carry gun. But at least the ‘story teller’ didn’t say ‘I forgot to put the ‘safety’ on the revolver before I handled it. The last whiff of BS is the simple cognitive anomaly of why he was looking for an empty chamber on a cop’s service revolver? Nobody leaves a chamber empty on a ‘working’ revolver?

      As an uncompromising, unequivocal advocate of Repealing or banning ALL gun, gun laws, restrictions,and prohibitions, even for ex criminals and people everybody thinks ‘shouldn’t have them’ which they find out later likely includes themselves and most of the persons they know. No exceptions to the rule to preserve the primary purpose of having the unvarnished armed ability and serious potential to STOP a Tyrannical Totalitarian government, the Jeffersonian way, if necessary.

      Having said that, I’m for a ‘responsibility’ check requirement ‘after the fact’ to at least neutralize the excuse of ‘negligent’ mitigation in terms of personal culpability and recklessness.

      So while I say that CC and background checks should be eliminated along with the Repeal of any and all Federal gun control just so a corrupted regime cannot disarm us by making laws that make most of us criminals, then not allowed to possess a firearm, that their still should be a departure law not connected to the government knowing the private business of who has or carries what, that if it is found after the fact that anybody using any type of dangerous tool, vehicle, weapon, machine, or pistol, Did NOT take reasonable effort to get proper instruction and safety training and education in the use of such devices, then THAT should automatically be considered by the court authority as intentional negligence and reckless in the use of a dangerous too, device, or machine. And suffer an appropriate additional punitive measure for his actions if he hurt someone.

      So this nit wit writer, who didn’t know his bung hole from a revolver cylinder chamber, should have been found guilty of ‘intentional negligence’ and fined accordingly, if he couldn’t provide proof that he took a gun safety course before he handled the firearm, which would have probably precluded the ‘accident’ in the first place. And the ‘imaginary’ cop in this story would have gotten a month suspension without pay for intentional dumbassness by handing over a gun to a stupid fuck.


  5. In TTAG’s post “The Truth About Philly Po-Po’s Gun Room” on seeing the picture all i could see was mostly shotguns that the liberals advocate as an adequate home defense weapon but then where did the evil “Assault rifles” that criminals use go?and what are home defense guns doing where guns used for crimes must be kept?Is defending ones home a crime then?

    • In THEIR opin, ANY use, or possession, of a firearm, should not only be a crime, but a felony punishable by death… oh yeah… but the death has to be calm and peaceful otherwise it is cruel. The shotty is just to appease you until they find a “good” reason to deprive you of that too.

  6. If this story is true then the driver whose gun it was is partly to blame. Who in their right mind gives a loaded gun to someone who obviously had no idea how to handle a gun? Only a fool would do such a thing.

  7. Wait so an idiot who doesn’t know guns, is given a gun by an idiot who didn’t make sure the first idiot knew it was loaded, the first idiot proceeds to mess around with a loaded gun, shooting and killing the second idiot, while a third idiot who watched this whole thing without speaking up runs and calls 911.

    My god the gall of this man. It would be easier if we just ban idiots.

  8. BULL-SH_T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was there and it didn’t happen that way. The jerk asked to handle the revolver, and then said and I quote, “Pull hammer back, yank trigger, making the muzzle move, and then I’ll get to know what it is like to accidently (unpurpose) to kill someone.” Well since it was an “…accident…” no one got hurt. Oh well yeah the driver died but it was no big deal, and so the doobie was passed and everyone took a toke, and had a big laugh. Well everyone but the driver, cause you know like, he was dead.

    Oh wait I wasn’t there after all. Oh man I have got to lay off the Mad Dag 20-20.

  9. One time I borrowed a car from a friend. I didn’t really know how to drive but I decided to go 20 over the speed limit the wrong way on a one-way street and ran over someone’s kid. Take it from me- this proves that cars are always unsafe, people!

  10. How does he associate an item that was just handed to him as part of his identity? I mean, it wasn’t even his….added to the disregard for all the safety rules, and I agree with the author’s only valid point(if this is even true) that HE killed his friend, no one else, just that simple.

  11. Sounds like one of those events that is preceded by a statement like, “Hey you guys–watch this!” As he twirls the loaded revolver around his trigger finger.

  12. Looks like it happened, although the level of stupidity involved is staggering.

    Using it as an argument against an armed populace is like agitating for the elimination of pencils because a vehicular homicide in ’82 was attributed in part to someone scribbling while driving, whereas had they a Sharpie they’d have scribbled on their hand instead of paper and thus been less distracted.

    From the morgue in the Okanogan Chronicle:

    Bruce Allen Holbert, 22, Kent, was booked for second-degree manslaughter then released on PR.

    Groomes, Holbert and a third unnamed man were sitting in a vehicle on Cemetery Road around 9:45 p.m. near Okanogan when Groomes was shot the back in what deputy prosecutor Mike Dempsey said was an accidental shooting.

    It was left to prosecutor Doug Boole to decide to charge. Boole was on vacation.

    Grooms was a student at Eastern Washington University studying criminology. He was spending the summer as a trainee with the Okanogan Police Department.

    • Except in this case the pencil was also obtained from a police officer, circumventing the ban on civilian possession of pencils regardless.

      I’m not sure what he’s trying to tell us anyway aside from “despite what I pretend I don’t know much about guns” and “also I’m a negligent moron”

  13. So an idiot who knows nothing about guns turns into an idiot who knows nothing about writing. I guess that’s progress.

  14. So the point of his convoluted tale is–wait a minute– What was his point? We should remove the back seats from red Vegas?

  15. The subheadline to the story is “I killed my friend.”

    That’s where this story should have ended. Maybe he could have added “I was an idiot.

  16. It sounds like he is (or at least could be) describing a single action revolver where one would in fact pull the hammer part way back to the “loading notch” to free the cylinder to spin so that the individual chambers can be inspected to see if they are empty or loaded.

    He certainly mishandled the gun, and broke a couple of rules, but his story may be more correct than appears at first blush.


    • Sounds about right. Methinks it to’ve been a personal weapon, though, rather than a “service revolver.”

      What a doofus.

  17. service revolver? pull hammer back? not in this reality!
    Most LEO would unload and pass to a friend for inspection
    swing cylinder out, unload, visually check cylinder, manually count ejected ammo
    then hand to friend with cylinder out

    most rugers and smiths (dont know colt) revolvers have a hammer block in the trigger
    mechanism so if the hammer drops w/o trigger pulled the firing pin will not hit the cartridge. IE you have to pull the trigger and drop the hammer.

  18. Moral of the story… If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t. So often the one who derps is not the one hurt by the derp, but his po-po pal derped in handing his piece to a novice noob without boomstick background like he was saying “Here… play with this!” Like he was handing a toddler a set of keys.

  19. Just a hypothesis here, but if this guy is as dumb as he wants us to believe, he would have been looking into the BARREL to see if the gun was loaded, and the story would have a more poetic Darwinian ending! But that’s just me.
    Another thought (2 in one day! Woohoo!). I had to take lessons to learn to fly. Lessons to drive. Lessons to parachute (stupid me). Went to school for years to learn to be a nurse. But I buy a gun, and they just hope I know which way to point it? Maybe a mandatory (flame on) one day course to first time gun buyers? Would that get all the liberals to STFU?

    • I won’t flame but I will point out that you can buy a drill press, chainsaw, riding lawn mower, acetylene torch, pneumatic nailer, a punch press and a dump truck without a license or training. You can use them all without permission or training too, as long as it is on your property and you harm no one else. The reason you need training and licensing to drive the car is because you are driving on the public’s roads. For the plane you require training because you are flying in the public’s airspace and, probably, in someone else’s plane, and for the skydiving because you are jumping out of someone’s plane and they have to pay the insurance premium. If you had a 500 foot cliff on your own property then you could take up base jumping with no one’s permission and with no instruction. That might be pretty stupid just like it is pretty stupid to hand a loaded gun to someone who doesn’t know how it works or to take a loaded gun in your hand if you don’t know how it works.

      No rule, regulation, background check or education is going to prevent people from doing dumb or evil things and, like it or not, those random things we call accidents will always happen. Want to limit them? Find thyself a teacher.

  20. So this asshat points a loaded gun at his friend and accidentally kills him, and that’s my fault?

    This is the Ben Hur (1959) of epic rationalizations.

    • Ironic isn’t it that after somebody commits a crime or does something really stupid, the government feels it must punish those who didn’t do it.

      • The two wings of the American Political scene believe we are either too stupid or too immoral to look after ourselves.

        What are we become, who were once a great people?

  21. Meant to add, took 40 hours to get a Private Pilot license. Drivers ed was 16 hours. Parachuting 3 hours. 2 to 4 years to become a Registered Nurse. Firearms training with The Department of Corrections is a 1 day thing, including, a few hours class time, shooting out in the desert, .38 revolver, shotgun, .308 scope mounted rifle and a target at least a time zone away, best of all, after that you get tear gassed. That was 1986 and I can still taste the gas. For civilians we might skip the tear gas. Or not.

  22. My friend was killed by a man who misunderstood guns, who imagined that comfort with — and affection for — guns was a vital component of manhood. I did not recognize a gun for what it was: a machine constructed for a purpose, one in which I had no real interest. I treated a tool as an essential part of my identity, and the result is a dead man and a grieving family and a survivor numbed by guilt whose story lacks anything resembling a proper ending.

    No, numbnuts. Guns don’t go off because you idolize or mythologize them. You can make puppy dog eyes even a loaded gun all you want, and it won’t shoot anybody. You killed your friend because you were pointing the gun at him, loaded, while fiddle-f*cking with the hammer.

  23. So let me get this straight, retard shoots friend, blames gun.

    This is appallingly negligent.
    How do you raise your child in a room full of guns and not DRILL safe handling into him?
    Who hands someone with poor skills their loaded gun to ‘check it out’ in a car?
    Who ‘checks out’ someone’s gun by lifting the hammer?
    Which three college males attend a sporting event without drinking before hand?

  24. …”pull the hammer back, to make certain the chamber was empty”

    WTF is this guy thinking??? It’s like putting a car in drive and punching the gas pedal to see if there’s any gas in the gas tank.

  25. Ugh! If it wasn’t for the digging up of this as apparent fact (or at least based on it) I’d say it was a piece of fiction by a writer. For all we know, while based on a truth, it could still be a piece of historical fiction.

    His story: I knew jack about what I was doing, and I killed my pal. IF society didn’t idolize the things I’d have not been so stupid with it. Umm, that’s a stretch of logic that is weak and circumstantial.

  26. I am from Maryville Tn I want to know who is the guy in the picture because he looks just like my brother I know that is not him but the guy in the picture looks just like him they could be twins

  27. MAY BE OLD, ANYONE READING MUST KNOW. READING WORDS THIS STUPID ON A GUN KILLING SOMEONE; #1- LYING or #2- WORK OF FICTION -and- #3- NOTHING AGAINST PERSON’S 2nd AMENDMENT RIGHTS,, BUT THIS DUMB ABOUT GUNS SHOULD NOT BE AROUND GUNS MUCH LESS HANDLING ONE AND ‘Especially” NOT BE OWNING n SHOOTING GUNS. Eight year old boys knew better, and 12-year old daughter put all her shots in 8″x11″ target at 15-yards, HER FIRST TIME SHOOTING (Ruger Single Six, 22lr, single action revolver)

    ARTICLE HAD TOO MUCH LIKE HOLLYWOOD’S PORTRAYAL OF GUN OWNERS AS INBRED HILLBILLY TOBACCO CHEWING, IDIOTS- WHO CONSTANTLY ARE CARELESS HANDLING THEIR GUNS, gun doesn’t shoot by itself, and NOT pointed at anyone, it’s hard to injure them. . AND Some forget family’s born when Oklahoma was Indian Territory, living in city, farm or horse ranch everyone shoots, something. All four sons went thru WWII,

    PS: Not smart to tangle with sons (now age 40’s ) one’s contractor (bowling pin match @ age 9 took #1 prize from 80+ adults, shooting 22 class/ later years IPSC match@age 14, rank #16 in ~48 adults or brother (former Marine, now LEO) both blessed with children (might add grandkids to “Best Leave Alone” LIST (household, oldest shoots one Dad’s 45acp and owns 308 rifle, other household’s entire family is Black Belt _ ? ‘n Black 3rd degree for times no pistol’s handy among other deterrents,, smart folks should have the idea, rest of them ,, you cannot teach and educate a stupid person who doesn’t want to learn, especially one mouthing off making sure everyone knows how smart they are.

    The Antique writing this, who’s proud of his part in the three generations of American Firearm Owners, you can make up your own mind if wrong against him is in your best interests. Remember, “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” and “Free Advise is Always Worth At Least What You Paid For It”. Live well and Live Free, as Americans.


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