Recently, two local incidents highlighted the fact that guns can be discharged accidentally and leave those in the bullets’ paths critically injured.
Last month two incidents left men hospitalized. One, which occurred at a gas station on East Markland Avenue, involved a man accidentally shooting himself in the leg as he attempted to holster his pistol. The other occurred at a local pawn shop also on East Markland Avenue. There, a child accidentally discharged a pistol, striking his father. In both incidents, the victims survived, and, according to a Kokomo Police Department official, both cases remain under investigation.
According to a local certified firearms instructor, accidental shootings can be prevented if gun owners adhere to specific guidelines and instructions.
Statistics show that accidental shooting deaths, nationwide, are on the decline. According to Centers for Disease Control, statistics examined by the National Safety Council, accidental gun-related gun deaths decreased nationally from 1999 to 2017 by 41 percent, from 824 to 486 annually. Of the 38,773 gun-related deaths recorded in 2017, about 1 percent were determined to be preventable/accidental.
The rate for accidental gun injuries not resulting in death is much higher. Everytown Research found that 18,362 unintentional firearm injuries occur each year.
And yet, Safe-Sight Consulting Owner Bart Taber said most accidental shootings can be avoided by following four steps and partaking in training courses.
Taber, who is a deputy with the Howard County Sheriff Office and also works as the department’s firearms instructor, has state certifications for pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructing. He also earned a psycho-motor skills instruction certification from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in 1996.
The four firearm safety rules Taber espouses, he said, should be implemented consistently by firearm owners. Taber went so far as to dub them “commandments.”
The first rule, according to Taber, is to treat all firearms as if they’re loaded all the time, even when they’re not. The intent here, said the instructor, is to ingrain muzzle discipline into a user.
“This prevents us from saying, ‘Well, OK, this time it’s unloaded, and this time it’s not,’” said Taber. “Well, it’s kind of overkill, and overkill when it comes to gun safety is a good thing.”
The second rule is to never cover the muzzle or point the muzzle in the direction of anything the user doesn’t wish to “kill or destroy.”
This coincides with the first rule, and Taber noted losses in muzzle discipline often are attributed to distractions. But, he said, always concentrate on having the muzzle of a weapon pointed in a safe direction unless intending to fire at a desired target.
Rule three entails trigger discipline. According to Taber, those handling firearms always should keep their fingers “off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until [their] sights are on a target [they] don’t mind killing or destroying.” This, he said, may be the most important rule.
“The bottom line is that magic switch on a gun is the trigger, and if you don’t touch it nothing is going to happen,” said Taber. “So what has to happen on all these negligent discharges is somebody has to touch the trigger.”
Failing to adhere to this rule leads to the majority of accidental gun injuries, according to Taber. That’s because if a firearm handler has their finger resting on their trigger, any number of scenarios can cause the body to tense up, discharging the weapon. These can range from anything as simple as stubbing a toe to losing balance.
Furthermore, the rule should be applied throughout the process of drawing a firearm, from removing it from a holster to bringing it to the “low-ready” stance.
The final rule is to be sure of one’s target, what is beyond the target, and what will happen if the bullet passes through the intended target.
Beyond the potential for causing injury, Taber noted that failing to adhere to these rules and accidentally discharging a weapon in public can lead to a revocation of one’s concealed carry permit or other consequences as well. For example, some criminal charges can result from such an incident.
In addition to the basic four rules, the firearms instructor said everyone intending to handle a firearm should seek training from certified instructors. And, those intending to carry on their person should invest in a quality holster as well, since cheaper products can cause firearms to wiggle free or require more finagling to fit back into a holster. Both scenarios can cause a potential loss of trigger discipline.
And, Taber said firearms also should be stored safely, preferably in a safe that can be easily accessed in a time of need. Gun safes, indicated the instructor, can be purchased for as little as $13 and always should be used to keep guns out of the reach of children if the firearm isn’t on a user’s person.
“From a constitutional standpoint, I am against mandatory safety classes, but I would certainly like to see people take training, even if it’s not from me, because a safe gun handler benefits everybody in this community in more than one category,” said Taber. “Yeah, we’re all safer when people handle their guns safer, but we also end up with less press. Every time some knucklehead lets a round go accidentally in public, every gun owner gets a black eye.”
Taber’s instructional course can be found at safesightconsulting.com.