A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Rule Two

Never let the muzzle of your gun cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

Rule Two is so easily said, yet so difficult to perform, especially with handguns. Rule Two will not prevent a negligent discharge, but it will prevent tragedy. Rule Two is the rule that will save your ass, and perhaps a life when you violate every other rule. Rule Two is the rule most often broken, even by experienced gun handlers. Rule Two demands further consideration, it is the final safeguard.

Violations of Rule Two can occur at the range, at the hunting camp, at the gun dealer's counter, when removing a firearm from a vehicle, when reholstering a handgun, or even when placing a weapon into storage. I confess to failing at Rule Two on occasion. I might be cleaning my guns, and notice my wife seated across the room from me, with the muzzle of a gun laying on the table pointed at her. Indeed, some carry methods violate Rule Two as a loaded pistol sweeps anyone who is behind the person using a horizonal shoulder rig. A holstered pistol, or a pistol laying on a table is no danger to anyone though. It is only when the firearms are handled that the potential for danger arises. Few people have swapped stories at a gun counter and have never been swept by a muzzle by a person unaware of the transgression. Some people will duck, others will curse and protest, and still others will never notice what took place.

The fact of the matter is, each of us will never know for sure how many times we have been swept by a poor handler of firearms. One thing is certain, however, for every accidental shooting, there was a person swept with a muzzle first. In some instances, the gun handler never knew the victim was there until after the shooting. To comply with Rule two, one must remember that bullets can travel great distances, and can kill after penetrating walls and other forms of concealment.

Even so, it is surprising how many shootings are ruled accidental rather than deemed negligent homicides in light of Rule Two. Several days ago in a nearby community, some children were playing with a handgun on a street corner. I am fairly certain it was a revolver, as the news reported a .38 caliber. A young boy was shot in the chest, killed, and the shooting was ruled accidental. I feel certain the shooter squealed afterwards "It just went off! I didn't know it was loaded!" Well, if he had not pointed the gun at his friend's chest, he still could have had his "accident" and his friend would be alive. If a negligent discharge occurs, Rule Two is the difference between life and death.

Because of Rule Two's lifesaving, last safeguard nature, all gun handlers should strive to incorporate it into their bones. Nobody wants to kill a friend, a child, or even an innocent stranger because they were careless. Truly, all it takes is one negligent discharge to demonstrate how important Rule Two really is. Rule Two is the final safeguard that separates embarrassment from tragedy.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Infringements of this piss me off no end.

I was working in Africa a couple of months ago, and our security guy would often lay his AK down with the muzzle pointing at the working area, one up the spout and safety on...

he must have thought i was a real grumpy old sod.

About a year ago, I met some guys near where I live in ireland, and got talking to them. One turned around and swept me with the muzzle of his ruger 77/22 Hornet, that was slung over his shoulder. He got all offended when I asked him not to point it at me and came out with the "I've been shooting....years" crap.

Yep, turns out he had one up the spout and safety on...

Can I add a rule five?

5) However well made, a safety is no replacement for the four rules.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a co-worker once that had shot himself in the arm with a 9mm in a shoulder holster...

The four rules are definitely rules all firearms handlers need to learn in their bones.

I like that phrase, I think I'm going to keep using it. Thank's Xavier!

12:49 PM  
Blogger Sterno said...

So my question (as a filmmaker) is what about guns in movies? When you see a revolver in the movies, it's usually a real revolver using blanks. The same goes for pump shotguns. The semi-auto's are usually real firearms modified to cycle blanks (really weak recoil spring).

They're live firearms loaded with blank ammunition. How does the four rules apply then?

(I know how I handle it but I'm curious as to what other people's stance is.)

9:04 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It is quite possible through editing film to give the impression that firearms are pointed where they are not.

Blanks are not harmless. Accidents do happen. there is really no reason why another actor should have to die in the same way Brandon Lee died.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the range yesterday and noticed how lax I and a fried were on rule 2. I didn't point it out to my friend but wanted to put more emphasis in my own handling from now on with rule 2.

"Ferinstance" he had picked up a pistol he'd left laying on the bench to show me about something on it. It had no magazine in and the bolt locked back. As he handled it the muzzle swept toward the door that seperates the two ranges where a couple of other guys were setting up. The gun was empty, his finger wasn't on the trigger.

It doesn't make a difference whether the gun was "safe" or not. If it was critical to show me he should have had me stand and move so I could see what he wanted to point to while his muzzle was pointed at the backstop, an appropriate place for a muzzle, gun loaded or unloaded. If the bullet went off it would hit what we intend for the bullet to ultimately strike at the range.

The four rules are given to prevent the need to utter stupid phrases like "I didn't know it was loaded!" and "It went off by itself!" Followed religiously they can prevent tragedy.

When drawing from a hip holster, OWB, there is a brief moment when a gun's muzzle will cover my foot. I'm double-jointed at the ankle. My foot turns out naturally. There is almost no way to bring the muzzle from holster up toward the front of my body without sweeping across my foot. That doesn't mean that I should be lax about rule 2. However strict adhereance to rule 1 will keep me from having a bullet hole from my own gun in my foot.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I took my CCW course, my respect for the four rules was further reinforced.

About 8 years early, an incident occured that lead to the banning of shoulder holsters by this particular instructor. The shooting portion of the class took place at a small private range. Only 6 to 8 people could stand on the firing line at a time, as it was surrounded by a 9 foot high backstop on 3 sides. The rest of the class would await their turn behind the shooters on the line (approx 30 yds behind). You can now see where this is going.

Anyway, somebody was carrying their Ruger P85 in a shoulder holster. The guy was apparently showing off his quick draw. Note that he was described being as "Clutzy". He was asked to stop showing off once. Then I guess he forgot an did it one last time. As he clumsily grabbed the Ruger, his finger slipped inside the trigger gaurd and jerked the trigger. No one was hurt, but the instructor (who was standing behind him) heard the bullet whiz past his right here. No more shoulder holsters! And honestly, the other students should probably be standing with one of the side backstops between them and the shooters on the line.

Literally, only minutes after hearing this story recanted, rules 2 and 3 were violated by another shooter. This time it was an older lady with a Ruger Mk II. And she was a couple of feet to my left when it happened.

I was keeping my eye on her, as I noticed she had a bad tendency of leaving her finger on the trigger too much. I ought to have stepped off the line and gone with the next group. This brings up another rule, trust your instincts. You have them for a reason.

To summarize, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach and looked to my left and saw her loosely holding the Ruger in her strong hand, dangling it almost, lowering it to her side with her finger inside the trigger gaurd. When it slipped, she grabbed at it with all five fingers. "POP"! The first thing I did was check my feet for holes. Then I heard her say (in a frustrated/embarrased tone): "Argh! I just shot myself in the foot!" I looked over and sure enough, their was a small .22 sized hole in her shoe just behind the webbing between her big toe and the smaller one next to it, a small red patch expanding from the center. She's lucky it wasn't a .45.

Needless to say, she did not pass the course that day. She was fine, and later said that the embarrasment far outweighed any physical pain she felt. I'll bet!

Remember the 4 rules! And like I said, if your gut starts to tell you something is wrong, something probably is!

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that rule two is the one that will save your ass. It's the one I'm the most adamant about when I'm teaching others. I say it at least twenty times in the first hour of instruction. It's as fundamental as putting on a seat belt when you go driving or keeping a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Only a fool thinks "it will never happen to me."

I had one accidental discharge in my life and, thank God, the gun was pointed in a safe direction. My dad spun around, looked at me, checked the direction of my muzzle, and then looked me in the eye and said, "I guess now you know why we have the rule." Yes, sir...and can I please have a new pair of underpants?

The rules are iron-clad. The comment by the film maker who wants to know how to handle the rules on the set demonstrates the problem. People start making exceptions... then people start getting hurt. Anyone who has anything to do with guns (even "harmless" props) needs to follow the rules. Don't believe me? Check out this story:


I remember when this happened. Apparently somebody (probably the prop master) told the guy that prop guns are "safe" and so he acted like it was safe...and "pretended" to shoot himself in the head... except it wasn't a pretend gun and blanks aren't "harmless":

Hexum's skull was fractured near his right temple from the force of a blank round's explosion last Friday on the set of the "Cover Up" television series.

Based on witnesses' accounts, Fullerton said that Hexum, 27, loaded three harmless empty cartridges and two gunpowder-filled blanks into a .44 Magnum before saying, "Let's see if I've got one for me." The actor then fired the weapon, the detective said.

"We don't know if he knew the blanks would be harmful," Fullerton said.

Well, hell. If someone had taught him the rules of safe firearms he wouldn't have been playing with a gun anyway (real, prop, pretend or otherwise)! And take note, the character he was playing was supposed to be a firearms expert. Some expert. Nobody had taught him the fundamentals. I remember watching the show as a kid and my dad pointing out how many times the guy broke the rules. Finger always on the trigger, gun sweaping everybody in sight, shooting with good guys in the background, treating "empty" guns nonchalantly. It was like a documentary on how not to do it. When he shot himself I remember dad just shaking his head. What could he say?

Want to make a movie and have a bunch of people running around shooting at each other? Fine, buy a toy gun, paint it so it looks real, then add special effects for the sound and muzzle flash. If they can make Anakin Skywalker shoot lazer bolts from a mock-up they can make a 1911 toy look real.

However, if you're going to use a real gun using blanks then make everyone on the set read the story above and then discuss the rules of safe firearms. Then explain to them that it's their responsibility to make sure they don't kill anybody else. You can set the camera up so it looks like you're shooting at someone when you are not by playing with the depth of field and camera angle. If you can do it for an actor "punching" another actor then you can do it with an actor "shooting" another actor.

There are no exceptions. The rules are there for a reason and only the fool thinks that there are "exceptions".

11:30 PM  
Blogger John Hardin said...

sterno asks:

"How do you handle the four rules in filmmaking?"

Obey them.

3:54 PM  

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