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  • Poorly Trained

    Posted by Dan from Madison on October 2nd, 2007 (All posts by )

    I saw this story today (ht Annie) about a tragic death that could have been prevented. The story is reported in the Indy Star news roundup here. It is about half way down the page.

    Here is the complete story.

    Reserve officer shot to death at gun range
    Hammond — A Gary reserve officer was fatally shot at a gun range during marksmanship practice, police said.
     
    Kevin Weaver, 49, died Saturday from a single gunshot wound after a fellow volunteer officer’s gun accidentally discharged a .45-caliber round into his chest, Gary police said.
     
    Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said Weaver, who was with the Gary force for more than 20 years, was struck in the arm and chest. Weaver was pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.
     
    “There’s apparently nothing here that indicates anything other than an accident,” Miller said.
     
    Reserve officer Gerald Horton, 52, was attempting to clear his weapon at the gun range when Weaver accidentally bumped into him, causing Horton’s gun to fire the .45-caliber round into Weaver, Gary police said.
     
    Another reserve officer, Von Brown, was at the range when the shooting took place, said Gary Police Cmdr. Samuel Roberts. Horton and Brown were not injured.

    This story is so sad and wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.

    The first emotion that hit me was anger. I am a proud gun owner and simply don’t understand how things like this can happen at a range (public or private) or anywhere for that matter where people are gathering to enjoy the sport of shooting, or training to perhaps defend others someday.

    Everybody should know the four rules (small pdf). By the looks of things, I would say rules one through three were violated, and possibly rule four.

    Of course we are not hearing the whole story here. Police tend to protect each other and I guarantee that the reporter wasn’t given the whole story. But we can discern a few facts – a person was shot at a shooting range and it was during reserve officer training. As a side note I had never heard of “reserve officers” until this article and don’t really understand what they are.

    So clearly the person who did the shooting was NOT treating his firearm as though it was loaded (ignoring rule 1), ignored rule two by having the muzzle of the firearm in an unsafe place and also (rule 3) had his finger on the trigger. Its amazing this person hasn’t shot himself yet.

    The reporter doesn’t know firearms either. Did you catch this part?

    Kevin Weaver, 49, died Saturday from a single gunshot wound after a fellow volunteer officer’s gun accidentally discharged a .45-caliber round into his chest, Gary police said.

    I have never seen a gun “accidentally discharge”. All of mine discharge when I make them discharge. The reporter may have been simply quoting the Hammond Police chief verbatim when he was writing this small blurb. On the other hand he or she could have manipulated the story to depict guns as inherently dangerous by saying that the firearm “accidentally” discharged. Either way this is so very typical of everything I see in the mass media when reportage about firearms is involved.

    I am partly surprised that this story actually made it into the paper at all in this form. A core argument of those who would deny my right to keep and bear arms is that “well trained militia” part in the Second Amendment. Many argue that it is only the right for the police/military to own firearms – this story seriously damages that argument on the ground that it was at a range during police training where this tragedy occurred.

    “There’s apparently nothing here that indicates anything other than an accident,” Miller said.

    Sorry Chief Miller, this was no accident, it is poor training, poor handling of weapons and it was completely preventable. I am sure you will find out just exactly to what extent in the coming months as you sit on the stand and have to testify before the victims’ counsel.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

     

    23 Responses to “Poorly Trained”

    1. John Cunningham Says:

      Very good comments, Dan. Clearly the basic rules of gun handling were violated. As always, the clueless press slants the story against guns.

    2. Shannon Love Says:

      Actually, contrary to the PDF, the rule I was taught to treat all guns as loaded whether we think we have checked them or not. Only a disassembled gun can be treated as a safe object.

      When you work with guns day-in and day-out, the chances that sometime in your 40-80 years of handling guns you will manipulate a loaded weapon while believing it unloaded becomes a certainty. The law of large numbers will catch up with you.

      It’s one of natures little perversities. People fear activities which they do rarely yet it is the the common activities that will kill us. Someone who visits a dangerous area, like a metal working shop, can get buy with skipping protections, such as safety goggles, but someone who works in that environment must rigorously follow the safety rules for years because eventually they will, without a doubt, experience an accident.

    3. Dan from Madison Says:

      Shannon – Even somone who handles weapons daily such as a gunsmith should have actually a very low probability of handling a weapon loaded that he or she thinks is unloaded. It is the first thing that is taught in most basic safety classes – how to check a revolver or pistol (or long gun for that matter) to see if they are loaded.
      You were taught to treat all guns as loaded – I think that is another version of Rule 2 – and works just as well.

    4. Jonathan Says:

      I agree with Shannon.

      His reasoning applies in other areas of life as well, and underlies much tradition. “Don’t do X,” where X is a traditional prohibition on some kind of behavior, tends to mean that if you do X long enough, a bad outcome is likely. A bad outcome isn’t obvious, because if it were there would be no need for the taboo. So you need a rule to keep people’s behavior under control until they are old or wise enough to understand that X is a bad idea in the long run. (Some people never understand and some people won’t follow the rule, but formulating a rule is the best that can be done.) In financial markets, “don’t add to a loser” is an example of this kind of rule. You can double-down on losing trades for years and (especially if you are highly skilled in trade selection) make a lot of money, but eventually you are likely to encounter a situation where you run out of money before the market stops going against you.

      For these reasons I am extra-cautious when handling guns, particularly WRT keeping them pointed in a safe direction. Assume that they are always ready to fire. That way, if, over the course of many years, you make a mistake, then you will only shoot the floor or a concrete wall instead of a person. Some people don’t get this and it is wise to avoid them.

    5. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan from Madison,

      Even somone who handles weapons daily such as a gunsmith should have actually a very low probability of handling a weapon loaded that he or she thinks is unloaded.

      Very low probabilities become absolute certainties giving enough iterations over enough time.

      If one hundred people handle a gun once a day for 10 years that comes out to 365,000 events. If we assume that the chances of being injured by handling a firearm once is 1 in 100,000 then we could simplistically expect that between 3 to 4 out of a hundred people handling the firearms would be injured in that time frame. That comes out to a 1 in 25 chance of being shot.

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Johnathan,

      The phenomenon you describe as a technical name of “normalization of deviance.” It occurs when someone does something risky, gets away with it, then tries again and again until eventually they get hurt.

      Its the phenomenon that destroyed both space shuttles. Managers tolerated risky practices that appeared to cause no immediate harm until it caused vehicle loss accidents.

    7. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan from Madison,

      Actually, to complete my thought from the last post:

      A person who handles a gun everyday should think of having a 1 in 25 chance of being injured not a 1 in 100,000. Concentrating on absolute risk makes people’s behavior safer overall.

    8. Brian Says:

      As a side note I had never heard of “reserve officers” until this article and don’t really understand what they are.

      We had these in Texas – reserve police officers are to the regular police as Army Reserves are to the Army; part time, fully trained police officers that can be called on to augment the regulars.

      I have never seen a gun “accidentally discharge”. All of mine discharge when I make them discharge.

      I have not seen a discharge but I know of at least three accidental discharges from three years of barracks duty in the Marines. You could make the case that they made them discharge but it was certainly an accident when it happened. Twice this happened inside the guardhouse, once was into the clearing barrel.

      But I never ever heard of something like this happening at the range.

    9. Dan from Madison Says:

      Jonathan and Shannon – I can’t wrap my head around this because I always think of myself, I suppose.

      When shooting or handling guns I check the pipe every time on a pistol and always lock it back when handing it to someone else. I always swing the cylinder out of the revolver when handling it. I always pull back the bolt on my rifles. I never point the barrel at anything I don’t mean to destroy. I do these things every single time. Every-single-time.

      That would mean there is a zero chance of me ever hurting someone due to negligence from handling a firearm such as in the article I mentioned. It doesn’t mean I won’t get shot at the range someday from someone elses negligence. Last week I got barrel swept twice by a guy – I promptly packed up my things and left.

      That said, obviously the cops in the shooting range were not as careful as myself. Their behavior was inexcusable – and the lawyers will have a field day with them.

    10. Dan from Madison Says:

      Brian – I don’t understand how you can have an accidental discharge. I would be interested if you could explain in detail how those happened.

      As you mentioned, having a death happen at the range is insane.

    11. Shannon Love Says:

      Dan from Madison,

      I do these things every single time. Every-single-time.

      Actually, you probably don’t. Human beings inevitably make a certain minimal number of errors even in ordinary well practiced task. You probably simply don’t remember errors you made that had no immediate consequence.

      There is a large body of psychological work in this error and it seems to show we have an inherent bias towards forgetting mistakes that cause not errors. For example, most people qualify as good drivers yet detailed studies of driving have shown that even the most low risk drivers make an error that could result in a fatal accident virtually every time they drive. Accident don’t occur however because it usually take two or more people making a similar mistake within a couple of seconds of one another in the same place. For example, for a collision to occur in a four way stop, two drivers traveling at right angles to one another must run a stop sign within about 2/10 of a second of each other. Its rare but it happens.

      Of course, careless changes the odds. If a person habitually runs stop signs then they have a much greater chance of having a wreck than does someone who only does it completely only very rarely. (I think the average safe driver runs a stop signal once every two years or something like that). Real world safety doesn’t plan on eliminating errors but on reducing their frequency.

      From a leadership or responsibility perspective, keeping people safe requires a dogmatic adherence to safety rules enforced by constant nagging. You can’t let people relax and get sloppy just to make them like you better.

    12. Jonathan Says:

      The only human systems that survive in the long run are those that take into account the possibility of mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes eventually.

    13. Karl Gallagher Says:

      I blogger I read regularly is a gunsmith. A few months back he had a very embarrassed post about how he put a bullet through the palm of his hand while cleaning a weapon. A low probability event, but if you roll the dice often enough you will get unlucky.

    14. Dan from Madison Says:

      I am going to sell my guns.

      Just kidding, just kidding. Good points all.

    15. Tyouth Says:

      “Reserve officer Gerald Horton, 52, was attempting to clear his weapon ….”

      Forgive my ignorance but “clear” means “ejecting the round by pulling the slide back to eject the bullet or, alternatively, firing downrange in a safe way” in order to remove the ammunition doesn’t it?

    16. Shannon Love Says:

      Tyouth,

      They may have meant “clear” in the context of a jam or misfire. That is a rather dangerous circumstance because the actual internal state of the weapon and the round is unknown. Delayed fire or “jar” fire is extremely rare these days but it does happen. (Used to happen a lot with blackpowder weapons.)

      An automatic can jam with a round in the chamber with the firing pin cocked or half cocked. Jostling or dropping the weapon causes pin to strike discharging the weapon. I am with Dan on the matter of it being a preventable accident. The only way I can think of it to happen otherwise would be for someone to actually fumble or drop the jammed weapon. Otherwise, its a varient of “gee it didn’t fire, guess I’ll look down the barrel and see what’s wrong.

    17. Shannon Love Says:

      I did a post sometime back about the time I almost accidently shot a neighbor when I was a teenager. It might have some relevance to a discussion on accidents with guns.

    18. Dan from Madison Says:

      Good point Shannon on the jam – I have never seen one in a semi auto but have heard of them. Like you said it isn’t really a very good excuse to shoot the other guy – the barrel should have never been pointed at him.

      The article states that he was trying to clear the weapon when the other guy “bumped into him”. We will probably never know what the hell that means unless there is video tape of the incident.

    19. Brian Says:

      Brian – I don’t understand how you can have an accidental discharge. I would be interested if you could explain in detail how those happened.

      I am not familiar with two of the incidents, only that they happened. They did involve pistols and were not in situations where the Marine should have drawn his weapon – i.e. weapons were not cleaned in that location nor was there cause to draw the weapon in line of duty.

      I am familiar with the details of the third because there was a huge stink which involved the company commander yelling at the assembled Guard section, loss of rank for the hapless Marine AND his two immediate superiors.

      At that time (1986) sentries were forbade by general order from inserting magazines in their weapons. Locking and loading was only when the sentry was ready to shoot or by direct order from the Officer of the Day.

      SOP on relief of the watch was for the watch standers to assemble at a clearing barrel – an oil drum filled with sand, clear the weapon by inspecting magazine well and chamber, lock the slide forward and pull the trigger, barrel pointing into the clearing barrel. Marine would then safety the weapon by locking the slide back and turn it into the armory. This process was to be supervised by the Corporal or Sergeant of the Guard.

      After the Marine was posted, against orders he inserted a magazine into his M1911. Hours later Marine is relieved and lines up at the clearing barrel. Marine locks the slide to the rear, inspects the chamber. Nothing there of course. Release the slide, introduce the M911 into the barrel, pull the trigger . . .

      Someone observed later that at the very least this proved that the clearing barrel worked – it neatly caught the fired bullet.

      The errors are obvious. The first was inserting a magazine against orders. The second was neglecting to look inside the magazine well.

      Not an ‘accident’, then, in the sense that things just happened that no one could help. If the sentry had not inserted a magazine in the first place, or remembered that he DID and removed it before being relieved it would not have happened. I’m not sure what to call it – I’ve always heard the term ‘accidental discharge’ used for incidents like this.

    20. Shannon Love Says:

      The word accident means an unintended consequence or event, usually a negative one. Any consequence other than an intended one is an accident. If a weapon discharges in a time and manner other than that intended by the wielder, then it is an accidental discharge.

      It has also entered the language that accidental means “unavoidable.” I don’t think that is really in the spirit of the original use of the word but I think this is the way many people use it now, especially lawyers. People seem to use in the since of, “This was no accident, it was avoidable.”

    21. Anonymous Says:

      The only human systems that survive in the long run are those that take into account the possibility of mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes eventually.

      Well, don’t the 4 Rules take this into account by having multiple rules each one of which provides a significant contribution to safety all by itself?

    22. Kirk Parker Says:

      Oops, Mr. Anonymous is me. :-(

    23. Jonathan Says:

      Well, don’t the 4 Rules take this into account by having multiple rules each one of which provides a significant contribution to safety all by itself?

      Sure. If you follow the rules.