Monday, February 13, 2006

Vice President Cheney and Gun Safety

Yesterday Afternoon the Drudge Report had its little red and blue police siren blazing at the top of the page, declaring that Vice President Cheney had accidentally shot his friend while hunting quail in Texas.

There are a bunch of angles developing on this story. There are questions about the timing of the announcement of the accident, musings on etiquette when accidents take place involving White House Personnel, and of course, a litany of anti gun commentary stemming from the serendipity of a staunch firearms advocate having a gun accident.

All of this is to be expected of course (although the administration could have been faster with news release of the incident and largely avoided the criticism of witholding information from the public ; I don't see what benefit there was in delaying the release of this embarassing news). However, there was one take on the incident that I believe is worth additional comment here.

Junkyard Blog (here, and also found on Michelle Malkin's site), while analyzing all the issues arising from this accident, stated the following:

It may well be the [man who was hunting with Vice President Cheney's] fault. When you’re out hunting and you get shot, it’s usually because you were unclear about your intented movements or because you snuck up on somebody who was amped up looking for the quarry.

I vehemently disagree with that comment.

I am a combat arms soldier as well as a hunter. I have spent the greater part of the last fifteen years working with and around firearms, and I feel more than qualified to make a few comments about weapons safety.

I have seen more than my fair share of firearms accidents during my time in the Army, as well as one traumatic hunting accident. In every single case, the fault of the accident rested on the man or woman pulling the trigger. If the shooter had followed all safety procedures while handling and operating the weapon, the incident would never have taken place. I have seen people wounded and even killed in the Army due to negligent handling of weapons. More often than not, I have watched people professionally embarassed and reprimanded within the service because they mishandled a weapon and fired it, although no one was hurt.

I have never seen a firearms mishap occur because of negligence on the part of the wounded man, as stated as possibility by Junkyard. That wounded person may make act recklessly and with a disregard to his or her own safety, but the bottom line is the person with the finger on the trigger is exercising ultimate judgement about the situation.

Last winter, I went on a guided pheasant hunt with a group of friends in Kansas. One of my friends shot at a hen flying away at a low angle, and failed to ensure nothing was in the direction of fire. He accidentally shot one of the guide's beautiful (and well trained) golden retrievers. Luckily, the dog survived, no thanks to the judgement of the careless hunter.

My experience has always been that the individual pulling the trigger has to be absolutely prepared to destroy whatever the muzzle of the weapon is aimed at; if there is any uncertainty to the target whatsoever, then it is always prudent to keep your finger off the trigger. Vice President Cheney learned this lesson the hard way; hopefully his accident will be more than spin and fodder for late night jokes, and will encourage people to have more presence of mind whenever they are handling weapons.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100%. As someone who has hunted small game for over 15 years with multiple hunters and dogs, we follow a very strict hunting safety rules. Any one of us who would have acted as carelessly as the VP would not have been hunting with us again. You always know what your target is and you always know where the rest of your party is.

JuliaMazal said...

I am not anti-gun, but I've never handled one, so I find it hard to judge news stories relating to firearms. Thanks for this balanced blog entry.

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