Nightmares and Day Dreams

*The names listed in this story have been changed to protect those involved.

There are a few cardinal rules in gun safety that must always be followed: 

     1- ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

     2- ALWAYS treat a gun as if it is loaded.

     3- ALWAYS keep the safety on and your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. 

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS!

***

My friend Shannon’s twelve year old son, Jason, was a promising baseball player.  He finished try-outs last Sunday then headed over to his friend Nick’s house to hang out for the rest of the afternoon.   The boys decided to hang out in the family room and watch a bit of TV before heading out in the yard to play.  Nick’s mom was in the next room making dinner.

Jason found himself engrossed in a show on TV and tuned out the world around him, as would almost any kid his age.  Meanwhile, Nick picked up his unloaded BB gun that his dad had recently bought him.  Nick pumped the gun and pulled the trigger, shooting a puff of air toward Jason’s leg.  “Jason, did you feel that?”, Nick asked.  “Yeah, I suppose”, Jason mumbled, maintaining his focus on the TV.  “What about that one?”, Nick asked as he shot another empty round in Jason’s directon.  “Kinda”.  Nick continued to pump the gun a number of times, and asked Jason a third time, “What about this one?”  At that moment, Jason turned to look at Nick, just as a BB shot into his eye.

It was every parent’s worst nightmare.  Shannon’s mind was racing a million miles a minute as she drove to the hospital to meet the ambulance.  How could this happen?

Nick swore the gun was unloaded.

Nick’s mom had told him to leave the gun alone.

Jason just simply was not paying attention.

***

What happened to Jason was not an accident.  Nick did not accidentally shoot Jason.  Nick was pointing the gun at Jason and pulling the trigger.  He thought the gun was unloaded.  ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.   ALWAYS treat a gun as if it is loaded.  ALWAYS keep the safety on and your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.  This incident is indeed unfortunate, but it could have been prevented.

It is unclear whether Nick’s mom and dad had taught him proper gun safety.  This is the first thing that should have been done before he was given a BB gun.  If Nick was not mature enough to handle the responsibility of owning a BB gun, it should never have been given to him in the first place.   Nick’s mom should never have allowed him to play with the BB gun without adult supervision.  Period.

What surprises me in this story is that Jason had been taught proper gun safety.  He knows the cardinal rules.  He was simply not paying attention to his surroundings.  I am not assigning blame on Jason, please do not misunderstand me.  I am just hopeful that others can learn from this unfortunate experience.  Jason knew that Nick should not have been playing with the BB gun.  Jason knew that Nick should not have been pointing the muzzle in an unsafe direction.  Jason knew that Nick should not have been dry firing the gun… but Jason did not speak up.

As parents, when we teach gun safety, we focus on how the person handling the gun needs to follow the rules.  Do we ever talk about how to behave when someone else  is the one handling the gun?  Perhaps we need to think a little further outside the box in our gun safety instruction.

I talked over this incident with my own young son and was shocked by his response to the situation.   As a shooting coach myself, I pride myself in having taught my son the “dos” and “don’ts” of firearm safety since he was old enough to walk.  But when my son looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t get what the big deal is?  It’s not like a BB gun can kill you.”  My heart sunk.  I was mortified.  I was mortified that Jason, once a promising baseball player, now has a BB lodged on the edge of his brain and will be blind in his right eye for the rest of his life.  I am mortified that my own son does not understand the danger of a BB gun.

I sit now and dream of the day that guns are no longer a threat to our children.  I dream of the day that every child is taught proper gun safety (and that it sinks in)!  I dream of the day that we all can find a healthy respect for firearms.

Jason is now recovering from surgery and adjusting to the fact that he will never regain his sight.  I am inspired by his outlook on life, and his ability to seek out the silver lining.  Rather than wallowing in his sorrow and pain, Jason is bound and determined to play baseball again.  He is also determined to share his story.  Jason dreams that others can learn from his misfortune, and that another child might be saved.

Please take the time to teach proper firearms safety to the children in your life!

http://www.nrahq.org/education/guide.asp

http://www.thegunzone.com/therules.html

http://www.remington.com/~/link.aspx?_id=5B6EB408A13E4DE5960FD674D7459CAC&_z=z

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5 thoughts on “Nightmares and Day Dreams

  1. Thanks for those words, Michelle. As a gun owner and the daughter of a gun enthusiast (and Vietnam veteran), I was taught those very same things! The gun is ALWAYS loaded, even if it is in pieces. My dad once got caught not treating a gun that way by his grandfather and got his hide tanned as a result, which lesson he never forgot. I’m a very new gun owner and would like to learn more – I appreciate your wise counsel and the fact that your family is being so carefully taught. : )

  2. Michelle – an excellent post., and heartbreaking one as well. This should be shared far nd wide, and I’m going to do my part to share it! This reminded me of two incidents; last fall I looked out the porch to see my little neighbor boy and friend trooping through the fence row – “bird hunting” next I saw them set the butt of the gun on the ground and peer down the barrel, then, break the shotgun open, more peering, by then I was nearly hysterical and beat feet out the door. Before I could get to the fence row, I saw just about every type of unsafe gun behavior one could imagine. I yelled at my neighbor boy to put the gun down NOW. I took the gun away, I chewed two 12 year old fannies all the way their house, I gave the gun back to the mother who was upset that they had taken her shotgun vs the bb gun..again with the attitude that the bb gun was pffft safe. NO!!! You’ve missed my point neighbor!!! Wasn’t long though and my little neighbor pal was parked in a hunter safety class, and I’m not sure he’s been allowed to use a firearm again yet.
    Many, Many, years ago my brothers were target shooting with a bb gun, brother 1 set up the tin can, turned around and WHAM brother 2 had shot him, right bewteen the eyes. He carries the scar still today. Both are also incredibly safe around firearms now, that was a long ugly lesson, and both boys got a good hide tanning and lost BB gun privileges for awhile. I am not shy when around others if they are displaying poor safety.. I wish gun safety was something that was taught in schools, starting at kindergarten and moving on with each grade level. Whether a family chooses to own guns or not, every child should be aware of the three cardinal rules you open your post with.

  3. EVERYONE. EVERYONE. EVERYONE should be taught safety with firearms. We can teach our own kids. We can educate ourselves, but what if Jason’s mom didn’t know? What if Nick didn’t know? What if Nick’s parents didn’t know? We ALL should know the three rules.
    Thanks for sharing Michelle.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. We can never be reminded too much about gun safety!! An important point… to also make sure those AROUND you are following proper safety with their firearms. My husband is a 6 year combat Navy Veteran (OIF-OEF) and I’m fortunate to have his training help me as a responsible gun owner. But not everyone has someone like that. Even then, I took a CC class recently for Oregon (I’m a WA resident), and I picked up a few more safety tips I hadn’t thought about! I encourage people to take classes. Even taking hunter’s safety course recently taught firearm safety.

  5. Great article Michelle. Thank you for sharing. So many adults (moms specifically) are afraid of guns~ and think that hiding them from their children is the answer. Education and proper gun safety is the answer. As a word to your son that BB guns have never killed anyone. I have a friend on FB who’s grand daughter just got out of the hospital after several surgeries and nearly losing her life after she was shot with a BB gun. The BB penetrated her chest and lodged next to her heart. She is very lucky to be alive~ but faces many months of recovery from the open heart surgeries. Not to even mention the financial issues her family now faces due to the dr. bills.
    I never let my boys play with toy guns when they were little. (my MIL hated that) Not until they were old enough to know the difference in a toy and reality.
    Again.. thank you for this article

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