I originally posted this story two years ago. As hunting season is now underway and many of us are introducing our children to the hunting and shooting sports for the first time, I feel it is an important message to share once again. Then again, is there ever a bad time to share this information? I think we all need safety reminders from time to time, regardless of age or experience.
*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.
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!