She’s fiddling with one of the 9 mm rounds that litter my bar top, a look of curious disbelief on her face. It’s the same way a child regards the mall Santa Claus for the first time. She sets the round down gingerly, as if she half expects it to fire off in her hand. Then she starts, “You know, I was scared to come here at first. I’m scared of guns, and the fact that I’m here and there are three rifles on that awesome coffee table I helped you pick out and I’m actually touching this thing is kind of crazy.” I then ask her why she’s all of a sudden so comfortable with the Kriss Vector sitting on my coffee table. She says that seeing how careful I am with my firearms and my paranoid insistence on safety made her feel more comfortable about the gun.
What she didn’t know at the time was that just the other day, I’d taken what I thought was an unloaded Glock 26 out of my safe and tossed it on my bed, only to pick it up a few minutes later, rack the slide and watch as a Federal hollow point went sailing through the air.
That may not sound like a big deal to some. But to me it was, because I broke one of the rules of my house. Any and every single time I touch a gun, whether I set it down two seconds or an hour ago, I am supposed to remove the magazine, rack the slide and make sure that the gun is clear. I have to engage in this newborn infant level of safety because I’m constantly fiddling with guns in my apartment, and nothing breeds complacency like familiarity.
Firearm accidents thrive in the heart of complacency, especially in those who once feared guns and are now very comfortable with them. When you practically live with guns like they’re your roommates, it’s easy to become numb to their capabilities. Guns aren’t inherently scary, they just have the ability to do scary things if handled the wrong way. The same can be said of cars, knives and Latin women when you make them angry.
However, when it comes to the “finality of consequence” when something goes wrong with a gun, they’re more like planes. Flying is an extremely safe way to travel, but they scare me because an engine going out at 30,000 feet is exceedingly more devastating than my engine going out while driving down the street. Once that bullet leaves the barrel of a gun, it’s done—there’s no calling it back, and there’s no Angelina Jolie to curve the bullet before it strikes its unintended target.
It’s this “finality of consequence” that makes guns scary to some people. Well, a lot of people.
Thankfully, most planes have backup engines for the backup engines. And as firearm owners we have the Three Rules of Safe Gun Handling: (1) ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; (2) ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; (3) ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. What can happen when we start becoming more comfortable with guns is that we get complacent and allow these rules to start seeming more and more like suggestions. Before you know it, you’re on Tosh.O being trolled by Daniel Tosh.As gun owners, we have the responsibility to instill the overwhelming importance of gun safety into the psyche of the people we introduce to firearms.
This is what happened when I took my loaded Glock 26 and tossed it on the bed without checking it. I broke the first rule. I assure you I would not have done that if I knew the gun was loaded. There’s a fine line between comfort and complacency. Being comfortable with guns is a good thing, but becoming complacent will get you or someone else killed. Run from complacency like the wind. You will make mistakes—that’s life—but your goal should be to strive for perfection. Breaking one of the rules is bad, breaking two is devastating; so aim for perfection and maybe you break one in your life, but never two.
I snap at her, “Get your damn finger off the trigger!” as I watch her digit curl around it for the 35th time. She snaps back, “Stop yelling at me, it’s not serious.” I take the gun away from her as I put on my best fatherly figure voice: “It’s always that serious. Imagine if you did that and there was a round in the gun and it fired in my apartment because you forgot there was a bullet in the chamber? Do you want to have to explain to your neighbor why they now have a hole in their wall, or worse?” As gun owners, we have the responsibility to instill the overwhelming importance of gun safety into the psyche of the people we introduce to firearms. The habits they learn in the beginning are vital to establishing a pattern of gun safety behavior that will become automatic.
I may have not checked that Glock 26 to see if it was loaded, but trigger discipline was ingrained in me from the first time I picked up a gun and is now completely intuitive. So much so that I find myself indexing my finger on toy guns, laser guns and staple guns. I broke one rule, but breaking two was highly unlikely because I place such a high standard on following the four rules of gun safety and gun safety in general. Gun safety is boring and can seem cheesy to an outsider, but there’s no way around it. It’s the absolute most vital thing anyone needs to learn about guns, and it always will be.