Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Gun safety

I had two dad's growing up. This is old news but it sets the scene. Both my dad and my step-dad owned guns and were hunters. Both of their families were outdoorsy. Hunting, like high school sports, was just something you did in northern Michigan. You're a teen? You hunt and play football. Football I stuck with. Hunting I gave up after blowing one squirrel straight to hell.

The reason I mention all that is because in order to get a hunting license at 13 you needed to take and, of course, pass a gun safety class. The class was given in a classroom in the high school wing of the public school I attended. The class was given by the father of a kid I kinda knew. I was surprised when he walked in. It was one of those revelations about a person that strikes. I thought my dads knew a lot about guns. This kid's dad actually taught classes about guns!

I remember two things about the class. First, everything this guy went over my step-dad had already taught me. My opinion of step-dad went up a couple of notches. I remember thinking that my step-dad could probably have done a better job. I don't think it was a biased opinion because he and I never really gelled. Two trains running parallel with two miles of swamp between them.

The second thing I remember is still a vivid moving image in my head. Like all firearm instruction he pointed out to us that no gun is ever completely safe.

"No matter how careful you are in determining that a gun is not loaded and that the safety is on," he said, "it is never completely safe. Always treat a gun as if it is loaded."

While going through this routine he was using an old rifle to demonstrate the proper way to unload and clear a weapon. He was very careful to show is that the gun's safety was on. He then dropped the gun so that the butt hit the floor. It hit the ground and dry fired.

He said, "Did you notice that the gun fired? I did that to show you that a gun is never, ever completly safe. Now, I demonstrated that this way because this rifle has a safety that doesn't work. I haven't used it in years so I know it's safe."

Even as a dumb 13-year-old I knew what he had done contradicted everything he had said that evening. I have a third memory of that night now that I think about. I remember that my step-dad and I discussing the class while driving home in the early evening dark. He fouly expressed his disdain for the unsafe stunt of the instructor when I brought the incident up.

No comments: