A medevac chopper lands outside a gun shop where an employee shot a customer.  Photo by Silver City Sun News.

by Frank Sharpe
Fortress Defense Consultants

It’s being reported that this past Tuesday a New Mexico gun shop employee accidentally shot a customer in the back with 45-caliber handgun. The news accounts, of course, are suggesting the gun “went off”, as if it suddenly became possessed with a mind of its own and actuated its firing mechanism beyond the control of the person handling it.

Profession gunmen know better. No doubt the trigger was pressed and the gun functioned just as advertised.

In the gun business, events such as the one in New Mexico are generally referred to as Accidental Discharges, or “AD’s”. I actually have no problem calling them that at the onset as there is always a one-in-a-billion chance there was some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure with the firearm that was separate from operator actions. However, once investigated, all such discharges are usually the result of human error, and those we refer to as Negligent Discharges, or “ND’s”.

Col. Cooper’s Rules of Gun Safety
1.  All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
2.  Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.  (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule Number 1.)
3.  Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.
4.  Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

It’s been my contention for decades that if someone wants to observe violations of all 4 of Col. Cooper’s Rules of Gun Safety, they just need to walk through the doors of the nearest gun shop or gun show.

In such places it is common practice for employees and customers to muzzle sweep one another, as well as place their fingers on triggers when it’s not appropriate.  All of it is a direct result of the guns in gun shops being declared “unloaded.”  The customers and employees are constantly reassuring themselves that the guns they are handling are unloaded and therefore “safe.”  Such fantasies create habits and behaviors that eventually result in ND’s.

We are not believers in “Condition-Based Training.” This means we do not handle empty guns any differently than those which are loaded. To us, they are all treated as loaded at all times!

A “Safe Direction” brand ballistic panel for use when loading or unloading a firearm. A barrel or bucket of sand will accomplish much the same thing.
Photo by usconcealedcarry.com.

We also see no excuse for gun shops to not have a designated safe direction to point, dry fire, disassemble, load and unload all firearms. It’s up to all of us to not only handle our guns properly, but to demand it of those around us.

It’s time we make it known to those behind the counter that we will no longer tolerate careless, unprofessional gun handling, and that if such behavior is witnessed, we will take our business elsewhere.

Gun store employee accidentally shoots customer in the back
(FoxNews) – Authorities say an employee at a New Mexico gun shop was unloading a handgun when he accidentally shot a customer in the back, wounding him.

The Las Cruses Sun-News reports the 65-year-old customer was airlifted from Silver City to a Texas hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.

Silver City Police Chief Ed Reynolds says an employee at Copper County Sporting Arms was unloading a .45 caliber handgun Tuesday when the weapon went off, shooting the man in the back.