If you own or are a member of a shooting club in any specialty, the safety of its members is paramount. I don’t have to tell you this since we in the culture had made it a mantra and, let’s face it, we do a great job beating the Four Rules into people’s mind. Our Clubs insurance carrier will gladly renew our policy because our great track record but will refuse to insure “less dangerous” sports such as Paintball because their participants keep getting injured. However, a while back I was spectacularly reminded of Einstein’s quote: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
In the last year or so, we received an influx of new shooters to our club interested in shooting IDPA. Lots of them were almost literally people that just bought a gun for the first time and got tired real quick of a static range shooting one round per second with no movement. Thanks to two great members who came up and implemented a new New Shooter Program where ANYBODY shooting with us for the first time must go through a safety briefing and a gun proficiency test before being allowed to shoot a match (And I don’t care if you returned from overseas and were team leader of Gamma 58 Anti Terrorist Squad). Some of the stuff you are checked on covers drawing and holstering the weapon safely, parts of the gun, shooting itself, reloads, etc. Shooters have been turned away because they were considered too green and were recommended to take a basic pistol class before coming back, some had good basic skills were too Rambo and too “I know my shit. I am the New Ninja” and told thanks but no thanks. Those who demonstrated safety and willingness but were still green, were allowed to shoot under the official care of a Safety Officer but really the whole squad usually mentors the shooter. Some find out that that IDPA is not for them and God Bless them. We encourage them to seek other disciplines and let them know our door is open for them at any time but to keep shooting! Most get hooked and have a blast after their first match and want to do it all over again the next day… which we would like to do, but gun ranges in South Florida are premium contested real space. At the end, we have new safe shooters… or so we thought.
A New Shooter who went through the Safety chat & evaluation and actually shot one stage decided to go to the Safety Area and practice his reloads. Now our Safety Area like any Safety Area anywhere else doe not allow ammunition to be handled. And to reinforce the rule, we have a huge sign that gives you the damn rules on what to do and what not to do plus the Four Rules of Gun Safety. So next thing we hear is a BANG from the Safety Area and a very surprised New Shooter. An Safety Officer and myself were standing nearby (but unfortunately not paying enough attention before the incident), rushed towards the guy and told him to put the weapon down on the table. The guy turns towards us, still dazed and we get a nice sweep of what afterward turned out to be a gun with a round in the pipe. Yeah… bowel loosening time. Gun was secured and shooter was then sent to talk with the two Safety Officers who gave him the initial briefing & evaluation. After the chat was over, the shooter was DQed for the rest of his natural life and asked not to return. I don’t know if he felt he “knew” how to handle guns and thought himself above our silly regulations or was just a plain combination of overconfidence with absent mindedness sprinkled with stupidity. The end result was a Negligent Discharge and that cannot be tolerated.
I know that there are two kinds of shooters: Those who had an ND and those who will. I know some will say that we were a bit harsh on the guy and we should give him another chance. If it was a one on one situation in the middle of the sticks with a guy who was new to guns, maybe. But we had some 60+ shooters that day mingling around plus some wives & kids. As a Club, we have to be responsible all those lives and stupidity cannot be forgiven. I rather have somebody with a bruised ego than a gunshot wound.
So, to summarize a very long winded post, when it comes to Gun Safety there is no such thing as shortcuts, carelessness or in our case thinking people will follow Gun Safety rules all the time and that we should trust and relax. We learned a lesson on the cheap.