Friday, April 14, 2006

Famous Last Words...

“I’m the only one in this room, that I know of, professional enough to carry this Glock .40.”

Those are the words of DEA agent Lee Paige immediately before shooting himself in the foot in front of a classroom full of at-risk youth during a drug education presentation. The video is here.

Mr. Paine is suing his employer, the DEA, and by extension the U.S. government, for “emotional and mental pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of reputation, loss of opportunity, loss of money, embarrassment, humiliation and anxiety.” From the video, it seems apparent that the only person to blame for Mr. Paine’s humiliation, embarrassment, etc., is himself.

My first question, after watching the video, was “What in the Hell was a trained law enforcement agent doing handling a loaded firearm in a classroom full of children??!!” My second question was “Why on Earth was this clown ever tasked with talking to children about drugs and guns?”

I watched Mr. Paige clear his gun. He walks off stage after he racks the slide, but I never see him withdraw the magazine. Obviously, all racking the slide is going to do is eject the chambered round, and when Mr. Paige closes the slide in front of the class he chambers the next round from the still-loaded magazine. Mr. Paige doesn’t visually or tactilely verify that the chamber is empty and the magazine is removed, nor does he bother to check the chamber again before pulling the trigger on his ‘assumed-to-be-unloaded’ Glock. Thank God he had enough sense to point it away from the children before he pulled the trigger, but I guess he didn’t care enough about his own personal safety to refrain from pointing the gun at his body.

Pride goeth before a fall; we’ve all done things that we wish we hadn’t. However, Mr. Paige did many things that he definitely shouldn’t, most likely because he was feeling a little too full of himself. We all know people like this, but when it comes to gun safety don’t be “that guy.”

Remember the Four Rules of Gun Safety:

• All guns are always loaded.

No one ever got shot with an unloaded gun, but many people have been shot with a gun that was assumed to be unloaded... including Mr. Paige. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded regardless of whether you just cleared it and you know there’s no way on Earth it could be loaded. The life, or foot, or embarrassment you save may be your own.

• Never point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to see destroyed.

If you value your TV set, or your friend, or your foot, then don’t point a gun at them. You can’t call a bullet back, and while you can replace a TV set and, perhaps, heal from a bullet wound, you can’t bring back life either, or recover from a crippling wound. Especially when dry-firing, or decocking an unloaded gun, remember Mr. Paige, and point that gun at something that doesn’t matter if it gets hit by a bullet, and that will capture that bullet.

• Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

Guns are like computers, in that they do what we tell them to do instead of what we want them to do. Pulling the trigger tells a gun to fire; touching the trigger is confusing to a gun... do you want it to fire, or not? Don’t confuse the gun, or yourself. Don’t touch the trigger unless you are sure that activating the firing mechanism is okay and the gun is pointed at an appropriate target (backstop, target, bad guy) so if it discharges no harm is done.

• Be sure of your target, and what is behind and beyond your target.

Is that a bad guy you’re getting ready to shoot, or your teenage son who stayed out a little late and had a few beers? Is your hunting partner on the other side of that bush the pheasant is flying past? Where will that bullet end up if you miss your target, or if you hit your target and the bullet penetrates? Know where your bullet will end up before pulling the trigger... or don’t pull the trigger.

All of these rules are simple, the simple distillation of six centuries of bitter experience. Break any one of them and you’re likely to inadvertently discharge your firearm. Break more than one and you’re likely to kill someone, or yourself, when you inadvertently discharge your firearm.

Accidents are the result of a chain of events that end at the incident. Break the chain and you prevent the incident. Mr. Paige broke two of these rules and ended up with a battered ego and a painful injury. He was lucky. Don’t count on luck.

If I were Mr. Paine, I’d quietly abandon my lawsuit, and work within the Law Enforcement community as an evangelist for gun safety. I’d use my misfortune as a learning experience so others wouldn’t make the same mistake. Mr. Paine was a high school and college football player, deputy sheriff and DEA agent, a physically big man... and he needs to be a bigger man and accept the responsibility for his problems.