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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  February 19, 2006
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A teachable moment.

Iím willing to bet that, after the lights are out, he spends a lot of time staring at the ceiling.

Staring at the ceiling and asking himself "Why?"

"Why didnít I do this? Why didnít I check that?"

Theyíre the questions weíd ask ourselves in the wee hours if weíd done the same thing.

Youíd have to be less than human not to.

Iím talking about the recent accident wherein Vice President Cheney shot a fellow hunter.

Fortunately, it appears that the injured hunter will fully recover.

The thing is, such incidents are not now and never have been accidents.

Follow me for a bit and Iíll explain.

A hunting accident is when youíre out hunting and an avalanche flat buries you. If youíre lucky, your friends dig you out in time.

A hunting accident is when the tree youíre passing beneath picks that precise moment to shed a particularly large branch. Said branch then obeys all of the pertinent laws of physics and accelerates until it meets with your head. If youíre lucky, it only knocks you silly.

These events, and others like them, are accidents. Shooting someone, though, is something else altogether.

Agreed, such incidents are unintentional. Agreed, such incidents are not foreseen. Still, they could have been prevented. Thatís because whenever a hunter (or, for that matter, anyone) is shot, thereís one immutable factor in play. It canít be ignored. It canít be denied. It canít be contradicted.

The muzzle of a gun was pointed at a human being.

Which makes what happened in Texas a teachable moment.

If thereís only one thing you ever learn about handling a firearm, let it be this: Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

Doesnít matter if the gun is unloaded. "Unloaded" guns have killed more people than you can count.

Doesnít matter if the safety is engaged. A safety is a mechanical device and, being a mechanical device, you can be absolutely certain that itís going to fail. The one other thing of which you can be even more certain is that youíll never know when that will happen.

Brother Murphy (a perceptive observer of human events) put it best when he noted that, all things being equal, if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong Ė usually at the worst possible moment.

That being the case, Iíll go back a few sentences and literally harp on the idea that if thereís only one thing you ever learn about any firearm, itís that you darned well better keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. That way, when everything goes wrong at precisely the worst possible moment and the "unloaded" gun that was on "safe" goes off, no one gets hurt.

And thatís just in general. It gets a lot more complicated when youíre hunting because there are usually others nearby who may be out of sight but are still in your line of fire.

The only way to keep incidents such as the one that happened in Texas from happening to you is to keep your head on a swivel and your brain locked and cocked at all times.

You have to know where your partners are and, if you lose track of someone Ė in the weeds, behind some rocks, over a rise, down a ravine, wherever Ė you just plain lower the gun and stop hunting until you find that person again. In short, you canít shoot until you know with absolute certainty that you cannot hit anything other than what youíre aiming at.

Pain in the butt? Yep.

Frustrating? You bet.

But by so doing, at the end of the day, everyone gets to go home with the only holes in their bodies being the ones that were there when they arrived on this planet.

Iím not going to get into the whys and wherefores of the delay in reporting this story. Neither am I going to poke fun at Vice President Cheney. Thereíll be enough of that on Leno and Letterman to last for quite some time. The good thing is that no one was killed.

I will, however, mention something else.

The safety instructors Iíve listened to over the past thirty-five years have always Ė in one way or another - told students that they never have to make up stories. Whenever they need to make any points regarding firearm safety, they find that such points have already been made for them. All they have to do is read the newspapers and clip out the stories they find.

As regards this latest case, Iím just glad itís not me whoís staring at the ceiling and asking "Why?"

I pray it never is.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Simoneaux
All Rights Reserved.

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