Responsible Ownership–99.9999% Of The Time

He’s a best-case scenario, doing it right;
He knows it’s a gun, not a toy
The most dangerous thing in his bedroom that night
Was a visiting 4-year-old boy

You mustn’t be tempted to regulate arms
Which the second amendment forbids
It can’t shoot itself, so a gun never harms
But it’s clear—we must regulate kids.

Whenever the news tells us of an incident where a kid shoots someone, the comment sections are reliably filled with people noting the idiocy of whoever allowed that kid access to firearms. Such irresponsible people make responsible gun owners look bad–and the vast majority of gun owners are responsible.

Mind you, we don’t actually know some of the numbers it would take to make that claim–you might recall, the CDC is expressly forbidden from gathering and analyzing gun death information. Seems the NRA got to write the legislation. But in those comment threads, gun accidents happen only to irresponsible idiots, and normal, responsible gun ownership makes your family safer.

But this time, the gun owner is a well-trained Sheriff’s Deputy. And he wants to set things straight:

“I would like the viewers to know that officers of Wilson County do not make a habit of leaving loaded guns simply lying around,” he wrote.
“The door to the room the accident happened in stays locked unless we were sleeping or we were in it,” Fanning wrote. “This was the only loaded gun in the house other than my duty weapon, which was locked away.”
Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said Fanning had been showing “another person that was there at the house some of his weapons he had locked in a secure gun safe,” reported CNN affiliate WTVF.
No one saw the boy enter the room, WTVF quoted Bryan as saying.
“Split second,” Bryan said. “We’re talking about seconds for that kid to walk in that room unbeknownst to them, grab that gun and it goes off.”
“He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time.”

This guy did everything right. And his wife is dead.

I can guarantee you one thing. His claims of gun safety and training will amount to utterly nothing in the comment threads; guns are safe in responsible hands, ergo he was irresponsible.


  1. jamessweet says

    It’s somewhat of a red herring anyway. Let’s grant for a second that guns only cause problems if the owners use them irresponsibly; okay, what’s your public policy suggestion for reducing irresponsible gun ownership then?

    Even if we accept at face value that unlimited gun freedom would be totes awesome if it weren’t for those occasional irresponsible bad apples ruining it for the rest of us — so? That’s not an argument against gun control, that’s an argument that life isn’t fair.

  2. Alverant says

    Someone claimed the reason why the CDC isn’t allowed to do such research is because they did a bad job and used questionable methods. This person then claimed that another study from a different institute supports the idea that Conceal Carry lowers crime rate. Do you know if either are true?

  3. Alverant says

    Well james, how about this.

    1) The gun owner is responsible for everything that gun does until it is legally sold.
    2) No more of this “accidental shooting” crap. Every shooting is deliberate and the responsibility of the gun owner unless it can be proved that circumstances were out of his/her control. For example, if someone is wounded in an “accident” then the owner is guilty of assault with intent to kill. If someone dies because of an “accident” the gun owner is guilty of murder.
    3) The gun owner is expected to take reasonable measures to insure the weapon is safe. This includes keeping it maintained, in a lockbox when not in use, knowing how to shoot it, and a trigger lock. No more of this, “We got a gun years ago but forgot about it.” crap.
    4) Require injury insurance for gun owners the same way we require auto insurance for cars.
    5) Require license renewal every 4 years with a vision test until age 60 then it’s every 2 years.
    6) Any psychartic professional is required to report to the state if he/she thinks their patient is likely to shoot someone.

    Every gun owner is a responsible gun owner, until they’re not. What you call “bad apples” I call “no true Scotsman”. What you call “ruining” I call “being responsible”. If someone can handle the responsiblities that come with gun ownership, they have to prove it.

  4. says

    @Alverant @2:

    Neither are true. The gun lobby’s efforts to prevent research into the causes of and reducing gun deaths are well documented, and the results the CDC group in the 1990s were consistent with results from the National Institute of Justice and a few private American-based foundations, as well as studies from other countries with similar demographics.

    A few relevant references: . . .

  5. Kimbeaux says

    No. This guy did *not* do everything right: “Split second,” Bryan said. “We’re talking about seconds for that kid to walk in that room unbeknownst to them, grab that gun and it goes off.”
    “He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time.”

    The gun the little boy used was neither under the deputy’s direct control, nor locked in a gun safe with the ammunition stored separately. It takes a bit longer than a “split second” to load a gun. Especially if you are 4 years old.

  6. Cuttlefish says

    Thus, Kimbeaux, the obvious take-away from this is that no one can be certain they will be 100% in control 100% of the time. Up until this incident, this guy was a poster child for responsible gun ownership. Now, he’s the poster child for irresponsible gun ownership.

    Everybody has lapses of attention. Everybody gets distracted occasionally. Everybody, Pilots make mistakes; doctors make mistakes; cops make mistakes; expert training does not lead to 100% perfect performance 100% of the time. It can’t. We’re human.

    But it’s not constitutionally enshrined that pretty much anybody can pilot, operate, or police without training, licensing, or oversight.

  7. dobby says

    1. Guns are dangerous. They are made to be dangerous.

    2. This is probably not the first time he left a gun out. Just the first time a kid found it and it went off.

  8. Cuttlefish says

    1) Well, it’s not like they are designed intentionally to blow up at random; many are made to be as safe as possible while being intentionally dangerous to anything they are aimed at.

    2) Wait, up until this incident, the Deputy was the poster child for gun responsibility–are you telling me that even responsible gun owners screw up? Horrors!

  9. N. Nescio says

    I read Digital Cuttlefish on a daily basis, and enjoy and respect your work. Your poetry often makes my day brighter and listening to what you have to say has changed my mind on several matters — thank you for that.

    But “This guy did everything right.” is about as far off the mark as you can possibly get.

  10. Cuttlefish says

    Up to the horrible incident, how was he described by those who knew him and worked with him?

    “He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time.” I don’t think paraphrasing this “he did everything right” is far off the mark.

    My mother-in-law took lessons with her handgun, and then would occasionally leave it, in her handbag, at the store or in a restaurant. A NH legislator, well trained, had his pistol fall out of its holster during a legislative session. We’ve seen safety instructors shoot themselves during safety presentations.

    In each case, what differentiates “responsible” from “irresponsible” is seen in hindsight, but in hindsight it couldn’t be clearer, and that mythological beast the responsible gun owner–the paragon of virtue, the human being without human flaws–gets to represent the reality of gun ownership.

  11. says

    There was a recent incident down here is TX, in Kaufman County, where a DA and his wife were shot.
    I believe he was apparently running to the bedroom to get his weapon to defend himself when he was killed.
    Here you have the central logical inconsistency of gun ownership.
    If it’s kept safe, what the hell use is it when it’s really needed.
    If it’s kept handy (and presumably loaded etc.) there will be ‘accidents’ and tragedies.
    Guns: you can’t live with them and in the right circumstances you can’t live without them.

  12. Onamission5 says

    My folks, who are lifelong NRA members, would probably say that a responsible gun owner doesn’t load their weapon until they are ready to use it, and they certainly do not show off firearms–around children or adults– when they are loaded. So there’s that.

    A boy at my old high school lost his leg when his dad shot him on a hunting trip. I have no words for that, nor for the poor 4 year old who has to live the rest of his life with the memory of killing someone.

  13. says

    Oh for fuck’s sake, there is nothing responsible about storing a loaded firearm. He did make a habit of leaving a loaded firearm ‘laying around’, as he clearly admits.

    The only time a firearm should be loaded is when it is ‘in use’ at a designated area (hunting or at a gun range) or in service (military or police and police and firearms is a whole other can o’worms). Otherwise, unload the damn thing. And, unless you are reasonable sure you are going to be having it out again in the next couple days, take the damn firing pin out.

    Don’t know how to take a firing pin out? Then you aren’t intelligent enough to be allowed to own a firearm. Turn the damn thing in.

    Even his goddamn duty revolver didn’t need to be loaded unless he was on duty.

    I own guns. I like hunting. And I seriously hate that 75% of gun owners are giving the rest of us a bad name.

    If you are that concerned with your ‘personal safety’ get a fucking dog. Anyone who uses ‘might have to use it against a person’ as their reason for owning a gun should under no circumstances be allowed to own a gun.

  14. Cuttlefish says

    My own parents, NRA members at the time (they quit when it turned from gun safety into political lobbying), taught gun safety and shooting at a boys camp; I was raised to be comfortable around and to respect firearms. That said, I was a kid. I once ran over the hill into the firing range with some friends, having hiked through the woods… we ran into the target end of the range during target practice. Scary shit for the instructors, I can tell you.

    My parents stored the rifles in one place, the bolts in another, the ammunition in a third. When I was around 12, I remember finding each of these places, and gathering all the bits together while they were gone, just for the fun of watching shells eject from the (WWII era Italian rifle) magazine as I worked the bolt. I didn’t fire it then, but certainly could have, accidentally. Or my brother could have.

    I had a friend who was much safer–stored his guns in a safe, and ammo in another. Thing is, kids are smart; his boys figured out the combinations to both safes (I suspect he had the combinations hidden somewhere in case he forgot).

    Kids are natural-born danger detectors. If there is a way to defeat your safety precautions, kids will do it. (I state that as a universal; clearly that overstates the case. The point is, it happens frequently, and all too often it happens with tragic consequences.)

    And of course, the rhetoric on gun control dances around wildly. I had someone seated ahead of me on a bus overhear a conversation, turn around and say “you can put a loaded pistol on a table in a room for 20 years, and it won’t shoot anybody–guns don’t kill, people kill.” I told him he was right, but that if you put a kid in that same room you have a recipe for disaster, and asked which one he would rather not have in the room. Clearly, this guy was not arguing only for responsible gun ownership; he wanted the gun itself absolved from any contribution toward a tragedy.

    My parents were known as responsible gun owners. So was the Deputy. So have been many people, up to the point where an accident happens and they become part of the percentage that gives the rest of them a bad name. Thing is, the only reliable method I can discern to tell responsible gun owners from irresponsible with 100% accuracy is… hindsight. And if we are talking about identifying irresponsible gun owners in order to make our world safer, any method that would require a time machine in order to be useful… is not useful.

  15. says

    Sorry, but he didn’t do everything “right”.

    He left a loaded gun in the house. With or without a trigger lock, that’s a major gun safety no-no.

    This is why the gun lobby’s ridiculous “personal protection” argument fails so miserably. Because it suggests there is a scenario by which a homeowner, in the face of a determined armed intruder, can access his weapon and defend himself.

    Not without violating every gun safety rule I know about. Not without putting the lives of everyone in the household at risk every second of every day. For a scenario that doesn’t happen — it’s the straw scenario to beat all straw scenarios. Unless, of course, you’re a major drug dealer. In which case that determined armed intruder is as likely to be the SWAT team as anyone else.

  16. says

    If responsible does mean ‘100% safe’, the nobody in the world is responsible. Someone could break into my garage, steal my car, and use it to go on a drunken joy-ride and plow through a pre-school playground.

    The guy in the article and indeed, the vast majority, of gun owners don’t even qualify as ‘reasonably safe’. There is absolutely no valid reason to have a loaded gun outside of your immediate physical possession and very few valid reasons to have a loaded gun in your immediate physical possession.

    If your parents had the ammo stored in a location where a 12 year old could get hold of it, they were not responsible gun owners. If your parents left functional firearms in a location where a 12 year old could get hold of them, they were not responsible gun owners. Gun safe, ammunition safe, and removal of firing pins is the bare minimum. Anyone not using these three methods and who has a ‘gun mishap’ should be viewed as negligent in the eyes of the law, at the very least.

    And why the hell wasn’t there a fence around the range? These are all easily foreseeable consequences. I have to have a six fence + lock and even that is no guarantee I won’t be held liable if some dipshit trespasses on my property and drowns in my pool, but apparently hikers can easily find themselves on the target side of a gun range at a boys camp?

    I own guns. I like going hunting and target shooting. I’m so fed up with the pro-gun lobby these days that I’m thinking of switching entirely to archery for both.

  17. says

    @17. Exactly so.

    I have no problems with gun ownership. One of my best friends is a hunter – venison is awesome. I was a champion marksman in my youth. I found shooting to be fun — the concentration required to do it well almost meditative.

    It’s this bug-nuts paranoid raving about the need for “personal protection” that is so far off the mark — to use a shooting metaphor. Yelling “I’ve got a gun!” is probably more effective at deterring an intruder than actually having a weapon.

    Not to mention the fact that half of the gun fatalities in the US are suicides. Those statistics include two of my cousins.

    Loaded weapons in the home is the worst of all possible bad ideas. Compounded exponentially if there is a child in the house.

  18. says

    Onamission: It’s scenarios like that where you often hear the quote, “I don’t know what happened. I hid it away from the kids.”

    Yep. You did a great job. It took the kid 4 whole years to find it.

  19. haitied says

    While I agree we need better regulation on who can and cannot have a firearm, and also a need to roll back the toxic regulations put in place by NRA lobbyists, You cannot claim this guy was the poster child for responsible gun ownership, a loaded weapon was left unattended. .
    I have been around idiots with guns and it’s not a pleasant experience. Had to listen to the “it’s not loaded” BS and had the gun aimed , albeit in a passing motion, in my direction and the direction of others in the room. The fact is people think they are responsible but get complacent, get arrogant and couldn’t give a fuck less if they accidentally shoot someone until they do.
    I have had no training at all and still first thing I did with the weapon was make sure cartridge was empty, chamber was cleared and it wasn’t pointing at anyone. No matter the level of training, people are apt to be negligent. Including the sacred “law enforcement professional” This attitude that “It can even happen to a cop” is absurd because cops are human, no more no less. I have seen a cop struggle to figure out a locking fold out knife. Cop =/= infallible.

  20. sailor1031 says

    This guy most certainly did not do “everything right”. As someone noted above you don’t keep loaded guns around the house. Then you do put trigger locks on guns. Then you don’t indulge your sexual fetish by taking out and fondling guns when you have visitors. It’s just mutual masturbation – stop it!!

  21. says

    First rule of gun safety – never point it at anything you don’t intend to destroy/kill, even if it is unloaded
    Second rule – always unload your gun when it leaves your possession
    Third rule – there is no such thing as an unloaded gun, so leave the fucking thing locked
    Fourth rule – if you want a toy, buy a super-soaker.

  22. Snoof says

    First rule of gun safety – never point it at anything you don’t intend to destroy/kill, even if it is unloaded
    Second rule – always unload your gun when it leaves your possession
    Third rule – there is no such thing as an unloaded gun, so leave the fucking thing locked
    Fourth rule – if you want a toy, buy a super-soaker.

    Do they really count as rules if they’re almost completely unenforced?

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