TIMOTHY H. AKERS
Any time you handle a firearm, the basic principles of weapons safety should always be followed, regardless of how many guns you own or how often you go to the range. If you don’t follow the basic principles both on and off duty, you can probably count on a future trip to the emergency room or morgue … or at least a visit from a local authority tasked with investigating your negligent discharge.
As a trained police professional with a strong military background — both Army and Marine Corps — I am very familiar with the safety protocols associated with firearms and weapons handling. I have always considered myself to be a responsible gun owner and operator, which is what makes the event I’m about to describe all the more shocking.
One morning as I prepared for work on the first shift, I got up, checked my uniform, cleaned my boots, polished my badge, put on my gun belt and fastened it tightly around my waist. I then retrieved my Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver from the closet, removed the gun lock and inserted six rounds into the cylinder.
When I glimpsed at the clock, I realized I was running 10 minutes behind schedule. I began to panic because I still had to get my kids ready for school and out the door in time to avoid traffic and reach my patrol zone before my supervisor made his rounds to pass the morning briefs. I used my drill instructor voice to exercise some command and control over my 7- and 4-year-old children. Not surprisingly, their response was equal to that of a new recruit — shocked and confused.
As the kids got ready, I remembered I didn’t perform a function check on my weapon. I went to the back of the house (away from the kids) and pulled the weapon out of my holster. I then opened the cylinder, dumped the rounds, closed the cylinder and aimed the weapon at a doll laying on the bed. Thinking about proper sight alignment and trigger squeeze, I slowly pulled back on the trigger and, to my surprise, felt the recoil of the weapon and saw what appeared to be stuffing floating through the air.
Once I realized what I had done, I looked down on the bed where I had just seconds before dumped all the rounds and began to count. One, two, three, four, five … and that was all! Where was six? Oh, right, I just sent number six downrange in my house and killed a doll.
Some people might say, “No harm, no foul. No one was hurt, so no one has to know.” That’s not true. If you are a professional and trained to think under fire, these types of mistakes simply cannot happen. As the gravity of what could have happened raced through my mind, I realized I failed to follow the basic firearm fundamentals. The fact that I could have killed or injured one of my children still haunts me to this very day.
This incident brings up several very important lessons that I’d like to share:
- Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded and ensure you can account for every round.
- Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it. Where is the round going?
- Never point the muzzle at anything you don't intend to shoot.
- Keep your finger outside and off the trigger until a target is clear and you are sure of the backstop.
- Shortcuts in procedures and safety protocols don’t save time and could result in death, injury or property damage.
- Think safety in all that you do on and off the job.
Fortunately, my experience only resulted in one dead doll. You might not be so lucky.