Wading Barefoot

Rediscovering my barefoot-self

You’re Fired

I was not raised around guns but that’s not to say that I don’t have experience with them. In fact, I enjoy target practice very much even though I haven’t been to a turkey shoot in years. My sons are gun enthusiasts also and now that they are over eighteen my oldest has purchased himself a Mossburg 500, 12-gauge shotgun. I think he made a very good choice and I’m especially pleased that it is entirely made in the United States. I still prefer my Remington but that’s probably sentimental, it has good memories attached to it.

Since Richard bought the shotgun he hasn’t had a chance to fire it and the last time he and his friends went shooting he left it at home because he didn’t have a case to carry it in. Oregon state law says you can carry it in the trunk of the car but it has to be in a case, either soft or hard. This past Friday he finally bought a case and Sunday they headed out to find a new range. Some thirteen miles east of Seaside, they stopped at what they thought was a good site. They spent a little over an hour changing up weapons and ammo, firing at different types of targets and at a variety of distances.

John, his friend’s father came along and brought his Taurus revolver and his AK- 47. The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-4) It’s well known for it’s reliability under most any condition. I’ve seen these rifles submerged in mud and water and still fire without jamming or incident. Accuracy is a different matter altogether. After the first time it’s fired, it loses accuracy and is really only effective at close range, within 350 to 400 or so meters. The only other guns they had with them were a couple of .22 rifles.

John recently bought a high-powered scope with night vision that I’m sure cost him a pretty penny. Given this gun’s problems with long-range accuracy, I’m not sure why he invested so much money in a scope when it isn’t likely to help improve that problem. I personally would have invested in a McMillan Tac-50 sniper rifle. Yes, I know that’s over-kill, so to speak, but putting a long-range scope on a short-range rifle is like putting a racing cam in a Volkswagen. IMHO that is.

Now, I don’t want to turn this into a rant about the details of weaponry, so I’ll come to the point. Richard has a ton of respect for John; he’d better, he’s dating his daughter. So, when came his turn to fire the AK, he squeezed off only a couple rounds and the new (expensive) scope came off in his hand. Richard said that he was sure John would use him for target practice but of course that wasn’t the case, John just needed to tighten it down a bit. Watching the video they shot you can see Richard with a worried look on his face as he removed the clip and handed the gun to John.

Do you feel it coming? …wait for it.

As John prepared to reset the scope, he rested the barrel on his left foot and…


Yes indeed, there was a round in the chamber. He said it didn’t hurt, in fact he told everyone that it felt like a rubber band being snapped on top of his shoe. Boy was he wrong. The AK-47 had gone off by itself, he never touched the trigger.

There are moments that define a person and for Richard, this was such a moment. It seems he takes after his mom for more than just his impulsiveness, he handles himself quite well during emergencies. He got John to the car and then the hospital where the emergency room doctor cleaned and dressed the wound, which was about an inch or so down from the left small toe; one of the few places in the foot where he avoided major structural damage and the pedal artery.

The Oregon State Police and the Clatsop County Sheriff were notified as is the law regarding gun shots. They came to the hospital to investigate and write a report. The officers told them that where they were shooting was a state park, not a state forest and directed them to a couple local areas for the next time. They brought him home and medicated him heavily. He’s a lucky man. That gun could just have easily been pointed at Richard or any one of them.

Late last night Richard and his friends came over and we watched the video tape they made of the afternoon. Ironically Stephanie turned off the recorder less than ten seconds before John was shot. She said that she couldn’t tell if she was angry at her dad’s lack of safety measures or afraid of what might have happened. Either way it was a very traumatic experience for her.

Watching this footage over and over again I saw many incidents of lax safety measures. First of all, the shooting line was not clearly marked. Second, guns were being loaded well behind the line and not in one designated location. Third, John tucked one of the .22 rifles under his arm with the barrel of the gun pointed behind him. I know this because Stephanie was shooting the video and it was pointed directly at her. Fourth, when he was handed the rifle he never checked to see if it had a shell left in the chamber. Richard said he felt responsible because he didn’t clear the action before handing it over. He has a point and I’m glad he felt the weight of that error but in the final analysis, when you’re handed a gun it is your responsibility to double and triple check and even then, to keep the business end pointed in a safe direction.

I am dismayed and troubled by what I saw in the video. The people I love were put at risk by stupid mistakes that are so easily avoided. It takes only one mistake to change everything, turning an afternoon of fun into a horrible tragedy.

I am reminded of the first and most important lesson in gun safety: Empty Guns Are ALWAYS Loaded. Had this been presumed John would still have a whole foot. I will give Richard some time to process the events of Sunday and then we will have a conversation about gun safety around other people. It’s one thing to follow a strict set of safety rules and quite another to enforce it universally. But now is not the time for talking, it is the time for reflection and a prayer of thanks that no one was killed. Hopefully this will forever change the way John conducts himself while handling his weapons and will serve as a reminder to the rest of them about the very real risks associated with this pastime.

© Kathleen Ryan-McCullough, 2011

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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