My sister “Debbie” was kind enough to babysit our 1-year-old daughter for a couple hours while my husband and I had a belated Valentine’s Day dinner. This was sort of a special treat, as Debbie does not watch our daughter on a regular basis. When we dropped her off, Debbie told me that her friend “Sara” and Sara’s husband “Dan” were going to be stopping by. I’ve met them both a couple times, so I didn’t have a problem with it.
While we were gone, Sara and Dan arrived at my sister’s place, and they got to talking about my brother-in-law’s new shotgun. (We live in an area where hunting is a very common pastime.) Dan asked if he could see the gun. Debbie gave him permission to look at it on the condition that he do so in a separate room away from my daughter. He took it into the living room while my sister, daughter, and Sara stayed in the family room. The rooms are attached but are partially separated by a wall. Dan is ex-military, so Debbie trusted him to use proper safety precautions.
Apparently, while my sister was sitting with her back to the doorway, Dan got up and moved toward the family room with the gun still in his hands. So when we returned a couple hours later, the first thing I saw as I walked in the door was Dan holding my brother-in-law’s (unloaded) shotgun, cocking it, uncocking it, examining it, and all-around playing with it. Not only was he doing this in the doorway of the same room where my daughter was standing, but he was also haphazardly pointing it in her general direction. Now, though I don’t own a gun myself, I’ve grown up around guns, and I know that the first rule of gun safety is that you treat all guns as if they are loaded, whether you think they actually are or not. This was not what Dan was doing.
This upset me for obvious reasons, but in the moment, I didn’t know how to react. I think I may have uttered something like, “Oh, a gun” and then picked my daughter up and moved to a different part of the room out of range. Dan continued to play with the gun as I put my daughter’s shoes and coat on to leave. I didn’t say anything about it, though looking back, I really wish I had. I’m a non-confrontational person by nature and a first-time parent who questioned her instincts.
My sister has since apologized and taken full responsibility for the incident. Debbie adores my daughter and would never knowingly put her in harm’s way. Though Dan is responsible for his own (irresponsible and dangerous!) actions, she admits that it was a lapse in judgment on her part to even allow him to look at the gun while my daughter was present. I’m working on letting it go, but it still ties my stomach knots to think of what could have happened. 0219-13
Dan isn’t the only irresponsible person. Where is Debbie’s husband, the alleged owner of this gun? He has a more serious responsibility to control where and how his gun is handled by others and it appears he has abdicated that responsibility completely. We are a gun owning family with lots of gun owning friends who take gun handling seriously. On a few rare occasions I have witnessed guns being removed quite impolitely from the hands of careless people and I have no problems with the manner in which that is done. Haphazardly point a gun, regardless of whether it is loaded or not, in the wrong direction, and the men in my family will promptly take control of your arm and remove the weapon from your hand. And then the idiot will be asked to leave the premises. We’ve had one relationship cool significantly because we will not allow the man with his cavalier gun handling attitude back on the property.
There will be those who will argue that gun safety is not an etiquette issue. It most certainly is. There is a protocol and “rules” to handling guns that, if practiced consistently, yields a pattern of behavior that places the importance of others first and instills a serious appreciation for the responsibility of handling a potentially lethal item. Hunter safety courses and concealed carry classes are also gun handling etiquette classes. There are long established etiquette rules regarding the handing of knives, for example. When dining, one does not point a knife at others while gesturing since this is rude. In the middle ages, pointing a knife during dinner could get you killed as this was viewed as an aggressive gesture. When not actively cutting a food item, the knife is placed out of the way across the plate. And when handing a knife from person to person, the giver extends the handle and does not let go until the receiver says, “Thank you”, thus acknowledging the safe transfer of the knife from one to another. Same goes for guns. Guns should be always be handled as if they were loaded whether they are or not therefore muzzles should *always* be pointed to the ground unless you are targeting to shoot something. Lots of stupid accidents could be prevented if that one rule was faithfully honored. Three people got hit with birdshot from a shotgun at a gun show at Raleigh a year or two ago because the owner was negligent in his maintenance of his gun and extremely careless as to where the muzzle was pointed. And when handing the gun from person to person, the same rules for knives apply….the giver retains a grip on the gun until the receiver acknowledges firm control of the gun.
So, OP, it looks to me like Deb and her husband need a refresher course in Hunter Safety and until they step up their gun etiquette, I wouldn’t be around them when the guns are out.