Firearm Safety in the Classroom

IMG_20160619_163708It is tragic anytime there is a death involving firearms training. Such a tragic event happened this weekend in a concealed carry class in Ohio.

The loss of the victim is most regrettable, as is the guilt that the student that pulled the trigger will now live with. It is also an opportunity for those of us in the instructor community, as well as our students, to review our own safety precautions to ensure that we don’t miss something that could lead to another tragedy.

The victim was in his office, on the other side of a wall where the students were practicing a malfunction drill (clearing a firearm after a failure to feed, failure to extract, hang fire, etc.) A bullet was fired from the handgun being used in the exercise; it penetrated the wall and fatally struck the victim in the office.

The NRA has three “ALWAYS” rules and an additional set of rules for the storage and use of firearms. The ALWAYS rules are:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

As “ALWAYS” implies, it means all the time—not just when it is convenient. While rule #2 may not have been applicable in this training exercise since pulling the trigger may have been part of the drill, rule #1 and #3 certainly were. There can be no argument that the gun was not pointed in a safe and that the gun was not unloaded.

Of the additional NRA rules for the storage and use of a firearm, the very first states, “Know your target and what is beyond.” While the wall in the classroom might have been the target, the victim is what was beyond it and the wall was incapable of stopping the handgun round.

The NRA adds another layer of safety rules for its instructors. First, there is absolutely no live ammunition allowed in the classroom—by anyone. This includes the instructor, the students, and anyone else in the room.  No ammo, no negligent mishaps.

The second rule is that before any firearm, or even a training replica that is inert, is used for any purpose in a class, the instructor or student will have someone else verify that there is no live ammunition in the firearm or magazines. This applies not just to the first time is is used in that class, but every time it is used in the class.

Adding all of these layers of safety rules together prevents mishaps. Even if the class being taught is not an NRA course, these rules are the gold standard in safety and apply. Likewise, even if the person instructing the class is not an NRA Instructor, the safety rules apply.

As a student, you have a right to learn in a safe environment. If the instructor is not following these rules, it is not a safe environment; you should leave any classroom where the instructor doesn’t/won’t follow the safety rules and demand a refund. Better yet, ask the instructor what their safety rules are before you sign up for their class.

We will likely never know exactly what had been taught to the students before the fatal shot in the class this weekend. We won’t know if the safety rules had been taught and retaught before the students handled firearms. We do know that safety rules were broken and a life was lost.

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