AthenA, the other day via FaceBook. Her cousin, Zac, was shot by his 14 year old hunting partner in Muskingum County, Ohio...where Heather hails from originally. Some of you may be aware of Muskingum County and Zanesville, Ohio - the county seat - from the incident a few months ago where an exotic animal owner released a large number of predators that eventually were put down by the Sheriff's department and gained a lot of national exposure. Luckily, her cousin has pulled through after surgery and a few days of post op recovery but is still in serious condition. It seems the round took the "perfect path" to avoid hitting any major arteries or organs. I am sure he has a long road ahead of him for sure. I don't know many specifics of what may have happened, but like most hunting accidents either a lack of adherence to the 4 rules, some other temporary breech of common sense or maybe in this instance some inexperience led to this unfortunate event.
As is normally pointed out when tragedies like this happen, adherence to the 4 cardinal rules of shooting will avoid 99.9% of these incidents. Mechanical failures almost never cause accidental shootings, but human failure causes almost all of them. The wording of the rules may change slightly from organization to organization, but generally follow the same gist...
#1. Always treat guns as if they were loaded. This means never engaging in horseplay or errant waving of firearms around whether you know they are loaded and cleared or not. Now, structured training exercises - such as force on force training with blanks like in the military - deviates from this rule, but those are the allowed exceptions due to the nature of those occupations and the amount of safety oversight that goes into them. Even when cleaning your weapon after clearing it, be sure to treat it as if if were loaded as much as possible.
#2. Never point your weapon at anything you would not be willing to shoot. This goes along with number one. Do not "sweep" any target that you would not engage otherwise. Seems simple enough, but how many people have been shot by friends that "thought the gun was unloaded" after pointing it in jest.
#3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. Cardinal rule here!! To me this should be #1 but it comes in at #3 because of the logical progression of the steps leading up to a shot. The vast majority of modern firearms are the result of years of engineering by weapons manufacturers. They will not simply "go off" unless you perform those steps required to load the weapon, defeat any engaged safeties and ignite the primer and ammunition by pulling the trigger. This is one of the most commonly recognized safety violations on ranges..some "newb" coming in and meat pawing that trigger right away with his finger. Don't do it. Some firearm manufacturers now include "landing pads" and "memory pads" for fingers to rest along the side of the firearm in order to help shooters remember to keep their "booger pickers off of the bang lever" when not in use. A good way to help remember this is the second part of this rule, keep your finger off until you have your sights lined up and are ready to shoot. If you practice each shot as a succession of events and commit this practice to muscle memory than you should have very little trouble being safe.
#4. Confirm your target and where your bullet will impact. Is that a deer moving toward you in the brush or another hunter in his brown Carhart jacket too foolish to wear his orange vest? OK, so it IS a deer, and a nice 8 point coming up to you..whats behind it? If your answer is some light vegetation and open fields with a housing development a quarter mile away and you are armed with a .30-06...don't shoot! Once it leaves the barrel Mr. Bullet is no longer our friend. If you miss your target, or even if you do hit hit..that bullet may end up somewhere other than the target. Even a "lowly" .22LR round will travel more than a mile from where its shot from. Going back to #3 above and the "sights on the target" bit...think about this..that deer rifle you are using has say a .270 or .30 round in it...and a .22 will go over a mile...how far do you think that rifle of yours will launch lead? Given that at 1000 yards a 1 mil aiming error will make that round go 1 meter off of its intended target..and when you bring your sights up you may be well beyond that...lets just say 15 mils off...and that rifle can throw a bullet 2000 yards (for arguments sake)...well that's a deviation of 15 meters x 2 or 30 yards...well capable of clearing a small hill or other structure that you were counting on stopping that bullet before it hit someone else.
So take heed of the 4 rules and enjoy your time hunting. A day spent in the woods with nothing to show for it because you were cautious sure as hell beats many sleepless nights spent in hospital waiting areas and rooms while you wait out a surgeons skill.
My thoughts and prayers are with Heather and her family while Zac recovers.
2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)