Tuesday, October 26, 2021

There are no cold guns: Alec Baldwin shoulda been an Oklahoma Boy Scout

 I learned about gun safety from the Boy Scouts. Every year my Scout troop went to Summer Camp at Camp George Thomas, and we kids spent one hour every day on the rifle range.

Our gun instructor was a grizzled Army sergeant on active duty at Fort Sill, and he was all business. He assigned each Scout a  bolt-action rifle and a punchboard that held ten little bullets--.22 shorts. 

Sarge gave us strict instructions to always point our rifles down-range and not shoot until he gave the order. 

And then he would boom out these majestic words:

"Ready on the right? Ready on the left? Ready on the firing line. Gentlemen, you may commence firing."

Gentlemen? He called us gentlemen! Just like we were grownups!

Our rifles could only hold one bullet--the ammo magazines had been removed. We all fired one time, ejected the tiny shell cases from our rifles, and then inserted the shell cases in the pegboards the sergeant had given us.

At the end of each exercise, the sergeant collected the pegboards and made sure no shell casing was missing. Thus, it was impossible for a bullet to go astray.

I don't recall being hectored by anyone about gun safety when I was a Scout.  We were told the two cardinal rules of gun safety and expected to follow them.

And what were those rules? 1) Every gun is loaded; 2) Never point a gun at anyone you don't intend to shoot.  That's all we needed to know to avoid a gun accident.

Poor Alec Baldwin killed a woman on a movie set a few days ago. Believing his weapon was a prop gun that shot blanks, Baldwin pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, the gun was loaded with five live rounds.

I do not blame Mr. Baldwin for this tragedy, and I hope no criminal charges will be filed against him. Someone put five lethal bullets in the pistol that he fired, and someone shouted "cold gun" just before the accident--an affirmation that the gun was safe.

Nevertheless, if Alec Baldwin had been an Oklahoma Boy Scout when he was a child, I think he would have assumed the gun he was given on that New Mexico movie set was loaded with live rounds. I think he would have checked the gun himself.

The Boy Scouts have fallen on hard times. The Scouts took bankruptcy recently to get out from under a deluge of sexual abuse lawsuits.  They changed their name. They're not Boy Scouts anymore; they're just Scouts.  Girls can be Scouts too.

And that's a good thing.

But the Boy Scouts of my childhood was a noble organization. I learned to build a fire, sharpen a knife, and cook a meal over a campfire. And I learned the basic rules of gun safety.

America now has almost 400 million guns in private hands. Since there are only 330 million people in the U.S., there's a gun for everybody--even toddlers and infants.

Unfortunately, most of these gun owners weren't Boy Scouts in Oklahoma when they were children. That's a shame.

"Gentlemen, you may commence firing."

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