Firearm Safety Courses in Middle Schools - Yes or No?

Middle schools in two different districts in rural Iowa have announced that they will begin mandatory firearms safety courses this spring. The courses Will focus on how to safely handle firearms, what to do if you encounter them, and will apparently address the concern the firearm-related violence at schools.

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NEWS: Would-be armed robber shot and killed by armed woman

A Chicago teenager is dead after attempting to rob a woman at gunpoint. While waiting for the bus, the woman was surprised by a man who threatened her with a gun, to which she responded by drawing her own firearm which she had a permit for and shooting him once. The authorities credit the training she received from her Concealed Carry classes to likely saving her life. A local man who was interviewed by the local news agency applauded her bravery saying that the situation there is a “kill or be killed” scenario.

This woman’s training and quick thinking saved her from what could have been a very different story.

Courtesy ABC 7 Chicago

Courtesy ABC 7 Chicago

The Truth about Hollow Points

One of the most common misconceptions I've heard both on the range and in classes is: "isn't hollow point ammunition illegal?". The answer is no. Hollow Point ammunition is not illegal. However, lets talk about what exactly is hollow point ammunition and what makes it different from "every day range ammo"? 

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP)
vs. Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

Hollow Point ammunition means that the bullet has a hollowed-out space or divot in the nose of the bullet which causes it to exponentially expand upon impact. The most significant benefits of this expansion (as pertaining to self defense) are: 1. Less Penetration, and 2. More internal damage. The reason you might want decreased penetration is because if you're shooting a "bad guy" in a self defense situation, either in public or in your home, the chance that the bullet could go through the target (a body or maybe even a wall) and cause collateral damage is notably lessened with hollow point bullets. You might have heard the term "stopping power" when referencing ammunition at a range or pro-shop, this typically means that the round that has the most velocity or size or expansion supposedly is the best for stopping a threat the quickest. Not always. To stop a threat the fastest means you need to cause the most internal damage. A carefully placed round-nosed FMJ can do a lot more damage than a JHP that hits, lets say, a less vital area of the body. The benefit of a JHP is that upon expansion internally it is tearing at tissue, possibly organs, and hopefully bones as it travels through (and not always stops in) the body. 

There was a recent case here locally where an unwanted intruder forced his way into a home and the homeowner, trying to protect his family, shot him twice. The injured intruder was arrested and the homeowner is not currently facing any charges. Whether the family-man intended to simply injure the intruder or not is unknown, but lets use this case as an example. A lot of self-defense cases here in CA end in a lawsuit, whether civil or criminal it is almost expected. It is more common than you might think, and scarily so, that shooting a bad guy once or even multiple times doesn't always mean that the threat stops. It doesn't always mean they fall down and stop coming at you like they do in the movies. If this was true then this particular homeowner might not have needed to fire a second round. The mindset needed when choosing self defense is survival. When the situation is "it's them or me" or "I need to protect my children" then the thought that it might result in some court case is not the first thing I would think about, personally. My first thought would be to keep myself and my family alive and well. So when choosing ammunition to keep in my home-defense firearm I would logically choose the ammo that, together with training, would be the most likely to guarantee that I can stop a threat if I ever have to. 

A good rule I like to set is this: Practice with FMJ at the range and keep JHP at home for self-defense or carry. There are many different brands and hybrids of hollow points so when you purchase JHP make sure to cycle a few through your semi-auto to make sure that your firearm works well with that specific kind. If it does then buy another box or two and keep them on hand. 

I know this is a topic that can be discussed for hours; the pros and cons, the rights and wrongs, the what-if's, the studies and ballistic tests - but I hope this answers the most common questions about hollow point ammunition. 

Which direction is the SAFE direction?

The Story:

A man in an upstairs apartment was attempting to clean his 9mm Glock when he negligently discharged a round through the floor, through the ceiling below, and into a woman's leg who was in the apartment just under his. She is, at this time, in critical condition with a life-threatening injury. 

Which rule was violated?

  1. Always treat every firearm as if it is loaded. 
    • He thought it was unloaded so he attempted to disassemble it to clean it
  2. Never cover anything with the muzzle you are NOT willing to destroy.
    • Pointing down or even towards the walls is not always a guaranteed safe direction
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot.
    • Even when you think the firearm is unloaded, practicing this rule can prevent an "accidental" discharge 
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. 
    • He needed to consider that there could be people in the apartment below, or even on the other side of the walls

How could it have been avoided?

Check, check, and check again. When it comes to safety, being 100% sure can never be overstated. ALWAYS check the chamber AFTER you remove the magazine, and then check it again. There are countless stories, a lot of them ending bad, of people who were so sure that the firearm wasn't loaded and it ended up being that they were wrong. ALWAYS treat EVERY firearm as if it is loaded, even if you "know" that it isn't. ALWAYS consider what is in front of your muzzle, and then what is beyond that - bullets can penetrate walls, floors, ceilings, hedges, etc... And never, ever put your finger on the trigger unless you are on target and ready to shoot.

"Accidental" shooting = Negligence

The Story:
A teenager is at his girlfriends house in Escondido, CA when, according to him, she says she has a gun in her dresser and asks him to look at it. In his own account he describes picking it up and, because the safety wasn't on, "it shot him". The bullet went through his hand and into his girlfriend. They both went to the hospital and lived another day. 

Which rule was violated:
According to the 4 main safety rules of Firearm Safety, lets examine how this negligence occurred, because he broke every single rule.

  1. Always treat every firearm as if it is loaded
    • He didn't handle it as if it was loaded.
  2. Never cover anything with the muzzle you are NOT willing to destroy
    • He pointed it at multiple things that he shouldn't have.
  3. Never put your finger on the trigger until you are on target and ready to fire
    • His finger was obviously on the trigger since a handgun is an inanimate object and can't grow legs and walk around shooting people.
  4. BE SURE of your target and what is beyond it
    • Not only was he not sure of his "target"(his hand), but he didn't even consider what was beyond it (his girlfriend). 

How could it have been avoided?
This story is a sobering example of why firearm safety training is so important. It could have ended so much worse! He should never have touched that firearm. The handgun should have been locked up or stored safely so that it couldn't be tampered with by an "unauthorized person". If a child had found that gun and caused injury to himself or someone else the gun owner would be looking at a possible felony. If the teenager had killed himself or someone else the gun owner would be looking at a criminal offense. Firearm safety education, for the firearm's owner or the teenager could have potentially prevented this narrow mishap.