Gun Safety

Unattended firearm at Stillwater Golf in Columbus, Montana. Semi-automatic .22 with banana clip.
Unattended firearm at Stillwater Golf in Columbus, Montana. Semi-automatic .22 with banana clip.

Guns are a hot topic. I used to be of the mind that regulating them would be ineffective. I own a shotgun. Burt has several shotguns and a rifle. We have no hand guns. Hand guns are for killing people. I think they are too dangerous to have in my home. But time and experience have caused a shift in my thinking. I now favor tight regulation with registration, education, and insurance requirements just like we have for motor vehicles. The incidents of mass shootings in the United States is one reason I favor these changes to our laws, another is the lack of care I’ve seen in managing guns by owners. Add in our Stand Your Ground Laws and it’s just way to easy to shoot somebody for no good reason. You can get away with murder just by claiming you were scared for your life.

Here’s the scenario that I keep reflecting on: Burt and I have had more than one client that left loaded handguns out on tables in their homes at all times so they were ready. Ready to defend themselves with deadly force at (supposedly) all times. First, I’ve got to say, why would anyone chose to live in a state of constant readiness to kill? If you’re so scared you need therapy or you need to move. Fear is a horrible life companion. Secondly, a gun in the open can be mishandled by anyone in the home. Say your friendly carpenter just happens to pick it up and accidentally shoot themselves or you? Kids come by for a surprise visit? And, P.S., a gun on the table when you are taking a shower or dump will do you no good if somebody breaks in and gets to it first. You need a holster for constant readiness. A gun on a table is a constant threat to its owner and their friends and neighbors and trusty carpenters. We do not work for people make a habit of leaving loaded weapons on their kitchen tables. I do not take it as a sign that you trust me. I read it as a sign you are willing to shoot first and ask questions later which leads me to Stand Your Ground.

Too many people are being killed by scared persons for no good reason. The numbers for Montana are sickening. It seems juries here are willing to believe it’s okay to shoot a fleeing robber in the back when the purported robber is in the front yard. How do we even know the ‘robber’ was even a robber? I quake at the thought of a disgruntled client refusing to pay us and the ensuing altercation as we approach their home seeking payment. A raised voice and suddenly we are assailants and the shooter was afraid we meant them harm. (Just a side note: we’ve never had anyone refuse to pay us).

So the other day when we came across an unattended weapon in the back of a golf club’s maintenance vehicle all of these thoughts were churning in my head. This was the Stillwater Golf club in Columbus, Montana. Here was a person that most likely was thinking about something else and forgot there was a firearm in the vehicle. Maybe it’s always there and it sort of feels like any other tool of the job. Gophers tearing up the golf course are managed with a quick shot from the .22. Upon first seeing the firearm I was shocked. Then I was scared. I was scared because I didn’t know what to do. There was a loaded weapon without a human sitting in the bed of a golf cart at a campground adjacent to a golf club. Children play nearby. Vagrants frequent the free camping areas. Joe Schmos like us walk by.  We did not see the driver of the cart. Should we wait for the person to return? Would they be amenable to our feedback? Would the situation escalate? I took a picture because I knew I wanted to report the situation to the club’s manager.  I was too frightened to do the confrontation in person with the gun there. Then we left as quickly as we could. Cue the music of bad decision making. Something in a minor key.  This I have decided was not the right thing to do.

A while later I realized we had become complicit. We had abandoned a loaded firearm in public. By leaving this gun in public the owner made us responsible for anything that might have happened in between our seeing it and their return to take control of it. What if it had been picked up by a kid in that gap of time? In hind sight Burt and I realized we should have waited with the gun until its owner returned. In addition, we probably should have called the police. I guess. Then I started thinking what if the owner felt like we were threatening their job by confronting them about the lapse in judgement? What if they were carrying a sidearm and caught us trying to secure the gun? What if the police arrived after the gun’s owner had returned? Burt suggested we could have waited a safe distance away to make surethe guy came back. But what then? A safe distance away means we wouldn’t be able to stop a child from picking up the gun before we got to it. The moral ramifications of what might have happened are astounding.

What would you do? I’m making this public because we need a real change in how we think about guns in this country. Look how we all can become complicit in a situation when they aren’t handled properly.

My efforts to hear how the situation was managed by the club were unsatisfactory. I had to post to social media before they responded to my notifications. They only said, “This is unacceptable and it will be addressed.” I presume they meant the abandoned firearm and not my complaints.