In my life I have spent a fair amount of time around firearms of one type or another. I have learned how to safely handle them from a fairly young age, and won my first shooting trophy when I was nine. I still own several. I have hunted deer and done various kinds of target shooting. I am not a “gun nut” in that I have fetishized my firearms the way so many American men have. I do not feel the need to carry everywhere, and I would never, ever call one of my firearms a “toy”. I think I have a healthy amount of fear and respect for firearms in general. And that is why when I see stories like this I am just astounded. And angry.
It seems to me that whenever terrible accidents with firearms take place, there are some people who are so defensive about firearms that they will try to rationalize just about anything. Case in point: the hunting accident that involved (then) Vice President Dick Cheney. I heard so many people defend Cheney for accidentally shooting his friend, and after hearing it one time too many I just lost my patience. I went off on a friend of mine who really should have known better than to try to talk around firearm safety and blame the victim. There is no excuse, regardless of what the man who was shot may have done. Short of cunningly and convincingly disguising himself as a pheasant, or controlling Cheney with his mind and making him do it, that man at best shares only a small part of the blame. The person on the trigger always bears the real responsibility. The shooter is always responsible for positively identifying the target before shooting. There is never an excuse for this sort of thing in my book. Never. And so it is with this little girl and her older male relative. If you can mistake a 9-year-old girl in a Halloween costume for a skunk, either you need glasses – badly – or you did not positively identify the target. I don’t care about your reasons or excuses. Low light? Foliage obstructing the view? Distance? All are factors that make it necessary for the shooter to be more careful. And it’s not like the shooter had to make a split-second decision for his safety and the safety of others. This is not a charging rhino or a mountain lion. It’s a skunk, a small mammal that might make you smell really bad, or in theory might bite you if you were dumb enough to try to pick it up.
So this older male relative made an extremely bad judgment call and might want to consider taking a few more hunter safety courses before ever picking up a shotgun again.