Friday, April 18, 2008

Pilot's Gun Fired in Cockpit

I know, I know, this happened a few weeks ago. I've been watching the news for more information since it happened, since the official line is always "We can't say anything until the investigation is done." I like to make sure that my opinions are as well informed as I can make them. Well, the investigation isn't done yet, but I've learned enough by now to have formed an opinion. However Michael Bane says it better than I can in his blog. Here are some excerpts:

First, a picture of the "safety" system the pilots are required to use.
From Michael Bane:

All understanding is that the gun chosen for the pilots is the double-action-only version using H-K's LEM (Law Enforcement Module) system to lighten the DA pull. Here's the H-K catalog page.

What do we know about double-action only guns, whether they be semiautos or revolvers? Well, the first thing we know is that if you pull the trigger, the gun will go bang. The longer DA stroke guarantees that there has to be a deliberate pull of the trigger for the gun to fire.

Here's an important question...does it take a deliberate finger to pull a trigger? Ummmm, no...the trigger doesn't know or care what pulls it. You can pull a trigger with a pencil, a tree branch or the snagged tail of your shirt. People who carry pocket pistols not in a pocket holster have pulled the trigger with their pocket change. And consider the word "deliberate." A finger on the trigger can unintentionally fire a gun, say if the person whose finger is on the trigger is jossled or bumped, or if they have to grab with their weak hand, which can sometimes cause a sympathetic clinching of hand on the gun. Or let's say your finger is on the trigger when you attempt to reholster the'll go bang every time...probably the most common neglient discharge in the world.

That trigger thing is why we have moved to holsters for concealed carry and competition that fully cover the trigger guard, blocking access to the trigger. The harder it is to get to the trigger accidentally, the less likely the gun is going to go bang when we don't want it to.

What's another thing we've learned from the last 30 years of practical pistol shooting and the revolution in civilian training about gun safety? An important thing is to minimize the Futz Factor, loosely defined as "Every time you handle the gun, it has the opportunity to go off; reduce the times you handle the loaded gun, and you reduce the opportunities for a negligent discharge."


This from the Crime Files News, one of the few tiny bits of information to leak out no damning the pilot or the gun:

The insane procedures required by the TSA demands that our pilots to lock and then un-lock their .40 side arms was and is a solid recipe for disaster. Did the TSA deliberately create this bizarre and unconventional Rube Goldberg firearm retention system hoping for this result? The sordid history of the FAA and TSA’s total resistance to the concept of arming pilots to protect Americans is in itself a scandal.

Putting a gun into a holster and then threading a padlock through the trigger and trigger-guard is required every time the pilots enter or leave the cockpit.
And, the most important point:

Let's talk about that holster now. Why do we cover the trigger guard? To keep something hard from coming in contact with the trigger. What would we call a holster that has a hole cut in it to allow a person to place a hard object that can potentially come in contact with the trigger of a gun that has no additional manual safety? Unsafe...or more appropriately, stupid.

Very very stupid.

And what would you think if a requirement of your job was to constantly remove such a holster and then place the hard steel bar of a lock through the holster and trigger guard, then remove the lock and redeploy the holster when you came back? Personally, I'd be pretty worried — as a firearms professional, I'd find this system guaranteed to fail. Sooner or later, it goes bang.

And it did.
For the full post, go to

While I do not believe the conspiracy theories that the TSA designed the rules hoping for something like this (because they've been opposed to the FFDO program from the beginning), the rules do seem to do everything possible to maximize the "futz factor" pointed out in Mr. Bane's article.

I can only add two things to his well written piece.

1) Trigger locks are inherently unsafe. They violate two of the cardinal rules of gun safety: Rule 1 - The gun is ALWAYS loaded; and Rule 3 - Keep your finger (or anything else) AWAY from the trigger until you are ready to fire.

2) Something I have believed for many years - Every gun should have a safety! Even with the (understandable under the circumstances) mistakes the pilot had to have made, a safety could have prevented this. Being double-action-only does not make a gun immune from accidental trigger pulls, or snags, or foreign objects making their way into the trigger guard! It only means that the gun will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. The gun does not care who or what pulls the trigger, if the trigger is pulled it will go bang!

No comments: