March 27, 2013

On Emily Miller and the right’s righteous attack on Nanny Bloomberg, et al.

Lookit:  no one has been any harder on Mayor Bloomberg and his campaign to use his own enormous bank account — and even more enormous ego — to, with the help of anti-gun non-profits and a post-constitutional White House, attempt a kind of governmental coup, whereby a rich Mayor from a cosmopolitan city presumes to circumvent representative government and state sovereignty by buying out-of-state lawmakers to do the bidding not of their constituencies, but rather of Bloomberg, his anti-gun partners, and the establishment government in DC.

To that end, I applaud the work of Emily Miller and others, who have pointed out that the principals in the Bloomberg/Brady ad campaign against the Second Amendment (which tries to pose as a “reasonable” take on an outmoded natural right, one in which the government can and must step in and manage those rights, rather than protect them) have, in very stark ways, violated basic rules of gun safety — something that the NRA, eg., teaches every day.  And I appreciate the irony.

Having said that, it does us no good to misreport the facts, however unintentionally (which is what I suspect is what happened in this particular case, thanks in large part to poor firearms handling on the part of the actor/participant),  and in Miller’s piece, which has gained a lot of traction on the pro-Second Amendment side of the aisle, one fact is misreported, and needs to be corrected.

Writes Miller:

Mr. Bloomberg’s organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, produced two ads featuring a man holding a shotgun, wearing plaid flannel with a camouflage cap and sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck. While a child swings on a tire in the background, the man says, “I support comprehensive background checks so criminals and the dangerously mentally ill can’t buy guns.”

The ad does not specify if the man is an actor, but the text accompanying it says he is a “gun owner.”  Either way, the man violates all three gun safety rules taught by the National Rifle Association (NRA). (Click here to see the ads.)

The first rule is to always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. In this case, the children are playing in the yard. Although the viewers can’t see what is to the side of the truck, the man should be pointing the muzzle in the air or at the ground.

The second NRA rule is always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

In the ad “Responsibility,” the man has his finger on the trigger, as if ready to shoot. While doing this, he says, “I believe in the Second Amendment, and I’ll fight to protect it. But with rights come responsibilities.”  To make an ad demonstrating actual gun responsibility, the man would put a straight forefinger above the trigger guard to make sure he doesn’t accidentally touch the trigger.

The third NRA safety rule is always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. This means a situation in which the gun is available for immediate use — such as when hunting and a deer could step out at any time or when the firearm is safely stored but ready for quick self-defense as needed.

In the ad called “Family,” the man says that, “My dad taught me to hunt, and I’ll teach my kids. I’ve owned a gun all my life, and I’ll fight for my right to keep it.”

While saying this, he holds the pump-action shotgun with the action (bolt) closed, so it is impossible to know if it is loaded. To make this a demonstration of safety, the bolt would be wide open to demonstrate that it is unloaded.

A man who grew up hunting would know that by holding a shotgun straight horizontal, with the action closed and his finger on the trigger, he is committing all three cardinal sins of gun safety.

Well, yes.  If that’s indeed what is happening.  But if you look closely at the ad — and take the extra time to look into the specifics of the weapon being held (and yes, it’s being held in a way that is not usually advisable or, from the standpoint of gun safety pedagogy, preferable) — you’d note that, while the gun owner depicted in the ad is breaking several of the “cardinal rules” of gun safety, he is not breaking what is perhaps the most important rule, the admonition to keep one’s finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.  And to say he is weakens the overall argument against the ads, because it gives the gun-grabbers a point of deflection, and threatens the credibility of an otherwise perfectly legitimate and germane critique.

Look at these two pictures, the first taken from the ads themselves, the second of the particular weapon being held and the scale of its barrel to its trigger and trigger guard:



As Geoff B points out in an email to me,  the man’s “trigger finger is way forward of the trigger guard and the other fingers are wrapped around the guard not inside it.”  Geoff goes on to suggest that the inclusion of what is an discoverable error on the part of those claiming that the gun owner is acting irresponsibly could be a purposeful set-up to undermine the credibility of the gun-rights activists who have piled on, many going solely on Miller’s column, or repetitions of her findings.

I disagree with Geoff on that point, because Miller has been a very strong proponent of the Second Amendment and a very consistent critic of Bloomberg.  So I believe the mistake here is just that, a mistake — and one that is readily explainable by the position of the man’s hand and the way he’s holding his finger over the trigger guard, with the fleshy part of his palm at the pinkie to the wrist conspiring with the sleeve on the flannel to cover up the position of the trigger on this particular weapon.

In other words, going by sight alone, it’s an easy mistake to make.

That having been said, Geoff is correct in noting that such mistakes are the kinds of things that can be seized upon by opponents looking for any way to deflect valid criticism and diminish the credibility of those making the arguments that would otherwise hurt them.

It’s who they are.  It’s what they do.

And so for our part, it’s important that we make corrections where necessary and stick to the facts.  It’s bad enough that Bloomberg, et al, believe they can fund the end to real representative government and state sovereignty — and that to do so, they’ve financed ads that show supposed lifetime gun owners breaking many of the safety rules of responsible gun handling.  And in fact, perhaps this was part of their subtextual point:  even so-called reasonable gun owners are a danger to children and others, setting themselves up for accidents simply by dint of holding a weapon.

What we need do is point out that, in these instances, what Bloomberg’s group is showing us is irresponsible gun handling — and that such handling is rejected by responsible gun owners.  To do this, we need only point out the actual safety concerns evident in the ads.  What we don’t need to do is overstate the case, particularly when that overstatement risks harming the validity of the criticism overall.

Make the corrections, people.  You’ll feel better for it, and doing so is one of the things that separates us from the cynical propagandists who consistently push for statism, often from both sides of the political aisle.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 11:03am

Comments (20)

  1. Typing late last night I see that I was unclear on one thing. The setup was the Bloomberg people purposefully having their “actor” hold the shotgun in a way that makes it appear at first glance that he has a finger on the trigger. The area around his hand is heavily in shadow and his trigger finger (and whole hand) is positioned exactly as it would be if it was on the trigger if it was a couple inches further back.

    With the level of little details that they have put into this ad I can’t believe that this hand position is accidental. This, to me, was posed precisely to get this reaction. But of course I’m an old paranoid grouch who may be attributing more intelligence to our opponents than they have.

  2. As that famous philosopher Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain’t bad.

  3. I would say that curling your finger* around the front of the trigger guard makes it look odd. I usually have my finger straight out on side of guard (fortunately I have no pictures of me doing it wrong).

    *of course this guy could have a stubby index finger from a prior shooting accident ;)

  4. Keeping your trigger finger straight when it’s not on the trigger helps avoid misunderstandings, especially in the presence of other people with guns (who don’t happen to be threatening to shoot you at the time, that is) (but if they are your finger should be on the trigger).

  5. I thought the open breach thing wss stupid. I’ll keep mine closed and clean thanks.

    Also, saying its not pointed in a safe direction when you can’t know what he’s pointing at is pretty dumb. How do you know there’s not a pile of dirt there?

  6. Or a puppy, Lee.


  8. Good catch, Geoff!

    Not for noticing the finger off the trigger, but for noticing the disruptive potential that a mistake of the sort Emily made can have in discursive battles with the Left.

    I agree whole-heartedly that accuracy is paramount. But I thinks it’s equally paramount to recognize that the mistake could also serve to bait Emily’s critics in a round of stupid commentary, the content of which might prove to be of greater value as a cudgel in debates than Miller’s original essay, taken literally, could ever be.

    When comes time to inject a semiotic toxin into the Left’s entertainment channels, it’d behoove us to cloak the toxin in intentional gaffes to make it, shall we say, palatable, to the Left’s reactionary media agents. Absent that, they’ll likely ignore it.

  9. Hmmm. Can two things be equally paramount? Gotta look that one up.

  10. Come to think on it, maybe he IS ready to shoot is why his finger might be on the trigger. Wsaiting for a Caddy Shack gopher to pop up and make his day.

    Sometimes gun people that have never shot anywhere but at a shooting range can be kinda anal…

  11. Keeping your trigger finger straight when it’s not on the trigger helps avoid misunderstandings, especially in the presence of other people with guns (who don’t happen to be threatening to shoot you at the time, that is)

    It also helps to keep you shooting yourself in the ass when you unholster your sidearm (other targets await if you appendix carry). A bent finger is just begging to get in front of the trigger, sidearm or longarm.

  12. Sort of OT, anyone wanting to see classic examples of gun-handling mistakes needs to watch Doomsday Preppers. People toting loaded, uncased guns to the range are seen often. Last week a six year old boy was carrying a .22 by the stock and pointing it at his sister’s ankles in the driveway and his mother’s feet at the range.

    It makes me cringe.

  13. It’s the way I would carry if I was afraid my pit bull was going to attack a baby seal.

  14. To quote my old Drill Sargent, “Keep your boogerhook off the bang switch until your sights are on the target.” Minding this one rule will eleminate 99% of all negligent discharges.

    To see poor gun handling skills, watch just about any tv cop shows or movies, They are constantly sweeping their partners and other people with their muzzles, moving through rooms or running down the street with fingers on triggers and firing at suspects in crowds or when innocents are down range.

  15. Sounds like the NYPD, ironpacker.

  16. Okay. Mistake on trigger/finger position aside, the gun is still being pointed in an ambiguously unsafe direction. it’s still a poor model of gun safety coming from people claiming to know more about gun safety than “unreasonable” and recalcitrant gun owners.

  17. “Hmmm. Can two things be equally paramount?”

    In a bimodal system, yes.

  18. Sometimes gun people that have never shot anywhere but at a shooting range can be kinda anal…

    And sometimes condescending schmucks who think that handling deadly weapons isn’t a subject to be anal about need a Plexiglass bellybutton to see where they’re going…

  19. If that wad directed at me SDN, have you ever fiddled with the radio knob on a two ton car screaming down the road at 60 MPH?

    Deadly weapon irresponsible premurdurous scum!!

    Or, you know, bite me.