Since the general deer season has just started, it is once again time for our annual Surgeon General’s WARNING concerning firearm safety. This WARNING has been modified, upgraded, improved, and streamlined during the past several years, to the point where it now contains only one sentence – “No member of the general public, inasmuch as the general public contains goobers such as yourself, should ever, under any circumstances, allow himself or herself to come into physical contact with any type of firearm whatever, and if he or she does, then he or she will be held liable for any damages incurred in conjunction with and/or related to any misuse of firearms by any other member of the general public, including but not limited to dogs who shoot their owners, and stuff like that.”
This WARNING is a good example of why the Surgeon General gets the big bucks. You, as a general public goober, could never come up with such a broad and all-encompassing WARNING. At least not without a lot of heavy drinking.
The scary thing, especially for those of us who live in small towns surrounded by many acres of prime deer habitat, is that there is no safe place for us during the general deer season. And opening weekend is particularly unsafe. A .30-06 bullet, fired at a 45-degree angle, can travel up to 7 miles, which means you could be walking down the street in downtown Junction or Brady or Mason, and be struck and killed by the Surgeon General.
The good news is that this very rarely happens, even with thousands of deer hunters swarming the countryside the first weekend of November every year. Although accidents happen sometimes, most hunters are pretty careful, and even if some goober shoots his or her rifle at a 45-degree angle in a random direction, the odds of another goober standing exactly where that bullet comes down are pretty thin.
But then, my friend, Gordo Gipson, is not ‘pretty thin,’ and this happened to him. It wasn’t, technically, deer season at the time, but several years ago Gordo was shooting with some friends at a private range when, suddenly, he was struck in the back of the leg by the general public.
Gordo was on the firing line with a rifle, and everyone else was standing about 10 feet behind him, when he felt something strike the back of his thigh. He turned around and said, “Did one of you throw a rock at me?” Keith Higdon, a plumber and an astute observer, noticed there was something wrong with Gordo’s BDU pants.
The bullet had been almost spent when it hit Gordo, and only went in an inch or so. It took some of the material from his pants with it, and when Gordo pulled on his britches leg the bullet popped out. And when it did a fountain of venous blood erupted, and the leg started to hurt. Pain is commonly associated with being shot.
Gordo is a police officer in Fredericksburg, but fairly recently enjoyed active duty with the U.S. Marine Corp. He was deployed to some backward, rat-infested country, Iraq or Kosovo or Chicago or someplace, where he may actually have been safer than he is here during deer season.
Obviously, care must be taken when handling firearms, to keep innocent people like Gordo from having to buy new britches every time they turn around. I guess we’re lucky we only have to worry about the infrequent careless hunter, and not a bunch of low-life drug dealers with Uzis. The citizens of some foreign countries, such as Miami, deal with this problem on a daily basis.
Dave Barry mentioned his concern about stray bullets in a 1997 column. In Miami, Dave said, “it is customary to celebrate certain special events (such as nightfall) by firing guns into the air.” The Miami Herald (which is a newspaper, sort of) printed a letter to the editor in which a Concerned Citizen suggested a solution. He said the city would be safer if everyone did what he (the Concerned Citizen) does – shoot at the ground instead of into the air. He elaborated “There are enough bullets in my yard to throw off a Boeing 747’s compass, but they are all buried where they were fired, not to come down miles away.”
This Concerned Citizen did not mention why he felt the need to fire his weapon a lot in town, into the ground or otherwise. Obviously, he believes that, although it is often necessary for community members to expend ammunition, this exercise can and should be performed in a safe manner.
So, this fall, let’s all make a conscious effort at gun control. Know what’s behind your target at all times, never fire your gun at a 45-degree angle, and, above all, keep a weather eye out for the Surgeon General . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who hunts deer with a longbow, but only fires into the ground. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or email@example.com