Safety: “The gun didn’t kill my boy. I did.”

think safety signSometimes, words fail. This range accident is one of those times.

The father who accidentally shot and killed his teenage son at a Florida firing range on Sunday has spoken out, saying that it was his ‘operating error’ that caused his son’s death, not the gun itself.

William Clayton Brumby, 64, was shooting with son Stephen J Brumby, 14 at High Noon Guns in Sarasota when he accidentally fired backwards and fatally wounded his son.

‘The gun didn’t kill my boy. I did,’ Brumby told CNN Monday. ‘Every round in the gun is your responsibility. When it fires you need to stand to account for it. That’s what I’ve spent the last two days doing: accounting for my operating error.’

Read that last paragraph a second time, please. We did.

This is a guy who, in the aftershock of having done absolutely the wrong thing, is now doing absolutely the right thing. In the middle of his ocean of heartbreak.

Mr Brumby told the channel that he had taken his son and two of the youngster’s six siblings – his 24-year-old brother and 12-year-old sister – to the range that day just as he did every other month.

The family has always trained their children to fire weapons from an ‘appropriate age,’ he said.

‘We wanted our kids to be aware of guns,’ he explained. ‘I wanted them to be comfortable around them and understand them.’

But it was at one of these routine visits that disaster struck: A hot shell casing, newly ejected from a gun, bounced back into Brumby’s shirt.

‘Brumby then used his right hand, which was holding the handgun, in an attempt to remove the casing,’ a police statement later said.

‘While doing so, he inadvertently pointed the firearm directly behind him and accidentally fired.’

That’s what the cops said. And Brumby?

‘It was a very freak accident. I made a mistake,’ he said.

‘It doesn’t take but a split second for something to go wrong…”

Boy, isn’t that the truth.

Clayton Brumby also took the time, on the TV, to tell the world what a person his error had cost the state of Texas, the country, and the human race.

But the grieving dad didn’t just talk about his son’s death – he also talked about his life, and his hobbies, which included not just shooting, but also bass fishing, tennis, and playing piano at church.

Stephen was also ‘sweet’ and a hard worker at home, he said, helping out with the family and acting as both caregiver and friend to his youngest sister, who has spina bifida.

His father also hoped that once he finished homeschooling with his mom, Stephen would go on to college like his older brothers – and if he had, Brumby said, he would have gone far.

‘He had a heart that was bigger than he was,’ Clayton Brumby said. ‘He was always thinking outside the box.’

via Florida Father blames his ‘operating error’, not gun, for death of son Stephen Brumby | Daily Mail Online.

Please be careful out there. Like Clayton Brumby says, they’re our bullets and we own every one. Naturally, the Brit reporters at the Daily Mail don’t miss the chance to insult and abuse Brumby, so for once we’ll tell you not to Read The Whole Thing™.  To Hell with a bunch of Piers Morgan wannabees.

So — what’s the take-away from a case like this? We’ve seen guns aimed wild many times because a hot casing went in an open collar. Anyone who’s ever been a range officer has to have seen it. It’s one reason we like turtle and crew necks for the range, and one reason your grouchy old sergeant always wanted your sleeves down on the range, even when it’s hot.

If you’re the shooter, and you get a hot case, force yourself to secure the gun first. Very, very hard to do when you’re being burned, but it’s a life or death thing. If you’re the coach or the next relay, always maintain your focus on the shooter’s gun. If it starts coming towards you, block it,  or redirect it. It is, once again, a life or death thing.

And be conscious that such an accident can happen. That’s probably the biggest single precaution you can take.

25 thoughts on “Safety: “The gun didn’t kill my boy. I did.”

  1. Kirk

    Y’know… If you’re so absent-minded as to react like that to a bit of burning brass, maybe you shouldn’t be around firearms?

    I had a situation on a range once, where the guy on my flank opened up with his SAW, and I had most of a drum dumped on my back as I lay in the prone; a significant number of those cases wound up going down the back of my BDU blouse. Couple of them were hot enough to raise 2nd degree burn blisters on my neck and back. I did not lose presence of mind, and forget that I had a loaded, off-safe M16A2 in my hands, and go into panic mode; instead, it was like “Aw, f**k…”, and I did my best to get out of the range of that idiot’s brass/ejected link path. A burning bit of brass is a momentary discomfort; deal with it. It’s not like you’ve dropped a friggin’ piece of burning white phosporous on yourself, now is it?

    Then again, I’ve always had a higher than normal tolerance for pain. Which would explain my continued pattern of reenlistment, I guess…

    1. Trone Abeetin

      It takes all kinds of apples to make a bushel. Be a boring world if we were all alike.

  2. John Distai

    Tragic story, and unfortunate that the guy was a bit mindless about dealing with the burn. That paragraph that you asked us to re-read is why I took exception to the feel good story about the guy shooting the injured eagle out of the tree.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I wonder if the best hot brass drill might be to do something we’re normally very averse to doing, to wit, drop the gun. All modern handguns are drop safe. Drop the gun, fix the burning brass, pick up the gun at leisure. Principal argument against it is that it sounds bat guano crazy.

      1. Kirk

        How about “Accept the burn”, and don’t lose control or awareness of the gun? I don’t get this, at all–I’ve had “burning hot brass” wind up in places it shouldn’t, and not once did I feel the need to get all stupid with things and start thrashing around. Yeah, it hurts, but the mark of a sapient being is that you don’t let involuntary reflex take over. Yes, it hurts like a sumbitch, but… You’re HANDLING A GUN. Which is more dangerous? Momentary pain as that hot brass welds to your skin (and, I’ve had it hit me when it was hot enough to both burn hair, and stick to my skin), or losing control of a deadly weapon?

        Seriously… WTF?

        1. TF-BA

          You got it Kirk.
          Fuck that noise.

          I feel for the guy.

          There were times I stood up with glass, metal and superbly disgusting syringes sticking out of me, and some unrelated times that I treated guys with a full collar of second degree burns that “surprisingly” looked like expended brass.

          At a later date, because it was our office, we concentrated on customer service and NEVER let a single Corpsman looking for treatment of “range related burns” leave without an immediate and through gross fingernail debridement. I also seem to recall a strict protocol of slapping potentially effected areas unexpectedly with all available force and an immediate psyco-social assessment to determine short and long term butt-hurt-ness.

          This isn’t some kind of new math. Flip out on ambush because you have ants in your pants or whatever and suffer the consequences. Put what you want before “discipline”; light, noise, muzzle, trigger, whatever, failure is failure. That man has to live out his life knowing he killed his son over a minor burn. Kudos to him owning up to it. But that is IT.

          Contrast that to the “Hero of the British Isles”. You know, Captain Britannia who ran up on some shit with ZERO SA and then “found” herself face to face with a dude covered in the blood of his victim welding bloody knives and hatchets. She and her society identify her as a national hero? How does not getting killed for your stupidity or surviving based entirely on the crazy logic of a crazy person make you a hero? Fuck her,

          I think the NHS is right to tell her to suck it the fuck up.

          Hooray that this guy owns up to his mistake. She is still an idiot and he is a fucking team killer.

          1. Kirk

            I know I sound heartless, but… Seriously. I’ve taken a tree in the face while running a chainsaw cutting up fallen trees, and the damn thing didn’t do what I thought it was going to do, and I did not drop the lit chainsaw or swing it around and cut up the guys I was working with. Some shit like that happens, you have to maintain presence of mind, and cope. And, if you can’t? Well, baby… You shouldn’t be around firearms or chainsaws. Or, for that matter, pretty much anything dangerous. I watched a dumbass on a construction site working with an oxy-acytylene torch overhead have a blob hot steel fall on his stupid ass, and his response, while in an overhead basket? Sheeeit… Flung torch, screaming, bouncing up and down in the basket, and then because he was doing that, the manlift tipped over. Genius.

            Sometimes, you just have to take the hit, and move on. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t be playing with the dangerous toys.

      2. TF-BA

        Your students are Brownies and Girl Scouts in this situation correct?

        Maintain positive control of your weapon at all times unless __________ at your leisure.

        I’d think you were bat guano crazy if you recommended putting a lit cigarette under every student’s collar during drills. I would consider it irresponsible if weapons training conditioned students in how to drop arms and surrender at the VERY first sign or symptom adversity. Uh. “I thought I was doing a great job of defending myself, my home and liberty; but I got a burny thing that hurt really bad and that means drop my gun. So I dropped my gun. I was getting tired of the whole loud noises thing anyway.”

        Oh and that blank above can be filled with the 170 page walk of shame the DON put out on the RIVRON boats captured by the Iranians

      3. Tierlieb

        I was thinking the same. Dropping a modern gun is a surprisingly safe thing.

        Of course, most other commenters here are so tough that this is a non-issue. It’s the internet after all.

        Pain is a weird thing. I was trained in a traditional smithy. One of the things you learn is “you never touch any steel with your hand that is not covered in water” and its correlate “You don’t catch steel someone drops [because they were probably forging it right now]”. This is taught simply: You heat a steel rivet, wait until the apprentice is busy with something else, then you throw it and shout “Catch!”. A red-hot steel rivet has more mass, a higher temperature and therefore retains the heat much longer than any shell casing.

        And yet it never was as bad as that one 5.56×45 shell that made it into the rear of my combat shirt (racer collars only work if you zip them up) and stuck to my back in August 2014 during the first part of a half-and-half drill. Of course, I am also a tough guy, so I finished the drill, but only on the internet I will make people believe I did so in even a remotely dignified way. Surprise + stress, I assume.

        There is a reason why most people can stand getting tattooed, while a tenth of the actual impact, when surprised, will make them cry out.

        1. archy

          I was thinking the same. Dropping a modern gun is a surprisingly safe thing.

          Of course, most other commenters here are so tough that this is a non-issue. It’s the internet after all.

          A dummycord/lanyard might be a partial answer, at least while working with absolute rookies. Problem being that the 64-year shooter who hits the range every month was not in any way a rookie, and was not the source of the fatal problem.

      4. archy

        Around 1967 I was in the basement range of the Walther Waffenfabrik plant in Ulm, Germany, which has [or had] two rifle stocks stoutly mounted horizontally to the floor, allowing a handgun shooter to brace against them, get a nice cheek spotweld, and generally be solidly supported while maintaining a double-hand grip on handguns being testfired for reliability and accuracy. At the time, Walther commercial PPs and PP Sport handguns and military P1/ P.38 were in production along with a run of MPL submachineguns for one of the German state police forces. I was on the righthand side firing lane and had managed a lovely target with seven 9mm holes touching from a just-assembled P1, when the character on my left side let go a burst from a MPL, one hot case from which caught between my eyeglasses and eyelid. Ow. OW! I let off the last round which did NOT complete the all-touching group; neither did I turn to see where the problem was coming from and touch off a round thataway to indicate my displeasure, which would have been a temptation after I’d gotten the gun cleared and my glasses off. Herr Spolen, the rangemeister then, would likely not have approved.

        Dropping the gun and raising hands in the *hands up* position doesn’t sound like a bad rule of thumb procedure, pretty close to what we used at NWSC Crane when an *unloaded* gun went off in the shop [happened to me twice, not a live round either time] or a gun went batshit full-auto on the testfire range. Yeah, I’ve usually got a serious firstaid kit on hand at the range. Usually.

  3. DSM

    I’ve seen the hot brass dance more times than I can remember. As an RO you’re going back and forth between trying to coach and maintain safety and the tendency was always to watch the target to give the immediate feedback. I had to drill it into my guys’ heads to stop it and watch the shooters and weapons, worry about the hits on target on the cease fire.

    It’s still true, it only takes a split second complacency.


    I’m with Kirk on this. I’ve had hot brass drop down my shirt on a couple of occasions, as have most long term shooters I know, but I was prepared for the eventuality through training and forethought so I didn’t lose control of my weapon despite the pain.

    I think I might bring this issue to the attention of my club though, because we have a lot of new shooters most of whom have never served, and it represents a definite risk to other shooters on ranges without barriers between bays.

    And y heartfelt sympathy to that poor family.

  5. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

    Well, personally I’m in Kirk’s category – and not just with brass. When running a mill or lathe, especially with carbide tooling, the chips that come off of steel are quite hot – usually hotter than brass coming out of a gun. Brass coming off a gun might be 200 to 300F. Chips coming off a properly sped/fed carbide tool will be about 600 to 700F. Sometimes, I have to just take the pain, because I’m machining up against a shoulder or other feature, and I simply don’t have the time to fart around with my shirt or pants – the machine needs my attention *right that second*. Brass is easy compared to chips – brass is only hot. Chips are often razor-sharp as well as hot. The good news is that it happens often enough with enough randomness that the pattern of small scars on my forearms is starting to even out…

    That said, I’ve done a bunch of instruction with people who are noobs around guns. The one thing I notice is that not everyone is wired the same when they get a piece of hot brass on them. Some people are merely annoyed, as Kirk and I would be. Some people hit the roof. Some people hit the roof when a loud gun is set off in the lane next to them. Some people can take pain, some people can’t. I see this as a EMT too. I’ve seen a guy who was stone-cold sober with a chunk of wood embedded in his chest, talking in a calm, even voice. I’ve seen a woman with a broken toe howling at the moon with a systolic over 200… until the medics gave her Fentanyl. I can’t predict who is going to take pain and who is going to lose their crap over a hangnail. Wish I could, it would make lots of things in life easier.

    I make it a point to tell people on the range when I’m instructing or a RSO that they will wear proper footwear, and “proper” means “no sandals, no flip-flops” and proper attire means no plunge-neck tank tops or such clothing that will allow brass to easily go down your shirt.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Yep. It’s not a bad idea to have a couple of sweatshirts and -pants in the range bag when you take guests.

      My regular range requires ears, eyes, and hat. No idea why the hat is a requirement, except that the association’s liability insurer demands it. (The insurance agent can’t explain why, either).

      1. Matt Fulghum

        The idea is that the brim of the hat will prevent at least some of the brass from winding up between your glasses and your eyeball, as it’s been explained to me.

        1. JAFO

          I have had brass between glasses and eye, and it does get your attention. It gave me a nasty little burn on my eyelid, but no permanent damage. It was an indoor range and I think the brass had bounced off the partition between lanes. I wasn’t wearing a hat, but I do now.

  6. Billybob

    I had a regular meth -addicted customer for several years.
    If he hasn’t become a meth-user would have been an all right guy.
    During one arrest-contact I asked him what all the bruises were from on his entire right side…..I expected some weird sex story.
    He told me he had been training in the river bottom with paintball guns and they would shoot each other at close range while the shooter had to maintain fire on his target.
    Seemed they wanted to be accustomed to staying in the fight during return fire.
    If you think I’m kidding I could certainly tell you other stories about him.

  7. Sommerbiwak

    the hat might be against the sun blinding shooters temporarily and a brim helps against flying brass, too. Or to simply protect people from cooking their brains in the sun. Heliosis ain’t fun.

    The one and only time so far I had brass getting under my clothes was in between jacket and the roll collar I was wearing underneath. it was warm, but not a burn that might have disoriented me or something. Hooray for turtlenecks! :-)
    All other stray brass was to my face, arms and once on my calves. Deserved that for wearing shorts on the range. I guess I have been lucky so far.

  8. John M.

    I was talking to the RSO at my local range about this a few days ago. He had some hair-raising stories, including one old fellow with a slightly out-of-battery 1911 which the duffer pointed at his head while signaling for the RSO to come help. The RSO had to pry the gun out of his hand. The duffer slowly realized what he’d done and said, “I think I’d better go home now.”

    I asked how often he (the RSO) got guns pointed at him, and he said, “about every two days.”

    -John M.

  9. Lauren

    Wow, even though that’s a tragic incident, it’s admirable that he’s taking the blame. Of course the media won’t cover his statement, I’m sure.

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