The exact number escapes me at this point, but I’d guess it’s somewhere around a dozen. That’s approximately the amount of times I’ve encountered someone having shot themselves in their foot. We’re not talking verbally here folks, but quite literally having somehow shot oneself in a foot. I’m not going to name names, although a part of me definitely wants to, but the first time I saw the aftermath of someone having done that was on the outskirts of Bangkok following a night of partying back in the late 1960s. The gentleman in question wanted to prove his ability with a revolver while intoxicated—if you look up “disaster” in a cookbook, this is literally the recipe. Before anyone could react quickly enough to stop what was about to happen, he pulled out the pistol from his waistband and let the first round fly, right through the big toe on his right foot. I really don’t think he felt much pain, although the volume of blood was amazing.
The second time was right here in the United States, actually in the squad room of a certain unnamed law enforcement agency in Rhode Island. I’ll use the fictitious name of Jim Ripple because I’m compassionate and as before I don’t want to use his real name. Anyway, Officer Ripple was sitting on the commode in the adjacent bathroom prior to working the 4:00 p.m. to midnight shift when an ear-splitting crack rang out. Somehow, someway, (it’s a mystery to all but one to this day) Officer Ripple managed to shoot himself clean through the top of his right foot with one of his .357 rounds. Needless to say, there was a blood-curdling scream followed quickly by Jim’s frantic cries for help. He missed work that night, obviously, and was off of work for the next two months. He had no explanation for what happened, and, given the time period, we all just chalked it up to “oh well, Jim was just being Jim.”
Another time I saw this was at a gun range outside of Fairfax, Virginia. I didn’t know this gentleman at all as he was with another group of shooters on the skeet range, but he somehow shot his right foot clean off with a 12 gauge round.
Almost all the rest of the incidents were eerily similar, someone was in no condition to be anywhere near a firearm, they were being just a little too careless while shooting at targets at a gun range, or they had way too much idle time on their hands, a la the commode incident with Officer Ripple. The one exception was a combat related incident where a 5.56 NATO round was inadvertently fired between a couple of toes on a guy’s left foot while he was in the thick of things.
There is absolutely no excuse for things like this to happen and, except for that last unfortunate incident, all those other shootings were completely avoidable. My former colleague in Thailand should have known better, but it points to the obvious conclusion that drinking and firearms do not go together under any circumstances.
Officer Ripple’s boredom or lack of attention while sitting on the commode back in Rhode Island was avoidable as well—well that goes without saying. For the life of me I can’t begin to even imagine what he was doing when the round went off hitting him in the foot, but perhaps playing with his revolver comes to mind. Never play with your firearm! Always treat the weapon as if it is loaded and there’s a round in it with your name on it.
And of the gentleman on the skeet range in Virginia, always point down-range while unloading the firearm. Drop the magazine, open the breech or whatever you’ve got, check inside, and just clear your gun before walking off the range. We all know the drill.
Hospital records vary across the country with by and large the greatest percentage of accidental shooting cases coming from folks who have no idea what end of a firearm does what. It’s therefore almost understandable that we hear about as many of those cases as we do, but for the rest of us there honestly cannot be an excuse. I know, I know, I’m preaching to the choir here, and we all make mistakes from time to time. We just can’t make those mistakes while engaging in the very things we love.