I Killed My Friend

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Nothing in Bruce Holbert’s New York Times piece, I Killed My Friend, makes much sense. Here’s how it kicks off:

The summer before my sophomore year in high school, I moved into my father’s house. My father had remarried and the only unoccupied bedroom in his house was the gun room. Against one wall was a gun case he had built in high school, and beside it were two empty refrigerators stocked with rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. My bed’s headboard resided against the other wall and, above it, a resigned-looking, marble-eyed, five-point mule deer’s head with a fedora on its antler rack.

The room had no windows, so the smell of gun oil filled my senses at least eight hours each day. It clung to my clothes like smoke, and like a smoker’s cigarettes, it became my smell. No one in my high school noticed. We all smelled like something: motorheads of motor oil, farm kids of wheat chaff and cow dung, athletes like footballs and grass, dopers like the other kind of grass.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who smelled of gun oil or been any place that smelled of gun oil — unless someone literally just cleaned and oiled a gun. Gun shops don’t smell like gun oil. Gun ranges don’t smell like gun oil. (They do smell like burnt gun powder though.)

Anyway, here’s the meat of his story:

The driver, who worked with the county sheriff’s department, offered me his service revolver to examine. I turned the weapon onto its side, pointed it toward the door. The barrel, however, slipped when I shifted my grip to pull the hammer back, to make certain the chamber was empty, and turned the gun toward the driver’s seat. When I let the hammer fall, the cylinder must have rotated without my knowing. When I pulled the hammer back a second time it fired a live round.

Wait, what? I don’t even understand how he claims to have set off that live round, but let’s review the rules of gun safety:

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Who hands a loaded gun over without unloading it and showing that it’s clear? Or even mentioning that it’s “hot”?  Who points a loaded gun anywhere near his buddy while he checks to see if it’s loaded? And who thumbs the hammer back?

Are we supposed to believe the gun went off without anyone pulling the trigger?

I suppose non-shooters are meant to read a story like that and conclude, see, it can happen to anyone who owns a gun! Um, no, not really.  Not like that.

(Hat tip to Megan McArdle.)


  1. Ben says:

    The Twitter Version: “WTF? Gun just leapt onto my hand, loaded itself and went off. WTF?!”

  2. Isegoria says:

    I think I’d have more respect for someone who simply said, “I fumbled the gun, panicked, and tried to catch it. I didn’t mean to point it at anyone, and I certainly didn’t mean to pull the trigger.”

    Anyway, there’s a huge difference between growing up surrounded by guns and having good gun-handling skills.

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