On February 7, 2001, CBS News aired a segment about the Remington Model 700 rifle's dangerous defective trigger and safety - alleging they can fire by disengaging the safety. This is something hunters and shooters should know about, but not necessarily because the guns any more dangerous than any other firearm - any gun, just like any motor vehicle, can kill.
The basis of the story - a so-called "accident" which resulted in the death of a nine-year-old boy due to his mother's mishandling of a Model 700 rifle - is a very sad tale, but it serves as a better example of gross negligence than of mechanical failure. I feel sympathy for the family involved, to a point. I sympathize with them for the death of their son, but not for the lack of common sense that caused it.
As anyone as jaded as I (with the liberal slant of most major news outlets) would expect, CBS's treatment of this story leaves much to be desired. Nowhere did I read or hear mention of the keystone of all gun safety rules - always keep any gun pointed in a safe direction. No mention was made of the mother's gross mistake in pointing the rifle at her son, although she is quoted as saying, "I know basic gun safety, keep the gun pointed down..." She is given credit for being safe with a gun, yet she is responsible for the shooting death of her son, and she is not taken to task for her mistakes... a lack of logic that only a liberal anti-gunner could appreciate. In discussion of an internal Remington memo, CBS News picked out only the pieces that suited their needs and ignored the rest, including what Remington has done about the problem.
Details of the "accident" were omitted from today's program. I found more information on the CBS News Web site, and all quotes used in this article are taken from there. I tried some links to "full interviews" with the parents and others. Two of the three links worked, but the third did not. I personally don't believe that the transcripts on their website are "full" interviews - they read like well-edited interviews. I suspect they are full transcripts of the portions of the interviews that made it on the air.
The following is a brief outline of the incident, (quoted from the CBS News interview with the parents, the mother is speaking):
"I stood in front of the horse trailer with the gun pointed down and proceeded to open the bolt to unload it and the bolt wouldn't open. The kids were still on the horse at the back of the trailer. I went to open the bolt, it wouldn't open. I looked down and seen the safety was on, I pulled the safety off and it fired.
"The gun went off, my finger was nowhere near the trigger, I had an open hand. I ran around the back side of the trailer. (Our daughter) Shanda at that point I seen her she was with her horse and I yelled, "Where's Gus? Where's Gus?" and he was on the other side of the horse trailer. The bullet had hit him through his hand and through his abdomen. He had just gotten off the horse."
(The bolt on many Remington Model 700 rifles can't be opened when the safety is engaged.)
The boy bled profusely and subsequently died in the hospital that day, despite timely action and transport by his parents.
What we have here is a very sad story that didn't have to be. Let's presume that the mother did not touch the trigger, and that the rifle fired upon disengaging the safety. She said, "I stood in front of the horse trailer with the gun pointed down..." (emphasis added). Then she "pulled the safety off and it fired." Somewhere along the line she ceased to point that gun at the ground - but CBS neglects to observe this fact.
This incident was not an accident. There is no such thing as an accident - everything is someone's fault, barring natural disasters. The shooting of that boy was a case of severe negligence by the boy's mother. If we concede that the safety on the gun acted as a trigger, we must also consider that she, who said she "know[s] basic gun safety," did notkeep the gun pointed at the ground and instead had it pointed at her child. Two major rules of gun safety were omitted from the story, and were broken in the incident:
1) Always keep a gun pointed in a safe direction.
2) Never depend on the safety.
Has personal accountability eroded to the point where we will ignore such facts? Mistakes are mistakes, and no one can change that.
One of the goals of the family involved in this tragedy is to increase public awareness of the alleged defect with Remington M700 rifles, and I think that's an honorable and worthwhile goal. Sportsmen need to know if there's a problem with their firearms, and this may indeed be a problem. But if handled properly, no firearm really needs a safety - as long as it's never pointed at something that you're not willing to destroy, it will never kill anyone or anything "accidentally."
Now on to the mechanical side of things. Are all Remington Model 700 rifles susceptible to this problem? The answer is disturbing.
See Page 2 of 2 > Remington M700 - Friend or Foe?
- Russ Chastain