Deliberate Indifference

How do you knowingly avoid safe practices or fail to mitigate risks. Is it a case of deliberate indifference?

The definition

What is deliberate indifference in the first place? It is the conscious or reckless disregard of the consequences of one’s acts or omissions. In other words you know an act or failure to act can lead to injury or death yet you disregard this information for one reason or another. The reasons vary, but the point is they are conscious so you can’t claim ignorance in this case. You can’t say you didn’t know and just shrug your shoulders.

The best outcome you could hope for

Recently and I mean recently it came to my attention at a rifle class there was a negligent discharge which resulted in no injury or property damage. Pretty much the best you could ask for when playing with firearms. The culprit in this case appears to be a piece of gear that not only disengaged the safety, but depressed the trigger firing the shot. The rifle was slung on the back with the safety inboard. Remember, tragedy is not the result of a single incident, it is the culmination of several seemingly insignificant ones that snowball into a mishap or tragedy.

The mission

Why do we sling rifles in the first place? The primary reason is to free up both hands for a task. A task such as going hands on, lending medical aide or maneuvering an obstacle. In these cases you must sling your rifle in order to perform said tasks at peak performance. A very common slung position back in the day was in front, to lay the rifle so the muzzle points down and the ejection port faces out. In this condition, the safety is pinned against the body or more often various tactical gear. As the end user performs various duties it is easy to see the safety disengaged by gear. Anytime the rifle is to be slung, the end user is giving up physical control. There is little control of the muzzle and protecting the safety is suspect. It was for this reason many of us in the instructor community solved the problem by rotating the rifle outboard so the safety was away from the body thereby ensuring a higher level of safety.

Making a difference

I credit my good friend Pat Rogers as being the first instructor I know to articulate the move to better protecting the trigger. In any type of high risk training we as instructors have a responsibility to mitigate risk. When we see something unsafe it is incumbent on us to take action. Failure to do so could be interpreted as deliberate indifference. Now, flash forward to the ND mentioned earlier and ask why did it happen? Why would we as a community move to protecting the safety by flipping the riffles outboard when we sling them in front, but allow rifles to still be slung on our backs exposing the safety to our gear.

Liberal logic 101

A typical response I’ve heard is; “because I’ve always done it that way and never had a problem.” First off, this is a classic example of liberal logic. There is nothing substantial to this response, nothing to indicate the thought process or rationale for or against. Take a second to let it soak in, is this the type of justification you want to hear or even better you actually want to give? Back it up with something better than “because”. Then there is the use of absolutes such as always and never. Those are hard to believe since it’s pretty much impossible to include always and never in the same sentence. Oh wait, I just did.

Know your mission, work to perfect your trade craft to the best of your ability. I’m pretty sure increasing risk in an already high risk environment is not part of that equation.

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