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The Journal Gazette

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Thursday, March 07, 2019 1:00 am


Safety reminder

Accidental shooting reinforces need to train all

We wish the two Fort Wayne Police Department officers injured Monday in a shooting at the Public Safety Academy full and speedy recoveries.

Mark Bieker, police public information officer, told The Journal Gazette's Jamie Duffy an officer's gun discharged during a training exercise and the bullet struck him and another officer. The two were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Bieker told Duffy he doesn't recall any similar mishaps during the 20 years he's been on the force. But 31 years earlier, an FWPD recruit named Omega Graham was accidentally shot and killed during a training exercise at a National Guard facility called Fort Custer, just west of Battle Creek, Michigan.

During training simulations then, trainers and recruits commonly used unloaded service handguns. But that day, a trainer reloaded his pistol before going out of the facility to fuel up a vehicle, then forgot to unload it when he returned. The officer then fired a fatal bullet into Graham's chest during a role-playing exercise simulating a violent dispute between a landlord and tenant.

There is an emphasis on safety at the Public Safety Academy, which opened in 2007, and Bieker said no recruits were in the room where this week's incident occurred during a target-shooting session. But like that trainer in 1987, those injured Tuesday were veteran officers, who presumably have had considerable experience handling firearms.

Indiana, as we have noted often before, has no requirement that gun owners receive safety training. On its face, this is ridiculous – you would not hand car keys to someone who knows nothing about how to drive. Yet adults may purchase a firearm and, after a few fees and forms, obtain a license to carry a handgun without ever having shot or even handled a firearm before.

The Second Amendment right to bear arms isn't the issue. People of goodwill can disagree over background checks, magazine sizes and whether semi-automatic rifles should be generally available.

But if even experienced police officers can inadvertently injure themselves and others with their weapons, doesn't that argue for requiring at least minimal training for private citizens who want to own and carry?