About once a month, my members-only gun range sends out an email describing guns — both long guns and handguns — which have been left on shooting benches. But some of the more common places where people forget their guns? Public restrooms.
I discussed this issue with a Minneapolis police officer who handles “missing gun” reports. He had a whole list of cases involving guns left in bathrooms. And last week, while I was having lunch with a couple of sheriff’s deputies, they had plenty of stories about people leaving guns in public bathrooms.
In one case, a mechanic at a car dealership went to use the bathroom and found a gun stuck in the grab rail next to the toilet. Shortly after a deputy arrived and unloaded the gun, its owner came back, anxiously asking if anyone had found the weapon.
The officer told me that upon seeing the anxiety and remorse of the gun owner, he considered this a “no harm, no foul” situation and simply admonished the man to be more careful in the future. He told me, “I figured he was so rattled by the incident that he probably wouldn’t make the same mistake again.”
Kudos to the deputy, but this incident happened in the sleepy little town of Palm Coast, Florida. I wouldn’t expect the same outcome in most major metropolitan areas — especially those in states with more negative views on guns.
By far the greatest example of what NOT to do involved a guy at a Minnesota gun show. He went into the bathroom stall and hung his Glock 17 from the coat hook on the inside of the door — by the trigger guard! After finishing his business, he grabbed the gun by the slide. As he pulled, the coat hook depressed the Glock’s trigger safety — and the trigger! — sending a 124-grain hollow-point bullet through the palm of his hand, utterly destroying it. Ouch!
How can you make sure you don’t make similar mistakes? First, develop and practice a routine at home. Avoid some of the more common mistakes, like setting your gun on the toilet tank, because as soon as you turn around, the gun, in essence, ceases to exist. If you are preoccupied — or worse, in a hurry — you could easily just walk out, leaving your gun sitting there.
Some really small and light guns, such as “pocket” guns, can remain holstered. But most heavier guns need to be removed from the holster before you disrobe. Some folks set their guns in their pants, between their legs, which works OK but can get a bit clumsy during redressing.
Personally, I just set my gun on the top of my foot. It’s impossible to forget it, and it makes pulling up my pants easier. As I urge my concealed carry students, whatever method you select, be sure to practice until it becomes second nature, then follow it religiously.
Finally, STAY OFF YOUR PHONE! In 60 percent of “bathroom blunders,” the people who left their guns were either texting or talking on their phones — so distracted that they completely forgot about their firearms. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the weapons were never recovered. Think about your gun being in the hands of some street criminal.
Be smart. Be safe. Pay attention.