Published January 18, 2013
A seventh grader went to see "The Hobbit" at a movie theater in Tillamook, Ore., last month.
He found a Beretta semi-automatic pistol under his seat. There was a bullet loaded in its chamber. Its safety was off. It was ready to fire.
It reportedly belonged to a man who had owned guns for forty years--61-year-old Gary Quackenbush.
Mr. Quackenbush had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which requires a firearms safety course to obtain. But he got bored during the movie, wiggled around in his seat, and the gun slipped out of his holster.
For this, Mr. Quackenbush lost his concealed weapons permit and now faces reckless endangerment charges, according to several media reports. But I don't think he was uniquely reckless or endangering.
Even trained professionals lose their guns.
Imagine going through security at the Denver International Airport. Here, Transportation Safety Administration officials provide intimate pat downs and take naked pictures to make sure you aren't trying to sneak even so much as a bottle of water through the gate.
You stop by the restroom after enduring procedures that used to be reserved for suspected criminals, and what do you find in the stall? A holstered handgun.
This is what happened to Bob Young of Ohio in October, according to a report in the Denver Post. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver told me the gun belonged to a federal officer who--um--just sort of forgot it after taking care of his business.
Anyone looking for a gun in America should go to the bathroom. In March, someone found one in the John of a Toys "R" Us in Columbus, Ga., according to a report in the local Ledger-Enquirer.
Also in March, a retired police officer left his gun in the can at a Wal-Mart in Crystal Lake, Ill., according to a report in The Northwest Herald. He had all the credentials required to carry a concealed weapon. He just, um, forgot.
Someone found a holstered .45-caliber weapon in the parking lot of a Del Taco restaurant in Post Falls, Idaho, last year. An off-duty police officer zipped away in his truck, forgetting he had left the gun on his roof, the Associated Press reported.
An AirTran Airways pilot traveling from Orlando, Fla., reported that a bag containing his gun was missing, according to a November 2010 report in the Orlando Sentinel. He was trained by the feds to carry guns to on flights. Perhaps he was protecting passengers from any water bottles that might have gotten by the TSA.
Sometimes people forget where they put their guns, forever.
In October, a library employee in Valparaiso, Ind., found a gun inside a hollowed-out book that had been donated to the library. It was a .31 caliber single shot with a wood handle, according to a report in the Southtown Star.
In February, someone found a Ruger .22 caliber pistol inside a piano donated to a nursing home in Pittsfield Township, Mich., according to a report by AnnArbor.com.
Guns turning up in school lockers and students' backpacks are regular headlines--but at least kids remember where they put their guns. Busy adults often forget, even as they approach security checkpoints.
In May, 43-year-old Heloise Glenn of Oak Park, Mich., tried to enter a federal court in Detroit with a 5-shot, .22-caliber revolver. She was on her way to a bankruptcy hearing. Her nephew told The Associated Press she forgot: "You know how females have so much stuff in their purses."
The TSA reports that airport security screeners confiscated more than 1,500 guns in 2012--a new record. And if you forget about the gun in your carry-on, you are likely going to be arrested.
It is a hazard for traveling business executives. It happed to an executive of the NBA's New Orleans Hornets at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport last year, and it happened to the owner of the South Bend Chocolate Co. at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in January 2012, according to reports by the Associated Press.
Tales of misplaced guns don't always end so easily. In March, a man left his gun under the seat of his vehicle. He pulled into a gas station in Tacoma, Wash. He pumped gas while his wife went into the store and his 3-year-old squirmed out of his seat to mess around. The boy found the gun and accidentally shot himself, dead, according the Associated Press.
It is important to remember our latest national debate on gun control began with a woman in Connecticut who possessed legally registered firearms. She was an upper middle-class woman who probably seemed like a responsible gun owner. Yet somehow she let her guns fall into the hands of her deeply disturbed son.
This is just how it is with millions of guns in the hands of millions of people. We live in a country where federal law enforcement agents lost as many as 2,000 weapons in an operation called "Fast and Furious." Where, in 2006, a sitting vice president, Dick Cheney, accidentally shot his quail hunting partner in the face.
If we were serious about gun control we would insist on gun owners controlling their guns. We would legislate that anyone who has ever lost their wallet, keys or cell phone should not be permitted to own a gun. We might even insist on a basic IQ test, although smart people do stupid things, too.
Mr. Quackenbush told the Los Angeles Times that he brought his gun to the movies because of the horrific theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., last summer: "My God, had there been an armed citizen, he could have taken them out and a lot less people would have died."
That is assuming the armed citizen remembered where he put his gun.
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)