French shooting show injures 17
In the military (at least in the U.S.), there are certain protocols in any 'training' situations involving blank-round firing.
A military show in southern France has left 17 people wounded, after real bullets were used instead of blanks.
The injured included five children. Four people, including one child, were said to have been seriously hurt - though three have now stabilised.The incident occurred during a public demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at a barracks in Aude.
The soldier who fired the shots has been detained - though an official said it was probably an accident.
It is not clear why the wrong ammunition was used in Sunday's demonstration.
But it was "99.9%" likely to be "an unintentional fault," Colonel Benoit Royal, head of the French army's information service, told the AFP news agency on Monday.
'No psychological problems'
However, Defense Minister Herve Morin said: "I cannot rule out anything because we don't know what might be going on in a man's head."
He said "an experienced soldier" should not be able to confuse blanks with real bullets."According to initial findings of the inquiry, the incident involved a soldier with a perfect record, who had participated in operations and had seven to eight years of experience," he said.
"There is nothing that would make one think he had behavioural or psychological problems," he added.
Reports from the scene say the hostage scenario had been acted out five times before a crowd at the Laperrine military barracks, near Carcassonne, when on the sixth take real bullets began flying through the air, and onlookers fell to the ground.
The first is that every participant is individually required to show all loaded magazines before the situation begins, to prove that no live rounds are loaded.
The second is that, since blank ammunition is obviously different from live rounds, every participant is obligated to examine his own ammunition before loading the magazines.
The third is that no live ammunition is permitted on the premises when blank ammunition is being loaded into magazines.
Also (at least in the 1960's, when I was a member of the military), it was impossible to cycle he action of a military weapon in a full- or semi-automatic manner without inserting a special 'device' in the muzzle of the firearm.
A special 'device' was needed for the firearm to function in other than single-shot mode
Blank ammunition was deliberately loaded 'light' (very little gunpowder was inserted into the special-purpose, crimp-necked cartridge case) so that it would not cycle the action (move the rifle bolt to the rear to chamber another cartridge.)
In order to force the rifle action to cycle, it was necessary to insert a device into the muzzle of the rifle. This served two purposes: first, it restricted the gas pressure created from firing the cartridge from exiting the chamber/barrel assembly. This delay allowed the pressure to build up sufficiently for the stated purpose, which was not necessary with a full-power "Live Ammunition" round.
This device was so constructed that it provided a positive block to the exit from the barrel of any material object. That is, if a live round was fired from a rifle while this device was installed, it would hit the device, which was locked into the barrel forming a formidable obstruction.
The result of firing a live round through a barrel which was so obstructed would be to, essentially, blow the gun up. No second shot would be able to be fired from a firearm so obstructed. In fact, the most likely consequence is that the firearm would be damaged to the point of destruction, and the shooter would be injured by the consequences of the resulting back pressure.
[Note that military blank ammunition does not include a 'wad' to restrict pressure; rather, it looks very much like a cartridge case used for 'live' ammunition, except that (a) there is no bullet loaded; (b) the neck of the cartridge is squeezed together in a 'star-crimp' manner; (c) the blank ammunition has a shorter over-all length, lacking as it does a bullet; and (d) the cartridge is much lighter owing to the lack of a bullet and also to the amount of material included in the construction of the cartridge case -- it is thinner, because it need not contain such high gas pressures as does live ammunition.]
This leads us to consider a limited number of scenarios:
In this scenario, the fault is entirely upon the shooter. The consequences had been his goal, and he intended to shoot anyone in the vicinity with the intention of injuring or killing as many as he could.
And the individual shooter, the man who held the weapon and who loaded the live ammunition, cannot possibly be held to any lower level of responsibility. As a man who has been shooting for over 50 years, in military, hunting and competitive venues, I have always been taught that I am responsible for my own actions when holding a firearm (or at any other time).
In fact, when training shooters, I have stressed that: "You should always load your own magazines. If you allow someone else to load your magazines, you will eventually suffer the consequences, and you have nobody to blame but yourself."
That is the situation here, except that the Military incorporates a Chain of Command responsibility which is not part of individual competition, or hunting. They will pay for their assumption that their troops will always 'do the right thing'.
The Fall-out Begins:
Although it has been, as of this date, a week since the shooting, there are (so far) only two follow- up stories to report. The following are representative examples, chosen almost at random.
I'm really, really sorry".
This is not helpful. By now, they should have made some progress in determining how this happened, and should be releasing information which defines the circumstances about whether the "very experienced" trooper who did the shooting was a deliberate wanna-be murderer, or just stupid.
They (the French government) should be releasing details on their procedures for this kind of demonstration. They should have identified the shooter, his background, and his motivation. They should have identified the person who was responsible for insuring that no live ammunition was loaded and available, and defined the situation which lead to the failure of established procedures .
Most important, they should by now know what happened, and why. This should be supported by material evidence, such as examination of the brass found on the scene. The first thing to do is pick up the brass, which the French army has already done.
By now, they probably have this information. But they have not released it.
The Internet is not making this information available. Tomorrow, they probably will still not have this information. We need to ask ourselves why it happened, but we also need to be asking why it is all being covered up.
The only new information so far is that 16, not 17 people, were injured (or killed) in this shooting incident. This is information was originally reported on June 29, and more widely corrected on July 1, 2008.
It has been over a week since the incident, and no more information is available.
Don't expect to see much more explanation soon, if ever. This will be swept under the carpet and the press will not likely pressure the French government for more information ... ever.
Meanwhile, on July 8, 2008, the big news from France is:
"French President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend the opening of the Beijing Olympics next month."