Gun Control: What Chemical Engineers Can Teach Us About Gun Safety


Engineers, especially chemical engineers, are taught to approach the processing plants they supervise with a well-balanced and logical approach. Processing plants contain many inherent risks and an engineer must mitigate that risk while not harming the integrity of the plant. Perhaps this same approach could shed light on a path forward to improvement on gun safety.

Imagine the processing plant represents the firearm. Not getting into the necessity of the plant, and likewise the weapon, we'll nonetheless view both as ever present. Certainly the case can be made that the free society combined with supply and demand, demands the plant, as does a free society recognizing natural rights allows for firearm possession. However, the operation of either requires due diligence for the safety of all.

First, the plant, like the firearm, must be of high integrity. It must be able to sustain the stress of normal operation with minimal maintenance. It must be built for the purpose.  This ensures that the operation will not bring immediate harm to the operator or those nearby.

Next, those operating in and around the plant must be properly trained in their appropriate area and even cross trained when able. Though a facility can handle a particular process under a given set of operation conditions, it is not feasible to build the plant to handle any fluid under any process condition. This is called risk assessment, which will be touched upon shortly. As such, operators must recognize the proper operating parameters and recognize warning signs of dangerous conditions. Likewise, a firearm is built to handle a particular caliber bullet, and no other size should be considered. Operators should recognize the style of gun being used, and operate appropriately to ensure safety. This concept alone accounts for possibly 80% to 90% of daily safety considerations, and thus it is of utmost importance to remain diligently focused on the purpose at hand. Safety checks must be routine. Safety checks are not performed, nor safety meetings attended to find or learn something new; those are done as a reminder of what is most important.

Related to the previous concept, the processing plant must ensure integrity of its workers. Operators must be competent, trustworthy, and willing to adhere to safety protocols. Deviance or defiance results in immediate dismissal. There shall and cannot be tolerance for laziness in this area. Operators prove their capacity through exposure to responsibility. Likewise, firearm operators prove themselves through continued safe operation of weapons. 

Lastly, one must recognize the ever present risk of operation. Risk assessment is applied to determine the magnitude of safety protocols to be enforced. A particular material of construction may protect the facility from an extreme condition, but what is the likelihood of the condition, and what is the cost of the material? One must not apply unreasonable standards to a risk filled venture. For instance, it is certainly acceptable to install arrestors for potential lightning strikes and relief valves for potential fires. Those are ever-present dangers which would result in catastrophic loss but can be mitigated rather easily.  However, it is unfair to attempt to make the operation of the facility just as safe as one sitting in the comfort of the home. Therefore, some risks are deemed as acceptable. And even though risks are ever present, and though accidents may occur, the processing plant remains in operation as long as the original risk assessment is satisfied. And should another facility down the road be found a hazard, either through realized events or ignored safety protocols, and shut down as a result, its fate will not interfere on the fate of another facility. For the facility itself is not the danger, but the owner's/operator's neglect.

With proper materials of construction, proper operating conditions, and capable operators proven through experience, any facilities may mitigate its risks and minimize accidents.  Likewise, proper firearm handling, attention to safety, and continued diligence will remove immediate dangers associated with firearm use. Any deviation from these guidelines should not be tolerated. These guidelines ensure both the processing plant fulfills its destiny as a provider of desired goods, while the firearm remains the realization of man’s natural right to own and operate arms.