Hackles have been raised by photos of a shooting event where civilians, including members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, are seen goofing off with possibly illegal weapons—all courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Police. Hey, gun safety is for Seahawks.
The event took place in 2006, but the pictures
have just now begun circulating are now causing the police department a lot of very deserved grief. (The photos were mailed anonymously to the Philadelphia Daily News.) Not only is the event itself a questionable move—private citizens wasting police ammunition at a time when real officers were forced to ration—but the photos show players violating pretty much every imaginable rule of gun safety. They're firing weapons without ear or eye protection, handling rifles away from the firing line, and even pointing guns directly at their teammates' heads as they pose like "gangsters" for ridiculous photos.
Worst of all, sources familiar with the event say that some of the guns used were illegals assault weapons taken from the evidence room. In addition to being both against the law and highly unethical, use of such weapons could have compromised the cases they were a part of. Police critics are furious.
"It's a state police firing range used for state police to train. When we're there, it's downright military," said one state police official, who requested anonymity. "But at this event, it's chaos. Everybody's throwing contraband assault weapons around like they're toys; it's like they're having G.I. Joe tryouts. Not only is this totally unethical, but it's totally illegal."
A police spokeswoman said these types of "gun safety" events happen all time. Even Girl Scouts do it! She denied the more serious allegations of using illegal weapons and wasting police ammunition, but the pictures seems to indicate otherwise. An evidence tag can be seen on one of the guns and boxes of police-issued bullets are clearly visible in others. Police say the Steelers requested a gun safety course, but it appears they got the worst-supervised training session ever.
At the Daily News' request, a National Rifle Association-certified training counselor and firearms instructor examined the photographs and detected multiple "dumb and dangerous" safety violations.
"The photos show generally unsafe gun-handling techniques," said Paul Raynolds, a chief range-safety officer from North Jersey. "The players look to be poorly supervised. Basic firearm-safety rules are not being followed." ....
"Here," he added, referring to the group portrait, "you have [a player] pointing this straight at his [another player's] skull. [Other players] are pointing the gun directly at the other guy and the cameraman. That's just negligent beyond belief."
The players pictured include Ike Taylor, James Harrison, Max Starks, James Farrior, Brett Keisel, as well as former Steelers Najeh Davenport and Joey Porter. The NFL has a policy against anyone carrying guns when representing the team or league, but it's not clear if this would qualify. What is clear is that Joey Porter should really not let untrained goofballs points gun at his head. Even Tony Montana knows better than that.
Targets of criticism [Philadelphia Daily News]
UPDATE: The good folks at PSAMP have jogged our memory and pointed out that these photos have actually been on the internet for months. (Including Deadspin. Oops.) But it does appear that the News was the first to report on the connection between the photos and the State Police, who are the real target of their story.
The author of the piece, Dana Difillipo, spoke to Deadspin and says there was some internal debate about running the photos since they were so old, but sports editors at the paper suggested that it was still news, saying "look at all the steroid stories coming out." Also, the source was definitely someone with an axe-to-grind against the state police, but "just because someone has a shady motive doesn't mean it's not news."
As for her use of the phrase "gangster poses," she says, "Well, what would you call them?" Well ... um ... I'm stumped on that one, actually.