Nothing "Accidental" About Shooting

Alan Gathright wrote a story earlier today titled, “Shooting story backfires:”

At first, the 20-year-old man reported he was shot by a drive-by gunman Tuesday evening while walking with a friend near the Byers Library. …

Now the victim admits he was accidentally shot in the back at a home when a 15-year-old buddy — showing off a handgun — placed it on a coffee table and it accidentally discharged. …

“They were in a residence and had the gun out and the gun was put onto a table,” [Arapahoe County sheriff’s Capt. Mark] Fisher said. “It discharged and ended up shooting the 20-year-old in the back.

The description by the victim is obvious nonsense, and the description by the officer is misleading. Guns are inanimate objects. They do not fire themselves. If you place a gun on a table, it will not then “accidentally discharge” all on its own.

Instead, the 15-year-old “buddy” obviously violated all three of the main rules for firearm safety. First, he kept the gun loaded when he wasn’t intending to use it. (Perhaps the magazine was in the semiautomatic gun, or perhaps the teen forgot or never learned that, even when the magazine is removed, a round might be left in the chamber.) Second, he pointed the gun at something that he didn’t intend to shoot. Third, he probably put his finger on the trigger. My guess (assuming that the shooting actually involved a table) is that the teen discharged the gun while placing it on the table. The teen fired the gun, one way or another (again, assuming that the basic story is accurate). The shooting was no accident. It was the result of gross negligence.

[January 17 update: Of course I accept Steve D’Ippolito’s statement in the comments: “Some guns are physically defective (or poorly designed) to the point where they will discharge when they get a sufficiently abrupt jolt.” However, as D’Ippolito adds, somebody who tosses a loaded (and defective) gun onto a table, such that the muzzle points at a person, is still responsible for the consequences. That said, getting the full truth out of the characters involved may be impossible.]

The three main rules of gun safety can be described as the principles of “gun control:” chamber control, muzzle control, and trigger control. But apparently somebody else neglected the central principle of gun control: always keep your gun under your own control. The teen is manifestly too ignorant and negligent to handle a firearm.

Fortunately, many teens learn about gun safety and shoot responsibly and legally in the company of responsible adults.

One thought on “Nothing "Accidental" About Shooting

  1. Steve D'Ippolito

    A nit (that really doesn’t bear on your point): Some guns are physically defective (or poorly designed) to the point where they will discharge when they get a sufficiently abrupt jolt. Thus it isn’t absolutely certain that the finger must have been on the trigger for it to have fired. With the information at hand one cannot be certain. (The article states that the gun was “placed” on the table; this may mean it was dropped a couple of inches or even casually tossed onto the table, either of which could have done the trick if the firearm was basically a P.O.S.)

    Nonetheless the individual in question was negligent on all other counts you have given, since he didn’t follow the other rules of firearm safety. And if the gun is that unsafe that it can fire from a jolt like that, then the owner was additionally negligent in a) owning and b) carelessly bumping about such a hazard.

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