Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Most Firearm Accidents Are Negligent Acts

Within the last 30 days, there have been three highly publicized incidents in southeast Michigan that have been inaccurately characterized in the media as "accidents" involving firearms. As a credentialed Firearm Safety Instructor, my professional opinion is that most so-called firearm accidents are really negligent acts. As such, this article will recount the three aforementioned incidents and provide a rationale for classifying them as negligent acts instead of as accidents.

Before we get started in earnest, we should define a couple of terms that are usually tossed about casually and used without a precise definition. For this purpose, I consulted an online Merriam-Webster dictionary. The two relevant terms and their definitions are listed as the following:
An unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.

Failure to exercise care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.
On June 12th, a Southfield man severely injured himself after reportedly trying to physically adjust the position of an unholstered .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun in his pants. Instead, he unintentionally pulled the trigger and the discharged bullet passed clean through his penis and entered into his thigh. The victim was lucky that the bullet did not sever his appendage and did not strike his femoral artery in his leg.

It was not published in the media why this firearm owner did not properly secure his firearm in a holster. The specific purpose of a holster is to provide a safe and secure means of carrying a firearm on a person's body. In this specific case, he should have used an inside-the-waistband (IWB) holster that completely covered the trigger. Had he done so, the firearm would not have moved around inside of his clothing which was the reason why he stuck his hands in his pants in the first place. Furthermore, had he needed to put his hand in his pants for any other reason, he would not have been able to unintentionally pull the trigger on his handgun.

This shooting was not an accident, as defined earlier in this article. If he had exercised care that any reasonable person would have exercised in the same situation, he would have been using a holster to secure his firearm. This incident was totally predictable and preventable and is hence a negligent act.

On June 30th, a Howell man was reportedly shot and killed at a gun range by his friend who was attempting to clear a malfunction with an AK-47 rifle. The firearm operator pulled the trigger while the victim was reportedly downrange in the direction of authorized shooting. This shooting incident was also negligent.

It is standard operating procedure at gun ranges for all persons on the range to not be physically beyond the firing line without a "Cease-Fire" command being issued and all persons on the firing range being alerted of it. As such, it would have been verified that all shooters had taken their fingers off the triggers of the firearm they were handling. Moreover, all shooters could have also placed the firearms on a benchrest while keeping their muzzles pointed in a safe direction. Only until all of the aforementioned acts were done, should a person venture downrange at a gun range.

Had reasonable care been exercised on the range, standard range rules would have been followed by the participants which would have prevented this predictable tragedy. As a consequence, a young man was needlessly killed by his friend. This was no accident.

On July 8th, a woman was fatally shot by a bullet discharged by an off-duty police officer's department issued Smith & Wesson "M&P" .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun while he was reportedly wearing it inside an IWB neoprene holster at a fish-fry event at his home.

According to details provided by the Detroit Police Department (DPD) at a press conference conducted on July 9th, it was also disclosed that a preliminary investigation found that the firearm discharged while the victim was dancing with the officer from his rear and while she was "manipulating" his waist. Moreover, DPD's preliminary investigation had not found any evidence that neither the officer nor any other person other than the victim had touched the allegedly holstered firearm.

There has been much speculation conducted by the public surrounding the details of this shooting, which was called "very tragic, unfortunate, and unintended" by the police chief during the press conference. It has centered on how the firearm could have discharged if the firearm was holstered and how the victim was shot in the chest when firearms holstered in IWB holsters position the muzzles towards the ground.

Regardless of how the bullet was discharged from the officer's holstered gun, it was that officer's duty to safeguard his firearm at all times. Carrying a firearm is a grave responsibility that requires users to prevent unauthorized others from having access to it. If the firearm was indeed holstered in his pants, he failed to secure his pants.

The police chief stated during the press conference that this incident should have never happened. On that point, I agree. However, I am stating that it was no accident. The officer's failure to safeguard his firearm made it negligent. He is a 16 year veteran of the police department and should know how to safely holster and safeguard his firearm to prevent unauthorized access and negligent discharges.

In all three incidents explored in this article, the deaths and injuries experienced by the victims were preventable. Had reasonable precautions been taken, these incidents would not have happened. In my opinion, it is reasonable for a person not to operate or even attempt to operate a firearm without receiving fundamental training. That training should encompass basic firearm safety, basic firearm handling, and basic range safety training. Furthermore, once that training has been acquired, it should be practiced every single time that a trained person entertains the idea of handling, carrying, or operating a firearm. To do otherwise is negligent.

About The Author
Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Class training in Detroit for students at his firearms school - Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit.

Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, NRAnews, Gun Digest, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, WJLB, WGPR and the UrbanShooterPodcast.

For more info about Detroit Michigan CPL Classes, please contact:

Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit
Contact: Rick Ector
Phone: 313.733.7404


Unknown said...

Working for a
national Home Security Company
, we see and hear of the "negligent accidents" on a weekly basis. Having a presence in Detroit as well, this is even more prevalent. Firearms require secure access - especially away from those who do not know or have been trained to use one. Father of two small children myself, it is worth securing a firearm in the perfect place in the house and visit a gun range frequently for any users.

DEMCAD said...

Regarding the police shooting story, I'm going to have to throw a red flag. How in the whole does she get shot in the chest if his pistol in holstered. An IWB holster (or any holster) does not allow access to the trigger. He must have let you draw the weapon. It's the only thing that makes sense.