At a gun shop recently, I heard the term “A-D” as the man behind the counter described someone firing a round unintentionally at the local range. “A-D,” of course, stands for “accidental discharge.”
I stand firmly by my contention that there is no such thing as an accident when handling a gun. Guns do not “go off.” Guns are made to fire. In order to make a gun fire, a very specific sequence of steps must be performed. If you perform those steps improperly and the gun is made to fire at a time when you are not prepared for the firing or are not expecting the firing or were not in complete control of the firing, that is not an accident. That is negligence.
I have had two negligent discharges in my life. The first was with a pump-action shotgun on the trap range. My finger remained inside the trigger guard as I slid the action closed. The resulting momentum caused me to depress the trigger, which fired a load of #8 shot into the ground about two yards in front of me. This crater at the 14-yard line caused much consternation with my fellow shooters — and rightly so. This 14-year-old newbie on the trap range just shot into the dirt. I’m sure they wondered where the next round would go.
The next negligent discharge took place some 20 years later. I had just inserted a fresh magazine into a Browning Hi Power pistol and racked a round into the chamber. Rather than simply engage the safety and holster the pistol, I, for a reason that escapes me to this day, decided to lower the hammer. I put my thumb on the hammer and pulled the trigger. My thumb never left that hammer. It moved forward slowly. But somehow, I lowered that hammer in a manner that allowed it to hit the firing pin with enough force to launch a round. That round went through the corner of my mattress and into the floor of my bedroom. I immediately made that gun safe and sprinted downstairs to see if the round had come out through the ceiling of my living room. It had not, and I assume it rests in that house to this day.
The point is that neither of these events were “accidents.” They were acts of negligence.
Yes, Merriam-Webster does provide the following as one definition of the word “accident:” “an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance.”
Too often we use the word “accident” to absolve someone of responsibility. When you are carrying or holding a gun, you are responsible for everything that happens with that gun. There are very few actual “accidents” that will cause a gun to fire. In most cases, a gun with broken parts will not fire at all. But even so, if you fail to care for your gun to such an extent that parts are breaking, you might be negligent.
If a gun fires when you drop it, we might have some wiggle room as to whether or not it was an accidental discharge — but then again, don’t be negligent and drop it.
There will be those who argue with me on this. I don’t know why that is, but it will happen. I stand by my statement. A gun is made to fire. It does not just go off. If a round exits that gun while you are holding it, you own that round. It’s your fault.