I get a lot of questions in my firearm classes, especially my instructor courses, as people think I am a little nitpicky with my terms. Now granted calling a magazine a clip in front of some grizzled old gunny will get you an earful. I don’t really care about that much, but I do think words have concrete meanings, and there is a difference between weapon and firearm…
Today we talk about one of those differences – Accidental vs. Negligent discharge.
I do not believe these words are interchangeable – Accidental is colored to “not your fault” or “not preventable” When you say negligent you are saying someone failed to do what they should have and that failure caused the problem.
If your gun is in its holster, loaded with proper ammunition, cleaned and maintained to manufacturer standards, and all the levers, de-cockers, safeties, springs, bells, and whistles conform to whatever applicable policies, training standards, and laws apply, and you fall off a roof and the gun goes off then I would be inclined to say it was an accidental discharge.
If your gun goes off “while cleaning” that’s negligent, you should never perform maintenance on a firearm until it has been cleared and checked.
If you are on the range, and the gun goes off while you are in the draw stroke “I Shot Myself”, then your negligent as your bugger hook should never be on the bang button until your gun is lined up with the target and you intend to shoot.
If you are in a defensive situation, and your gun goes off while fighting with someone, and you did not intentionally shoot them, then you are negligent.
As both a firearm instructor, and a citizen I have no tolerance for this, every “it just went off”, or “I did not mean to fire” makes it harder for responsible gun owners to keep our rights.
Firearm ownership is not something you can approach with half steps, either you take responsibility for your actions and understand that you own whatever you do with your gun or you should not own a firearm.
I don’t preach this as some holier than you, by golly I am an instructor type. When I was younger I had a negligent discharge while training, and shot a hole in a wall while dry firing. Luckily no one was hurt, and I learned from it. Things happen, just realize that with a gun, you may not get to apologize and move on like it never happened. There are legal consequences for actions with your handgun, and negligence is a legal term. Know it, understand it, and take precautions never to have it apply to you.
- Treat EVERY weapon as if it were loaded
- Never point your weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy
- Keep your firearm on safe until you are ready to fire
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you INTEND to fire