I just read yet another article mentioning that the number of accidental shootings was higher than in previous timeframes and I just can’t help but shake my head at that thought. And of course, I’m writing this article on the heels of Alec Baldwin saying that he didn’t pull the trigger on the gun he used to kill one of his movie production people.
He says it’s not his fault. While I agree that there are other people who should be held accountable too, he was the one with the gun. Also, guns don’t just fire themselves and there is no such thing as an accidental discharge.
There is only negligence.
I haven’t come to this conclusion lightly, and I don’t make this stuff up as I go. I have reported on countless stories like this over the past decade or so, and they all have one thing in common. That thing, is that even though they call it an accidental discharge — they’re ALL clearly due to negligence.
There is always something that can be done to prevent the unintended discharge of a firearm.
There are many reasons why I, and the rest of the industry at large, feel this way. There are certain understood rules that must be obeyed whenever a firearm is held, and even if a gun magically discharges on its own somehow, the person holding the gun still has other rules to follow to ensure that nobody gets shot.
Guns don’t just shoot themselves, however, so let’s discuss this further.
Negligence VS Unintended VS Accidental
There are three different words usually associated when a gun fires at a time when the handler doesn’t want it to. Those words are listed above, but for the sake of repetition and to get my point across, I’ll repeat them here:
While sometimes two of those words are used to say the same thing, they all actually have different meanings. Words are important and it’s essential for us to understand what things mean so we’re not stupid.
Webster defines “negligent” as,
failing to exercise the care expected of a reasonably prudent person in like circumstances
Webster defines “unintended” as,
not planned as a purpose or goal : not deliberate or intended
Finally, Webster defines “accident” as,
an event that is not planned or intended : an event that occurs by chance
Guns don’t fire by chance. It takes a person to do something, or fail to do something, to make a gun fire.
It’s that simple, but I cannot stop there.
It’s totally fine to call what we’re talking about here an unintended discharge. After all, if you didn’t mean for it to happen, even if it was negligent, it was unintended.
It’s also good to call it what it is, which is a negligent discharge even if it hurts your feelings. After all, the gun fired because you failed to do something the right way. Guns don’t just fire themselves.
What you cannot do is call it an accident even if it was not intended. The reason why, is because if you have a gun in your hand, shooting it cannot occur by chance.
After all, if you’re treating all guns as if they’re loaded the chance that the gun will fire never actually happens because you’re doing all the right things.
To be crystal clear here, let’s get philosophical. You can have an unintended discharge. But just because you didn’t mean for something to happen does NOT make it an accident.
Because, when you’re handling a gun a certain amount of care must be taken to ensure that you don’t shoot someone. When you don’t exercise that care you are guilty of negligence.
Again, I don’t make these things up. Every “accidental” discharge I’ve ever examined has been due to negligence.
To paint an even clearer picture, let’s say you’re driving down the street one night. Next, let’s say that you look at your phone because it lit up indicating that you got a text message.
Because you were looking at your phone, you were unable to see the person in the crosswalk.
When you hit that person it can only be because of negligence, even if you call it an accident because you didn’t intend to hit a person with your car.
It is considered negligence because you weren’t following the cardinal safety rule of looking at the road you’re driving on. You failed to exercise the care needed to not hit a person with your car.
I would take it one step further and say that the person in the crosswalk should also not just trust the safety measures put in place by the crosswalk itself and the little green light telling him that it’s safe to walk across the street.
Ultimately, you have to look both ways because, while the safety measures are put there to help you, they’re never fool proof.
In other words, YOU are the only safety measure that needs to be reliable 100% of the time. Only YOU can make sure you finger is off the trigger. Only YOU can make sure that your gun is pointed in a safe direction. Only YOU can know your target and what is behind and around it. Only YOU can treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
Failure to do any of the above is negligence just like not looking at the road is.
Going further, only YOU can check the gun to make sure it’s not loaded when someone hands it to you, in the case of Alec Baldwin. That is common sense. Whenever someone hands me a gun I check to make sure it’s not loaded.
It’s the first thing I do, and it’s the first thing YOU should do. Why? Because it prevents an unintended, negligent discharge.
But you know what? Even though I check to make sure the gun is not loaded, I still treat it as if it is. You know why? Because it’s one of the safety rules and complacency kills.
Why don’t guns shoot themselves?
Are we really doing this? Do we really have to go over this yet again? Because, it’s getting old. Even though Alec Baldwin would love for you to think otherwise, guns don’t just fire themselves.
Before I go on, let me just say that, yes — sometimes a freak incident can happen like if someone drops their gun and it lands at a very specific angle and all of the safety features are somehow not working all at once. But guns are designed to not fire unless the operator INTENDS for it to happen, or he fails to prevent it from happening.
That’s just the way it is. There are trigger safeties, manual thumb safeties, striker blockers, grip safeties, and a ton of other stuff that I’m probably drawing a blank on.
And even if your gun doesn’t have any or all of those things on it, because some guns have less safety features than others, it still has your brain which is the number one safety feature.
The point remains that guns don’t just shoot themselves and if they ever did, there would be mass recalls on those guns because they’d be considered to be unsafe by the entire industry.
The only real way a gun is going to fire unintentionally is when the handler is negligent in his or her handling of the gun.
In the case of Alec Baldwin it’s a clear case of negligence in more than one way. And after finding out what kind of revolver he was using, the gun couldn’t have fired unless the trigger was pulled.
So, while he claimed that he didn’t pull the trigger, not only did he pull it, but he pulled the hammer back, too so that he could fire it.
More negligence on his part is the fact that he didn’t treat the gun like it was loaded, which is something you NEED to do each time you pick up a gun. This includes checking to see if it’s loaded and all the other stuff.
Baldwin should be held accountable for killing that person, even though I do believe it was unintentional. It was still negligent and he took a life. The gun was in his hands, he pulled the hammer back, and then dropped the hammer on the primer of a live round.
He didn’t need to pull the trigger, because his thumb was the trigger.
Leave your thoughts on this in the comments below.