If you are around guns long enough, it will probably happen. You will unintentionally fire a gun.
It will scare the heck out of you and those around you. It will embarrass you. Most of us will immediately default to the natural defensive posture of trying to find any reason, other than negligence, to explain why that firearm discharged when it did. Sadly, there isn’t any.
I speak from experience. I’ve had two negligent discharges in my life. Both were when I was a teenager. In one case, I was using a clapped out Remington 1100 that was supplied to me by a hunting lodge and, while trying to clear a jam, I pulled the trigger and came inches from blowing my friend’s head off. The other time I was playing with one of my father’s guns and I pulled the trigger. The round went through a pillow and dented an antique headboard. Both of these incidents, and all unintentional discharges, have something in common—negligence.
You hear the same thing every time a negligent discharge occurs, “The gun just went off.” This is absolutely false 99.9% of the time. It “went off” because someone pulled the trigger. The other .1% of the time there was a mechanical issue with the gun due to negligent manufacturing or, FAR more likely, negligent (usually home-brewed) gunsmithing.
Guns don’t just go off. They don’t have a mind of their own. They don’t pull their own trigger; they don’t drop themselves on the floor, they don’t store themselves where children or unauthorized people can get their hands on them. There is no such thing as an accidental discharge. All unintentional discharges are due to negligence in the manufacturing, modifying, storing, or handling of the gun.
We as gun owners need to accept this and take responsibility for two reasons. First, if you accept this premise and understand the implications, you will be more careful with how you modify, store, and handle your gun. Second, by taking responsibility, we render moot the attempt to outlaw guns by casting them as inanimate objects that are capable of performing evil acts on their own.
I was very lucky and so is anyone else who gets through a negligent discharge without injuring or killing anyone. Negligent discharges happen to even the most experienced gun handlers—when I was in law enforcement, it was sadly not uncommon for officers to have negligent discharges. As the saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt” and the moment you stop respecting the gun and the damage that it can do, you have signed yourself up for a negligent discharge.
Last night I watched the classic Western “Colt .45” and the prologue to the movie was this:
A gun, like any other source of power, is a force for either good or evil, being neither in itself, but dependent upon those who possess it.
Wise words indeed.