Accidental or Negligent?

Sheriff Jim talks about how today's gun owners are better than their predecessors in one very important way.

by
posted on August 19, 2022
Sheriff Jim Wilson

Today I have been thinking back over the many changes that I’ve seen in the personal-defense community during my active years. The biggest change during those years are the number of states that now issue handgun permits to citizens and, even better, those states that now have permitless carry.  Of course, today’s selection of guns, gear and ammo are really impressive. And, it is certainly encouraging to see the number of people who understand the value of obtaining professional defensive training. But, I think the biggest change is the way today’s shooters value and preach gun safety.

Back when I first started shooting, you’d hear a lot of talk about someone having, or someone else trying to avoid, an accidental discharge. Well, friends, let me tell you... an accidental discharge is when lightning strikes your firearm in such a way as to cause it to fire. Just about anything else is a negligent discharge.

Any unintentional discharge of a firearm can usually be traced to negligence on some individual’s part. Not knowing the proper manual of arms for a certain gun. Not focusing on safety while handling it. Using the wrong ammunition. Failing to properly maintain a particular firearm. Leaving a firearm laying around where some unauthorized person might pick it up. And you can think of other examples of negligence that could lead to a discharge that often results in injury or death. Using the term “accident” sort of implies that it was really nobody’s fault, while “negligent” puts it right back on somebody who should have been more responsible.

My point is that I think the average shooter has become better educated in recognizing the need for gun safety and preaching it. I like to post vintage photos on the internet of old-time lawmen and shootists. Often those photos depict gun handling that we no longer consider safe practices. Fingers on the trigger, muzzles pointed in unsafe directions, old-timers leaning on their rifles with the gun muzzles in the dirt, are just some of the things that we see. What I appreciate is the number of folks who take the time to comment and call attention to what they perceive to be unsafe practices. In so doing, it often causes a gun-safety discussion and it certainly serves as a reminder to all of us. And, nowadays, if someone uses the term “accidental discharge” he is nearly always strongly and loudly reminded that it is a “negligent discharge.” New shooters learn through these exchanges and we older shooters are reminded of the safety rules that we already know.

Just as a reminder, here are the safety rules that I use, courtesy of Col. Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite Academy.

#1... ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED

#2... NEVER LET YOUR GUN MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING THAT YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY.

#3... KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON THE TARGET.

#4... BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT IS BEHIND IT.

Latest

shooter at the range
shooter at the range

Skills Check: Present Arms

We refer to the draw stroke as the presentation at Gunsite. It’s a better explanation than simply “drawing” the pistol, because it describes the act of presenting the pistol from the holster to the target or threat. In our “basic,” five-day pistol class we expect students to present the pistol and make hits on targets from 3 to 7 yards away in 1.5 seconds. Most students can do this in two or three days of training.

First Look: Springfield Armory Hellcat Pro 9 mm Pistol with Shield Red-Dot Optic

Springfield Armory now offers its popular Hellcat Pro 9 mm pistol with a factory-installed Shield SMSc red-dot optic.

Henry Celebrates 25 Years of Gunmaking with Limited-Edition Rifles

Two limited-edition rifles celebrating 25 years for Henry are being released.

First Look: Elite Survival Systems Hip Gunner Pack

Carry your defensive firearm with you in a pack, without carrying off-body.

Mental Focus vs. Mental Awareness

Shooting at the very edge of your skills envelope requires tremendous mental focus and well-developed shooting awareness. However, some shooters believe that shooting awareness and mental focus are one in the same. They are not. Using pistol shooting (combat or competition) as an example, what is the difference between the two and how can it help you hone your shooting skills to a razor’s edge?

First Look: PHLster Holsters Modular Wedge Kit

Mix and match these soft and durable foam pieces for a perfect holster fit.

Interests



Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.