PSA: There’s no Such Thing as an “Accidental” Shooting

Gun photo from RGBStock

At least once a week or so, I read stories about allegedly accidental shootings. These stories always puzzle me, because assuming a competent adult and a non-defective gun, there’s no such thing as an accidental shooting. The two kinds of shootings are “intentional” and “negligent.”

What’s worse is that all too often, these supposed “accidents” involve people who carry guns professionally and have received extensive training in their use. They don’t have recourse to the excuse that they didn’t know what they were doing.

For example, Clayton County, Georgia sheriff Victor Hill was indicted on November 12 for “accidentally” shooting a woman with whom he claimed to be “practicing police tactics.”

In late October, former Austin, Texas police officer Charles Kleinert was granted federal immunity from manslaughter charges for “accidentally” killing a man (he claimed to “only” intended to pistol-whip the guy).

For that matter, a decade or so ago, a DEA agent announced to a room full of students “I’m the only one in this room professional enough that I know of to carry this Glock 40” before “accidentally” shooting himself in the leg. Some professional, huh?

Let’s clear all this “accidental” nonsense up right now. There’s no such thing as an “accidental” shooting. There are only two kinds of shootings: Intentional and negligent.

Look, people: Neither guns nor gun safety are complicated.

The gun is either loaded or it isn’t — and you should always assume that it is. If you don’t, you’re negligent. Period.

If you point the gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot, you’re negligent. Period.

If you leave a loaded gun around where a four-year-old can pick it up and shoot a sibling while playing, you’re negligent. Period.

If you use a gun for some purpose other than the one it was intended for — as a bludgeon, for example — you’re negligent. Period.

Especially, not just “even,” if you are a police officer or a member of the armed forces.

Gun rights activists (yes, I am one) are fond of pointing out that guns don’t kill people, people do. That’s true. It’s true whether the killing is justified or unjustified, and it’s true whether the killing is intentional or negligent.

Negligent shooters  and their supporters need to stop making excuses for negligent shootings. And the 99.9x% of responsible gun owners who take gun safety seriously shouldn’t be tarred with their “accidents.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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  • An interesting article. Those I associate with must be of a different sort than the folks that are inclined to support people that fail to use firearms with care and respect. I wonder where they hang out (so I can be certain to hang out elsewhere)?