Discharges - Accident or negligence


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jim357
March 10, 2011, 10:40 PM
A few months ago I started seeing folks using the words negligent discharge. I even saw one post here taking issue with someone who used the term accidental discharge. I don't want to start a fight and hope we can take the high road on this issue and address the issue without getting nasty. I don't know how this started but I don't like it. The term negligent is a legal term with specific legal meaning. The term accident means an unintended action or result. Not all unintended firearm discharges are negligent discharges. For example, if one takes his new semiautomatic firearm to the range and puts two rounds in the magazine, chambers one of them and pulls the trigger one time and and the rifle fires both rounds, it seems quite a stretch to call the action of the shooter negligent. Someone else maybe, but not the shooter. A neglegent discharge can also be done on purpose by pulling the trigger, but not at a safe place. For example if one goes outside and shoots into the air. That is not accidental, but is certainly negligent. I think some folks are attempting to make a point, but accuracy suffers.

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jcwit
March 10, 2011, 10:46 PM
Couple of years ago I bought a pistol at a gun show. Few days later I took it to the range to try it out, this model pistol had what is described as a hammer drop safety, in other words with the hammer back when one puts the safety lever on the hammer drops further preventing the pistol to fire. Guess what didn't work?

Yes I had the pistol pointed in a safe direction but sure wasn't expecting the gun to fire. Neglinence on my part, don't think so.

mljdeckard
March 10, 2011, 10:51 PM
If the firearm REALLY malfunctioned, I'll call it a weapon malfunction. I think these cases are EXTREMELY rare. The vast majority of the time, the perpetrator put their booger hook on the bang switch, and it is an act of negligence.

Tim the student
March 10, 2011, 11:01 PM
Discharges - Accident or negligence

Both, depending on what happens.

Jcwit's example was accidental.

But, I would say that this (http://www.pantagraph.com/news/article_ccf5806e-41df-11e0-a8c6-001cc4c03286.html) is negligent.

I agree with Mljdeckard that most "accidental" discharges are probably really an act of negligence. I've seen a couple in the Army, and guess what - all weapons were inspected by an armorer and found to be fine.

ETA: I'd like to note that every single ND I've seen was punished by UCMJ - as it should be, IMO.

J.B.
March 10, 2011, 11:02 PM
The only experience I have in this was on my deployment to Iraq. My unit had at least one "accidental discharge" while clearing their M9 into the clearing barrel outside the dining facility. No legal actions came of the situation, but the incident resulted from the guy forgetting that he had actually chambered a round on that day's mission. Then, upon dropping the magazine and pulling the trigger (as dictated my the army's clearing policy), the weapon discharged.

So, like you said; I think the two terms are used interchangeably to prove a point in certain situations. Was the incident I described an accident? Sure. He did not intend to fire off a round; it was an accident. But on the other hand, his weapon only fired because he neglected to visually inspect the chamber before pulling the trigger. So, was this an accidental discharge, or a negligent discharge?

Semantics I say. It depends on the situation, and more than anything, whether or not you like the offender.

belercous
March 10, 2011, 11:07 PM
If the firearm isn't at fault, the unintended discharge is due to negligence. The vast majority of unintended discharges are due to negligence. "Unloaded" guns are especially dangerous.

mljdeckard
March 10, 2011, 11:10 PM
JB, that was a negligent discharge. the weapon didn't malfunction. The operator did. The clearing procedure is unambiguous, and he didn't follow it. The weapon worked exactly as designed. (I'm just glad it was in a clearing barrel.)

stratman26
March 10, 2011, 11:11 PM
anytime you pull the trigger without first checking to ensure the chamber is empty, and it goes boom, that is negligent.... nothing accidental about it.

jim357
March 10, 2011, 11:23 PM
Good points, my issue is that negligence is a legal conclusion. It assigns fault and blame. Accidental only means unintended. If what one of the fellows above said, that 99 percent of the time fault, blame and liability is with the shooter and therefore negligent, using that term for all unintended discharges will result in an error rate of 1 per hundred. If you call all such unintended discharges accidents you are correct 100 percent of the time. One or more factors is required to find the incident negligence - how did it happen. I agree that most accidents with guns, cars or just about everything else are the result of negligence, but most are not all. Changing the label to negligent discharge, without more, is just not accurate.

orionengnr
March 10, 2011, 11:29 PM
my issue is that negligence is a legal conclusion. It assigns fault and blame.

As it should. The terms are clearly defined, and a rudimentary search will display the results.

Executive summary:
Weapon malfunction = accidental discharge.
Human error = negligent discharge.

Nothing difficult about it. If you cannot prove a mechanical failure, you own it.

Unfortunately, our current society refuses to assign or accept personal responsibility for an individual's actions. Each year we have a number of people who leave their children in a car/SUV to bake to death. A "jury of their peers" invariably finds that the parent "has been punished enough" by the loss of the child.

Ludicrous, and disgusting.

If your stupidity endangers or harms someone else, you own it.

Period. End of story.

Tim the student
March 10, 2011, 11:32 PM
If you call all such unintended discharges accidents you are correct 100 percent of the time.

Only if you don't care about the difference between accidental and negligent, IMO.

A ND isn't an all encompassing term, so if it is accidental, call it accidental. If it is negligent, call it negligent. No one said that every (unintended) time a gun fires it must be called a ND.

Call it what it is, and don't call it what it isn't. All negligent discharges aren't accidents in my book. If you want to call them all "accidental" then go for it - but I won't.

hso
March 10, 2011, 11:36 PM
95% of these incidents are due to the unsafe act of the person using the firearm. They are not due to some uncontrolled factor or mechanical failure. I have had one of each incidents.

To differentiate between the two general class of causes, uncontrollable and unsafe act root causes, the more familiar terms accidental and negligent are used. Some unsafe acts are due to ignorance due to the absence of training or written instruction or improper training or written instruction, but some are due to disregard for training or instruction. Those latter are truly negligent in every sense of the word.

NavyLCDR
March 10, 2011, 11:41 PM
anytime you pull the trigger without first checking to ensure the chamber is empty, and it goes boom, that is negligent.... nothing accidental about it.

EXCUSE ME... I like to do that as often as possible. There's nothing negligent about pulling the trigger without first checking to ensure the chamber is empty, and causing the gun to go boom.

Now, if you do so, and the firearm is not pointed at a target with the area of the target determined to be clear of innocent bystanders or without an adequate backstop.... then I will agree with you! :neener:

J.B.
March 10, 2011, 11:43 PM
mljdeckard,
I understand your reasoning and totally agree... I'm not trying to defend his actions. I am simply saying the "negligent" vs "accidental" discharge argument is a matter of point of view.

A weapon mechanically malfunctioning is a completely different story. To that end, I have another war story...
The M-240H guns we used as door guns on our Blackhawks would 'half cock' on occasion if the user did not charge the weapon with sufficient force. This resulted in the machine gun appearing to be in the open bolt position and the safety appearing to be engaged (to all outward appearances the gun was fully charged and the safety was applied.) However, if a weapon that was in a 'half-cocked' state was jarred, the bolt would slam forward firing one round. When we crossed back onto a friendly base, our 240's would be safed and stowed in the down position. My buddy's weapon was in this state one day, and when the aircraft landed, the jarring force slammed the bolt forward firing a round into the taxiway and sending fragments into the bottom of the aircraft.

Though this was also technically an accident (as in, it was not on purpose), it was in no way any fault of the operator. Therefore, the "accidental vs negligent discharge" argument does not apply.

Most incidences, like the one I described in my first post, could easily be described as both accidental and negligent. (Except, of course, if the shooter intended to discharge a round.) Of course, I'm no lawyer...

NCSUPackman
March 10, 2011, 11:48 PM
I always thought of it this way:

If the gun discharged without the trigger being touched, it's accidental. Mostly likely the gun malfunctioned.

If the gun discharged because you touched the trigger, it's negligence. If you didn't intend to fire the weapon, your finger shouldn't have been on the trigger.

M91/30
March 10, 2011, 11:53 PM
This is my opinoni on the matter,
The way I see it is no matter what the circumstances be it the firearm itself that fails or you. You are responsible for that firearm and anything that happens.

Here is an example for negligent vs accidental.
You load a handgun and you have it pointed downrange, you activate the decocker and it discharges. That would be accidental in most peoples prospectives. However if you Load a handgun and then activate the decocker while putting it in your holster(Not saying this should ever be done) And it goes off, most people would probably call that negligent.

I figure the terminology is irrelevant, When someone says "I had a negligent discharge at the range and shot into the air". They should say "I was at the range and I had my finger on the trigger and was not paying attention and I shot into the air." But of course Its not always your fault. Guns are machines and machines break, metal wears, and accident happen.

But alas if your following the gun safety rules if a gun goes off nothing bad should come of it. With the exceptions of course (CCW goes off while holstered, or uncontrollable full auto, etc)

jim357
March 10, 2011, 11:54 PM
I fear that I was not clear. The word negligent or negligence is a legal word having a specific legal meaning. There are more elements required than the fact that the gun discharged. The word cancer is a medical word having a medical meaning. We would not say that we have a cancer because we feel a bump someplace. We would want a full exam before making such a medical conclusion. I feel that a full exam of a gun incident is required before making such a legal conclusion.

NavyLCDR
March 11, 2011, 12:04 AM
There are also cases of both negligence and accidental... If I load my gun on the range, and I decock the gun using the decocking lever and my finger is nowhere near the trigger, and the gun goes off and shoots the guy next to me, I would say that would be a case of both accidental and negligence. It was an accidental discharge in that a failure in the gun caused the gun to fire upon activation of the decocking lever, it was negligence on my part for having a loaded gun pointed at my neighbor when I decocked it.

Typically - human error = negligence. Hardware malfunction = accident.

Also,there are sometimes when the line is thin - charging an SKS with a dirty firing pin channel can cause the firing pin to stick in the forward position causing the round to fire when the gun is charged. Accidental? Or is it negligence because the human operator of the gun did not ensure the firing pin channel was clean?

Big Bad Bob
March 11, 2011, 12:10 AM
My unit had done away with the term "accidental", an ND is an ND.


JB in your situation I would have hit the guy with an ND. First off he forgot he loaded his weapon? Everytime i roll out, I load both of my weapons. I eventually ditched my sidearm this deployment. Second, the M9 has a round indicator to indicate if you have a round chambered. Third, yalls clearing procedure missed a significant step, drop the magazine, lock the slide the rear to ensure that it is clear, and then return the slide to battery and pull the trigger. Not to mention NCOs should be inspecting the clearing barrel procedures and empty chambers.

Come on, there is no place for poor weapons procedures. There is no excuse for not knowing the status of your weapon or an ND.

Accident implies that the weapon malfunctioned, Hence its called a Weapons Malfunction. In my book there is no such thing as an accidental discharge, they are all negligent.

Sorry but I think this is important issue.

jjjjeremy
March 11, 2011, 12:26 AM
The word negligent or negligence is a legal word having a specific legal meaning.

I say that the legal meaning fits perfectly. Simple negligence is a failure to be as careful as a reasonable person of ordinary prudence. Arguably, given the four Rules, hunter safety, licensing, etc, there is a higher standard of care for gun owners / users. If you don't check the chamber, and put your finger on the trigger, I say that you've breached the standard of care, ordinary or heightened.

9mmforMe
March 11, 2011, 02:00 AM
Delete.

MountainBear
March 11, 2011, 02:17 AM
Assume that any time the gun goes off when you don't want it to, its accidental. However, more often than not its our (yes, our, as I am guilty of an ND) negligence that leads to it. If its a weapon malfunction only, then its only accidental. If you neglected to clear the chamber (or cylinder), then its not only accidental, but negligent as well. I expect you could bring up points where it was negligent but not accidental as well, but that's another hornets nest.

The point is, the two terms are not necessarily separate from each other.

Drail
March 11, 2011, 02:43 AM
Hammer drop safety = negligent design logic. I too have seen them fail. Fortunately Rule No. 2 was being observed.

Blackbeard
March 11, 2011, 07:54 PM
I don't know why everyone seems to want to fit everything under one or the other. "Accidental" includes all unintentional discharges, whether caused by negligence or malfunction. Some people seem to want everyone to use the narrowest possible term to describe everything. Using a broader term does not make a statement inaccurate.

EddieNFL
March 11, 2011, 08:14 PM
Weapon malfunction = accidental discharge

Other than acts of God, I would bet most malfunctions are human induced...back to negligence.

I'm surprised no one has posted the definition of accident, yet. Trying to call negligence an accident is just an attempt to avoid responsibility.

mgmorden
March 11, 2011, 09:10 PM
I don't know why everyone seems to want to fit everything under one or the other. "Accidental" includes all unintentional discharges, whether caused by negligence or malfunction. Some people seem to want everyone to use the narrowest possible term to describe everything. Using a broader term does not make a statement inaccurate.

This is the best reply I've seen. Adjectives are not mutually exclusive. A discharge can be negligence, accidental or both. Insisting on one or the other is like insisting that the sun isn't spherical, it's bright. It can be both.

To me, the insistence on nd is trying to buck reality in order to make a point. You see the same thing when someone says "Treat every gun as if it were loaded" and someone tries to insist "No, every gun IS always loaded".

Personally, I'm perfectly capable of parsing a complex situation without dumbing it down. I think we do ourselves a disservice not to correctly identify things.

nwilliams
March 11, 2011, 11:48 PM
Accident = gun malfunction

Negligence = Careless, reckless, brain malfunction

If you're gun goes off without your intention then it's for one of the above reasons.

General Geoff
March 11, 2011, 11:52 PM
If the trigger was pulled for whatever reason, it was negligent.

If the firearm discharged without the trigger being pulled, then it was truly accidental, caused by a mechanical failure of some type.

WardenWolf
March 12, 2011, 12:04 AM
If a firearm gets dropped and goes off, that's accidental, unless it was being carried improperly (i.e., just stuffed in waistband) in the first place. A couple of years ago there was an article about a CCWer who dropped his gun while using the restroom in a fast food restaurant (I want to say Subway) and it went off and shattered the toilet. That was purely accidental, and he wasn't charged. A number of jokes came up calling it a "Headshot", though.

There's very few situations that can genuinely be called an accidental discharge. Almost all of them are negligent discharges. An accidental discharge can also be negligent if the person in control of the firearm was not exercising proper muzzle discipline (i.e., the weapon malfunctioned and went off, but they had it pointed at someone or something they shouldn't have).

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