A recent news story in Midland detailed an incident where a man took his firearm out in his vehicle and had a negligent discharge, which injured him with a minor gunshot wound. The initial reports indicated that he was carrying the firearm in his pocket without a holster (a bad idea), though I cannot confirm that this was the case. Regardless, the incident brings to mind a safety issue that a lot of people take for granted: you should minimize the administrative handling of your firearm. Administrative handing is any handling of your firearm that is not consistent with presenting it from the holster in a self-defense situation or in training. Any time you are loading, unloading, holstering, or un-holstering outside of training or an actual worst-case-scenario; that is administrative handling of the firearm. This administrative handling should be limited to cleaning and other maintenance-related activities; but should not be something that happens several times throughout the day and especially not in the public space.
Negligent discharges on modern handguns are caused by a negligent action that inadvertently actuates the firing mechanism, causing a round to be fired. Firearms do not just “go off” on their own under any but extreme circumstances involving disrepair or extreme heating of the barrel. When someone claims that a firearm “just went off”; it usually means that they are trying to protect their ego, typically out of sheer embarrassment. The fact is that you have to be doing something that you ought not to be doing in order to have a gun fire when you do not intend for it to do so.
In my experience, it is usually not novice gun owners who experience negligent discharges. Novice gun owners usually have a heightened level of respect and sometimes even a level of fear in regard to handling their firearm, simply due to their limited experience with it. This causes them to be extra tentative and cautious in most cases when handling the firearm. On the contrary, it is typically “experienced” gun owners who have negligent discharges. This phenomenon can be summed up with one word: complacency. When the gun becomes such an ingrained part of your lifestyle that you forget about the lethal potential it possesses, you will start to treat it like other inanimate objects in your life. You don’t worry about taking your cell phone or keys out of your pocket and setting them down places, because they are not dangerous and pose no risk to anyone if mishandled. For a lot of folks in the gun culture, a gun can have a tendency to become a mere accessory if we aren’t careful and disciplined. It’s usually when that complacent attitude, unconscious though it may be, becomes a reality that bad things like negligent discharges happen.
In order to avoid this complacency and minimize the opportunity for human nature to take over, we should limit our administrative handling of our firearms. Once the gun goes into the holster for the day, it should stay in the holster until it comes off and goes back into a quick access safe or wherever it goes to be secured for the night. If you need to remove your firearm for some reason, such as before moving into a non-permissive environment; remove the entire holster and secure it while it is still in the holster. It is a bad idea to constantly un-holster and re-holster throughout the day. Every time you remove the firearm from the holster administratively, you are giving yourself an opportunity to make a mistake. This is especially true if you are doing so in a vehicle, a bathroom stall, or some other random place that isn’t where you normally secure or stage your firearms. This is why we hear stories like the one in Midland earlier this week, or instances where people have destroyed innocent toilet bowls in public restrooms.
A firearm is a weapon that if used negligently or maliciously can kill or seriously injure its owner or someone else. If we remember this fact, we will minimize how often we handle the gun administratively. This requires a high level of discipline, but discipline is demanded of the responsible gun owner so that we don’t have to learn lessons the hard way. Don’t let yourself get lackadaisical about the handling of your firearm, or you may have to learn a lesson the hard way; and sometimes that ends with you coming away in handcuffs or a body bag.