When accurately describing unintended firearm discharges, accidental covers the smallest number of incidents.
An equipment failure causing a firearm to discharge is accidental. A poorly designed or poorly constructed firearm that fires when bumped (somewhere other than the trigger) is also accidental.
If your finger, body part or part of your gear touch the trigger and cause the gun to fire, it’s negligence. This describes 99% or more of all unintended firearm discharges.
A response to one of Dennis Young’s many Access to Information Requests showed 100% of all RCMP “unintentional” discharges are caused by user negligence, not equipment malfunction.
The same is true of the Fredericton Police Force’s mandatory training incident on December 10, 2019, where a firearm was unintentionally discharged during an exercise involving four officers.
This was a negligent discharge, the second at the Fredericton Police Station in a year.
“We recognize the seriousness of the incident that took place [Tuesday] evening and we are conducting a full investigation to find out what happened, and to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Safety is paramount when handling any type of firearm, and thankfully no one was injured in this case. We are committed to continuing safe weapons handling training for all of our officers,” said Fredericton Police Chief Roger Brown.
Firearm Safety Rules Are Simple
- Always treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
- Always keep the muzzle of the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- You are not “ready to shoot” unless and until you positively identify your target and what is beyond your target. Only then should your finger touch the trigger.
When These Rules Aren’t Followed Bad Things Happen
On July 5, 1981, Fredericton Police Force Constable Perley Sidwell Calhoun was killed during a “routine training exercise.” A fellow officer shot Calhoun during holster practice – drawing and re-holstering their sidearms – and killed him.
“Perley just happened to get in the way of the bullet,” a family spokesman said.
From what little information is available on the case almost 40 years later, it appears the two constables were practicing this technique while facing each other. This strikes as insane, especially while using loaded firearms.
When handling firearms, whether you’re at the range or cleaning your guns at home at the end of the day, always pay close attention.
At best, failure to do so could force an unexpected change of underwear. At worst, someone you love could be seriously injured or killed. Nobody wants that on their conscience.
Safe handling of firearms is serious business.
We want our fellow Canadians to place the same trust in us the RCMP place in us when they approve our Possession and Acquisition Licences (PAL).
Let’s take that trust seriously.