Negligent vs. Accidental discharge

This is a discussion on Negligent vs. Accidental discharge within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; By reading many of the posts on various topics here at DC, I see that many people agree that most so called "accidental" discharges are ...

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Thread: Negligent vs. Accidental discharge

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    Member Array knight65's Avatar
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    Negligent vs. Accidental discharge

    By reading many of the posts on various topics here at DC, I see that many people agree that most so called "accidental" discharges are in fact "negligent" discharges. I've looked it up online and the mainstream prefers the term "accidental" when referring to a firearm that discharges when the user does not intend it to. I would be interested in member's opinions as to what legitimately constitutes an "accidental" discharge. For me, accidental means no responsibility on your part in any way whatsoever, and for the wise guys out there...that does not include someone else pulling the trigger! So, have at it... define a truly accidental discharge, I'm sure we can come up with several legit examples!

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    I'd say accidental has to be restricted to a mechanical failure in the firearm, causing it to fire without the normal manual of arms required to do so.

    Anything else is something getting on the bang-switch when it shouldn't be there. That is always due to negligence.

    For example, I'd say a slam-fire is accidental. Unless it's due to poor maintenance, then it's back to being negligent.
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    Member Array John_W_in_SC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by knight65 View Post
    <snip>So, have at it... define a truly accidental discharge, I'm sure we can come up with several legit examples!
    Slam fire, and possibly a cookoff. Both bring to mind the rule about keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction to minimize harm if the gun fired unexpectedly for whatever reason.

    John W in SC

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    Senior Member Array GeorgiaDawg's Avatar
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    Most of the opinions on this subject that I've seen on this forum are that there is no accidental discharge (save for mechanical failure). Every discharge is either intended or unintended. If unintended, it was done through negligence. Therefore, there is only a negligent discharge.

    I think "accidental" and "negligent" are talking about two different things, so it shouldn't be an either/or scenario. Accidental refers to intention while negligence refers action (or inaction, in this case).

    To clarify, putting your finger on the trigger may have been deliberate and intentional. Pulling the trigger may have been deliberate and intentional. But, the actual discharge of a loaded firearm may not be intentional, hence, the word "accidental".

    By way of analogy, I may intentionally put my foot on the gas pedal in my car. I may intentionally move the steering wheel in a particular direction. I may have intentionally turned my head away from view of the road. This all leads to me plowing into the back of a car that stopped abruptly in front of me. The collision was accidental in the sense that I didn't mean to hit the car in front of me, but it was caused due to negligence (not paying attention to the road) and a series of actions that I intentionally performed. The outcome was not intended, though, which is why it is still called an "accident".

    In this way, an unintentional discharge can be both accidental (I thought it was unloaded!) and negligent (I didn't properly clear the weapon and follow basic safety rules). People like to nitpick on this issue, but I take a grammatical approach to it rather than the ideological one, which many here hold to.
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    I hate these 'accidental' 'negligent' debates...

    accident |ˈaksidənt|
    noun
    1 an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury: he had an accident at the factory | if you are unable to work owing to accident or sickness | [ as modifier ] : an accident investigator.
    • a crash involving road or other vehicles, typically one that causes serious damage or injury: four people were killed in a car accident.
    • informal used euphemistically to refer to an incidence of incontinence, typically by a child or an animal.
    2 an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause: the pregnancy was an accident | it is no accident that my tale features a tragic romance.
    • the working of fortune; chance: my faith is an accident of birth, not a matter of principled commitment | he came to Harvard largely through accident.

    negligence |ˈnegləjəns|
    noun
    failure to take proper care in doing something: some of these accidents are due to negligence.
    • Law failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another.

    If you don't ignore the proper definitions of the words as they are used in the English language then any unintentional firing of a weapon is an accident. An accidental discharge that could have been prevented if the actor had been more careful could be described as a negligent discharge but it could be described as an accidental discharge as well, assuming there was no intent to discharge.

    Some folks love to pick the nit about these terms but unless your name happens to be Webster, you don't get to change the definition of a word. Call it an accident, call it negligence, just don't call anyone else wrong for using the term that you don't, because both are correct per the accepted definition of the words.
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    I'm fine with redefining the terms in the case of firearms. Webster is entitled to his opinions.

    The reason is, it seems whenever someone hits what they're aiming at, they call it 'good shooting'.

    But when they shoot something that they didn't want to, they always call it 'an accident'. How many times have we heard "the gun went off", as if it was able to operate itself? Well, yes it was an accident in that they didn't intend to shoot the wrong thing, but it usually required an act of sheer stupidity to pull it off. That's where the word 'negligent' comes in so appropriately.

    Kind of like "work place violence" vs. "act of terrorism". Until you call it what it really is, you can't begin to solve the problem.
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    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Accidental or negligent--both are unintended and the person bearing the firearm is ultimately responsible. I've got better things to do that argue about a moot term.
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    I tend to agree with this:

    "Yeah, I know, it’s trendy to call it “negligent discharge” unless there was a mechanical defect. I’ve worked in the criminal justice system since 1972, and I still believe in the “innocent until proven guilty” part. The automatic assumption of negligence if the discharge was not caused by mechanical failure seems to have arisen from firearms academies sponsored by liability conscious firearms manufacturers. I’m still comfortable with the term “accidental discharge” (AD) until negligence has been clearly and convincingly proven." - Massad Ayoob

    That being said, I believe the VAST majority of accidental discharges are, in fact, the result of negligence; and even if there IS a mechanical failure and the discharge itself is not negligent, if someone is injured by it, the person holding it is often arguably negligent for not keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

    Still, I default to "accident" until all facts are known. Calling a negligent discharge an "accident" is not factually wrong; calling a non-negligent discharge "negligent," is. Especially since, as Ayoob points out, the term may lead to the assumption that the person holding the firearm is the negligent one, when in fact it could be a trainer who is negligent.
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    Quote Originally Posted by knight65 View Post
    By reading many of the posts on various topics here at DC, I see that many people agree that most so called "accidental" discharges are in fact "negligent" discharges. I've looked it up online and the mainstream prefers the term "accidental" when referring to a firearm that discharges when the user does not intend it to. I would be interested in member's opinions as to what legitimately constitutes an "accidental" discharge. For me, accidental means no responsibility on your part in any way whatsoever, and for the wise guys out there...that does not include someone else pulling the trigger! So, have at it... define a truly accidental discharge, I'm sure we can come up with several legit examples!
    They both pay the same, regardless of the amount of lipstick applied. Tu-may-to/tu-mah-to.
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    VIP Member Array rammerjammer's Avatar
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    I am one of the few who has had an accidental discharge. My pistol malfunctioned, slam fired I think it was 6 rounds in a row like a machine gun and had to be sent back to the factory for repair.

    But, because I was following the 4 Rules, no one was hurt except for my pistol and our underwear.
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    99.9% of the time an "Accidental Discharge" is a "Negligent Discharge" that no one will own up to.

    The other .01% are mechanical problems.
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    Senior Member Array Darrow75's Avatar
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    If you say "whoopsie daisy" right as the firearms discharges it was accidental...otherwise it was negligent.
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    Unless something is slipping my mind, I've never heard of a discharge that I would consider to be "accidental". All unintentional discharges I can recall hearing or reading about have been either "negligent", or a malfunction.

    If the gun fires, either the operator did something they shouldn't have (negligent), or the gun did something it shouldn't have (malfunction).

    If anyone can come up with a scenario that doesn't fit one of these two descriptions, let me know, but that's my position until I'm convinced otherwise.

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    Keep your booger hook off the bang switch until ready to fire. SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY!!!!!!!!
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    Senior Member Array GeorgiaDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xader View Post
    Unless something is slipping my mind, I've never heard of a discharge that I would consider to be "accidental". All unintentional discharges I can recall hearing or reading about have been either "negligent", or a malfunction.

    If the gun fires, either the operator did something they shouldn't have (negligent), or the gun did something it shouldn't have (malfunction).

    If anyone can come up with a scenario that doesn't fit one of these two descriptions, let me know, but that's my position until I'm convinced otherwise.
    Like I said, "accidental" refers to the intent to fire the gun. If it goes "bang" when you expect a "click", that's an accidental discharge. Failure to properly clear the weapon is negligence.
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