Every time I read about an “accidental” shooting in the news, I want to write a letter to the editor to point out their error. The fact is that when someone is unintentionally shot, it was not an “accidental” shooting. Instead, it was either a negligent or reckless shooting. Allow me to explain:
I say that there are no accidental shooting not because I’m in the mood to place blame, but because such unintentional shootings would not occur but for the negligence or recklessness the shooter. When everyone is following the basic rules of gun safety, it is virtually impossible for the gun to go off in a way that would result in a person being shot. If the gun is not loaded, it will not go off. Even if the gun is loaded, keeping the safety on and one’s finger away from the trigger will prevent a discharge. Even if the gun is loaded, and the trigger is pulled by accident, keeping the gun pointed away from people will prevent anyone from being shot. The same is true for the exceptionally rare case of a gun mechanically failing and discharging on its own (which I am unable to find even one report of in a modern firearm as I write this article). When small children get hold of a gun and shoot themselves or another person, a gun safe could have prevented the child gaining access to the gun (and instructing the child to not touch guns while unsupervised could too). Clearly, for there to be an unintentional shooting, multiple basic rules of gun safety must be violated, and such violations cannot reasonably be called accidents. They are negligence or recklessness.
The difference between “accidental” and “negligent/reckless” goes beyond semantics. “Accidental” refers to an event that occurred despite the use of proper care and skill. Accidents are no one’s fault. “Negligent” refers to a failure to exercise the proper care and skill that a reasonable person would have exercised. “Reckless” refers to a similar failure to exercise the proper care and skill that a reasonable person would have exercised, but on a much grosser level.
In short, “accidents” are the things that we can’t foresee, such a the chain reaction that lead to the near loss of Apollo 13. Negligence and recklessness are what happen when gun owners, who know that projectiles from guns can be deadly, choose to disregard the basics of gun safety. Such disregard only leads to tragedy, and gives anti-gun groups more fodder for their public-opinion war against guns and gun rights (and yes, one negligent gun owner will get more time in the news than the other 150 million responsible gun owners).