Negligent: failing to take proper care in doing something. We in shooting talk about Negligent Discharge (ND) when a gun is fired without intent. Accidental Discharge (AD) used to be another common term that has fallen out of favor as safety has been built in to modern firearms making the AD nearly obsolete.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as a friend recently shared an experience of teaching a non-firearms related class where a student ignored the safety precautions and slightly injured herself. This was a situation that could have been much more serious outside of a controlled environment and my friend felt very bad for not preventing it. I had to ask, can we really stop someone from doing something dumb or can we only provide the tools and knowledge to do it right?
NDs come in many forms. Have you ever sliced toward yourself, instead of away, and yep…here comes the blood. Did you know better? Sure, but it always worked before. I once dropped a freshly cleaned rifle on my foot while putting it away. It slipped. Did I know that I should always wear shoes while handling weighty or pointy objects? Yes. Did I that day? No. I ended up with a 2+ inch gash on the top of my foot and a toe with three shattered, not just broken, bones, lost the flexor tendon in the process. Luckily I have a toe that is essentially one long fused piece, slightly longer than it used to be, that doesn’t bend. Given the damage it could have been a lot worse. And, I got a great safety story out of it.
Many years ago I took flying lessons. If you have never been up in a small plane, it is completely different that the commercial planes and is SO MUCH FUN! My instructor, Bernie, was a sweet older man who just loved to fly. He had been at it for more than 40 years, and his career included time as a Navy Test Pilot, and more than 20 years teaching. The club I belonged to held monthly safety meetings. One night our speaker was Bernie. He explained there were two types of pilots. Those that have pulled the mixture and those that would. If you don’t know, pulling the mixture on a small single engine plan kills the engine. He had reached for the throttle, to slow the engine, while up with a student and instead pulled the mixture. (Luckily I was not the student.) The second part of his lecture involved explaining the challenge and failure to air-start a Cessna 152 below 2000 feet and the difficult but successful dead stick landing. No injury, no damage.
Sometimes it is carelessness, sometimes it is distraction. But it is avoidable. We know the safety rules. We know what we should do. We know bad things happen. Was it the instructors fault? No! Was it my fault breaking my toe? Yes! Was it Bernie’s fault for puling the wrong knob? Yes! What is the common denominator? Negligence.
Don’t fool yourself into skipping a safety rule “just this once”. It only take one round missed when cleaning a gun to shoot yourself or someone else. There are so many things that can go wrong. Be smart, not a cautionary tale. If you’ve done some of these things and are not scarred, you are lucky. Be smart and don’t try it again. You never know when the next time may be the last time. You won’t always have an instructor close to jump in and rescue you.
Only you can prevent a ND.