Thursday, November 12, 2009

Negligent, or accidental?

A little thought exercise, from a story in the Roanoke Times today: "Salem man wounds hunting partner":

A man closes the action on his double-barrel shotgun, and it discharges. The pellets ricochet off a nearby truck and strike his friend in the face and chest.

The way the story is written, the discharge appears to have been the result of a malfunction, not a Rule 3 violation (assuming the paper got the facts right - always a big caveat with the MSM). He (supposedly) knew it was loaded, so there was no Rule 1 violation, and he wasn't actually preparing to fire, so Rule 4 didn't really apply.

I find myself somewhat torn on this one. There was a Rule 2 violation (because there was a truck in front of the muzzle). Metal objects, like vehicles, can cause ricochets. On the other hand, maybe he didn't see it through some trees, or something. Maybe the geography meant the truck was the safest direction to point the gun (though it would be better to leave the action open until reaching a better location in that case).

Ricochets can be hard to anticipate, and even harder to predict, especially when you're not expecting the gun to fire in the first place. Inanimate objects, if you know no one is behind them, are often considered a "safe direction," especially if you don't particularly care about the object and don't expect a discharge.

So what say you, dear readers - negligent, or accidental?


Secesh said...

I'd say negligent. If it happened as described, he was still responsible for insuring that the gun was safe and properly functional.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

True, he is responsible for maintaining his gun in proper condition. On the other hand, there is a limit to what is possible - it may have been safe and properly functional, right up until it wasn't (i.e., a fatigued or worn part that chose that moment to break). Which is why we always follow the Four Rules - safeties can break, bolts can slam-fire, etc.

Now if he knew it had done that before, or he knew there was a broken or worn part, then definitely. But malfunctions can happen with no warning signs. I was assuming that was the case here, because there was no information to the contrary.

Of course, the limited information is why it's only a thought exercise - we just don't know enough to draw any valid conclusions about the real situation.