No, there is no such thing as an “accidental discharge”

Let’s lay out a scenario.

A firearm owner decides they want a different trigger on their Glock 34. So they purchase the parts and attempt the installation themselves. Thinking they got it right. During drills, the firearm is misfiring. Then when they holster the firearm with a round chambered, the firearm discharges in the holster.

Accidental discharge? KR Training would like you to think so. The scenario above was reproduced from their description:

The student who experienced the accidental discharge was using a Gen 4 Glock 34 with an aftermarket trigger installed (Pyramid Trigger) and an OWB paddle holster. During the drill, he had several misfires occur, which he cleared and continued with the drill. When he holstered, with finger off the trigger, the pistol discharged in the holster.

There’s a reason many of us say “there is no such thing as an accidental discharge, only negligent discharges”. If a firearm goes off on its own with no manipulation of the trigger, something about the firearm is defective. In the above scenario, it’s the trigger assembly.

If a firearm discharges without any manipulation of the trigger, someone is to blame for that. If the firearm is brand new and such a discharge occurs when the owner is putting the first magazines through it, the negligence is on the part of the manufacturer. If it’s used, then it’ll depend on the chain of custody for the firearm to determine who should have known the firearm was defective – e.g. the prior owner, the shop trying to sell it, etc. And during continued ownership, if the firearm malfunctions, it’s the owner’s liability for failure to properly maintain it.

Accident means there is no one to blame.

But there is ALWAYS someone to blame when a firearm malfunctions and discharges, whether the trigger is manipulated or not. In the above scenario, that would be the firearm owner. If a gun armorer performed the trigger swap, liability would rest with them.

And that there is always someone to blame is why we say “there is no such thing as an accidental discharge”.

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There’s something I overlooked initially when I wrote this article that is also pertinent to why we typically do not use the word “accident” when referring to an unintentional discharge. Since I recently recalled such in talking about the above-linked article on a Facebook post, I’ll just quote my original comment here.

But why is the common assertion to NOT use the word when it comes to an unintentional discharge? Why is the common parlance to call it “negligent”? Because we have a significant duty of care when handling firearms. And negligence is failure to take that proper care. Negligence in handling or maintaining a firearm – e.g. a faulty trigger replacement – can lead to a firearm malfunction, which can include a discharge without actuating the trigger.

Now with the faulty trigger swap, one could say it was ignorance that led to the fault. And it’s possible that was not their first trip to the range with the firearm, leading them to falsely believe they did everything properly while the trigger pin was working its way loose one pull at a time. Until the firearm suffered “several misfires” – something the article’s author notes should’ve prompted them to stop and inspect the firearm since it’s highly unusual to actually suffer several misfires in a row. Everything seemed fine until the problem presented. That passage of time could negate a claim of civil or criminal liability.

But the duty of care was still there. Which would include inspecting your firearms after use at the range to keep an eye on potential issues. The owner probably could’ve caught the trigger pin during a routine inspection. Or it was the first trip to the range after the assembly, and his ignorance caused him to do an incomplete or completely improper job and the pin popped out of place without much effort.

Either way, the duty of care was still there. And failure to take that proper care is negligence. And unintentional discharges resulting from failure with that duty of care are negligent discharges.