Accidental firearm discharge has become a serious health hazard in the US due the ever increasing number of deaths each year. With the increased gun purchases and new concealed carry permits being issued over the last few years, it has only added to the problem. The majority of the victims in accidental firearm discharges are teenagers and young children. Many parents mistakenly believe that young toddlers may not be strong enough to pull a trigger. However, children as young as three years old can actually pull the trigger of a gun.
Once you pull the trigger, there is no going back. To full understand why accidental firearm discharges occur, it is important to understand the causes. The following are the top 10 causes of accidental firearm discharge.
1. Lack of Experience:
This is mostly true for first time gun buyers who do not invest either the time or resources to learn how to properly handle a loaded gun. A number of people only conceal carry guns just to feel good or confident about themselves. They are normally first time gun buyers and lack experience to hold, carry or use their firearms. Coincidentally, the majority of the victims of accidental discharge are in their early teens. Since they lack experience with guns they are most likely candidates for accidental discharge.
2. Poor Storage of Firearms
Improper storage of firearms includes use of a loaded gun and failing to properly keep the gun in a secure place afterwards. Securing the gun in a lock box or gun safe and keeping the ammunition separately also comes under poor storage of firearms.
Failure to wear a gun holster during use of a gun comes under improper storage of firearms. Accidental discharges can also be caused by an object getting caught in the trigger area while the gun is in the holster.
All these factors mentioned above come under improper and poor storage of firearms and increase the likelihood of accidental discharge.
3. Use of Drugs and Alcohol
Just like you are not supposed to drink and drive, carrying a gun while under the influence of either alcohol or drugs can be deadly to you and those around you. Due to impaired judgment while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the chances of accidental shooting increases manifold even with the gun properly secured in a holster.
A person who has consumed excess of alcohol or illegal substance will not be in a mental state to use his judgment to properly access the situation. He or she is more likely to drop their gun, shoot another person or themselves due to their condition.
4. Minors having access to Guns
Firearms are now the leading cause of death for childern and underage teens in the US. Due to minors having increasingly more access to guns whether its out in the streets or in their own homes, it has lead to an increase in accidental shootings, homicides, as well as suicides.
Accidental shootings can happen to children and teens of all ages. However with increased gun ownership in the US, those homes that have guns have a much higher probability of accidental firearm death involving minors and underage teens.
The same applies to suicide by firearms. A vast majority of suicides in the US are due to firearms. Minors and teens living in households with guns are at a much higher risk and more statistical prone to use the same gun to commit suicide. This applies even more to marginalized and minority communities in the US, especially those living in the lower income groups.
Therefore it is important to keep all firearms in lock boxes, gun cases or gun safes to prevent un-authorized access.
5. Lack of proper training to use a gun
Having basic knowledge about handling of your firearm helps keep you and those around you safe. In some states use of firearms is covered under statutory laws and is necessary for an individual to pass a live firearm course. Even if the state you live in does not require a certificate, it is important to get proper training in handling firearms.
Gun training should include proper firearm use, loading, unloading, storage, cleaning as well as general guidelines on how to use a gun in more stressful situations in which the chances of making mistakes are much higher. This training should be conducted on a regular basis and should not be a one time event.
It is important to differentiate between having experience with guns and proper training to use a firearm. Many of us have grown up in household with guns and we do have the experience of using, holding and firing a weapon many times over. It is however only with proper training of how to use a gun that you learn coordination, timing, and discipline. It is this very training that helps you in those moments when you have to make a split second decision of whether the use of your firearm is needed or not.
6. Not keeping your gun loaded when not in use
In case of emergencies a loaded firearm makes all the difference in those crucial few seconds. However, there are numerous statistics that have shown that a loaded firearm in a house is more likely to harm one of its own members than a potential intruder.
A unloaded gun cannot harm anyone even if the trigger is pulled or it falls out of its holster. One of the best ways to prevent accidental discharge of firearms is to keep your gun unloaded when not in use.
7. Not buying a gun holster
Part of being a responsible gun owner is to choose the right holster for your gun. There are many types of gun holsters available made of different materials.
A good high quality holster secures your gun, keeps the gun attached with your body, acts as a trigger guard, prevents accidental discharge, keeps you comfortable for prolonged periods and ensures quick and unrestricted access to your firearm.
Without a gun holster, you are more than likely to shoot yourself or others around you. Investing in a good gun holster will not only keep you safe but also protect you gun.
8. Keeping your finger on the trigger
Most of the novice gun users are guilty of this especially when drawing their guns out from the holster as well as re-holstering it. You should never keep your finger on the trigger unless you have your target in sight and you have made the decision to shoot.
The probability of an accidental discharge increases exponentially if you make a habit of keeping your finger on the trigger. You are also most likely to shoot yourself in the thigh or leg while holstering your weapon.
9. Poor Mental Temperament & not maintaining a high degree of situational awareness
Once you start to carry a gun, we tend to think that we are invincible. This is one of the biggest mistakes made by first time gun carriers due to their poor mental temperament or state.
Do not go out looking for trouble and do not escalate the situation just because you are carrying a weapon. With a loaded weapon, you have to be much more careful, calm and responsible and always try to de-escalate the situation to prevent fatal accidents.
It also important to scan your surrounding environment and maintain a high degree of situational awareness. Even a minor momentary lapse could lead to an accident especially when your adrenaline is pumping high and you have a loaded firearm. If you are more aware of the environment that you are in you are less likely to cause a shooting incident. Carrying a loaded weapon comes with a lot of responsibility and it is your job to be aware of the environment you are in to prevent accidents.
10. Not following the 4 basic rules of gun safety
There are certain safety protocols that need to be followed when it comes to guns. There are many different types of guns available but the 4 rules of gun safety apply to all guns and apply to new as well as more experienced gun owners.
- Treat every firearm as if its loaded
- Never aim your gun at anything that you do not want to shoot at and destroy
- Always keep your finger of the trigger until your sight is on the target and you are ready to fire
- Always be 100% sure what is your target and what is behind it
Due to the easy access to guns, the U.S. gun death rate is the highest among the developed countries such as Canada, Australia and nearly all European countries.
As a firearm owner it is your prime responsibility to prevent accidental discharge. It is important to learn how to secure your weapon both when in use and when in storage. Preventing minors and young teens from accessing firearms is also a responsibility that you have to own as a gun owner.