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300 Negligent Discharges: Comprehensive Data Science Reveals Gun Grabbers and Gun Owners are Both Wrong

Recently our team undertook a massive study about one of the most dangerous and unfortunately common issues that faces firearm carriers. The issue of negligent discharges.

Now, negligent discharge is not always the verbiage used when discussing this issue. More than likely you have heard this issue referred to as “accidental discharge”.  However, I don't think this is the best way to describe incidents like these. After reading through 300 different news stories about these discharges one thing has become clear. In all of the articles that we went through these discharges WOULD NOT have happened if those handling the firearms followed proper gun safety protocols.

The Scope of the Study

Now in the study, we researched a 24 month period from December 2014 to November 2016 and ONLY included stories in which someone was injured or killed and unfortunately these tragic stories were not that hard to find. I originally tasked our research team with finding 100 stories. It didn't take long… so I asked how many more they could find. In the end we had a list just shy of 300 unique news stories. Sadly I'm confident that the true number of incidents is much higher given that so many negligent discharges don't land in the local news.

The individual stories are extreme and reading all 300 of them changed my life. Some are just tragic accidents that probably happened to decent gun owners who just made a mistake. Others are discharges that happened to criminals while they were committing crimes. Some stories feature cops, some kids, some parents, and even 1 story where the dog did it.

Below are some of the key points and lessons I derived from the news stories. If you find this insightful or valuable I encourage you to share this with friends. There are social share buttons above and below as well as the option to embed the full infographic located at the very bottom of this page.

THE PRICE OF NEGLIGENCE

When you normally think of a negligent discharge, it is likely that you are picturing something that would occur at the gun range or in the woods while hunting and see it as something that you either laugh off, or at the worst, scare the daylights out of you. But the statistics that we saw were instead downright tragic.

As you can see from the above graphic, the number of those discharges that ended in a death equaled roughly one-third of the incidents we looked into. It's hard to imagine someone you care about getting hurt or dying simply because of improper handling of a firearm, but it is a fact that it does happen and far too often. Modern medicine has done a lot however and the death rates related to gun accidents, suicides, and attempted homicides have all dropped steadily over the last 50 years.

WHO GETS HURT?

Now you may be saying to yourself that you are not one of the people who handles a firearm incorrectly. You follow all of the safety precautions with both handling your gun as well as storing it. There is no way that you are going to have an accident like those we are speaking about here. However, just because you are being safe doesn't mean that the danger is gone. In fact, we have found that it may be far from gone. Because a large number of injuries or deaths from these incidents occur to an innocent bystander nearby and not necessarily the person who was holding the firearm when it discharged.

Think about that the next time you walk into a public gun range filled with strangers.

In the 300 news stories that are part of our study, nearly 48% of the time a negligent discharge injured or killed someone OTHER than the person holding the firearm.

So as you see, you have almost a 5 out of 10 chance of being injured or killed by negligent discharges if you are just standing around someone else who sets off the discharge. The statistics are comparable to how often the actual person holding the gun is injured or killed. This is one of the more shocking finds that we discovered. Safety around firearms begins with you, but the fact of the matter is that even if you are well trained, the person next to you may not be, and they are also perhaps holding your life in their hands.

So if you see someone who is mishandling their weapon or not following gun safety procedures, you need to let them know how dangerous their actions could potentially be, because it's not just about their safety. It is about yours, as well.

WHO DISCHARGED THE FIREARM?

About 2/3 of incidents were caused by an adult directly. Excuses range across the board; the most popular being that “the gun went off by itself.” Sadly, in about 30% of incidents a minor under the age of 18 discharged the gun. In the vast majority of these situations the minor had unauthorized access to the gun, left out by an adult or improperly stored by an adult. Reading through the individual stories themselves serves as a strong and emotional reminder of the importance of keeping all firearms secured.

STATISTICS DON'T CARE WHERE YOU ARE

Our study found ZERO correlation between gun laws and accidental discharges.

So let's take a look at just where these incidents are taking place. We received and reviewed incidents from all 50 states and found that some states did have significantly higher numbers of negligent discharges per capita. The gun grabbers would of course want us to believe that weaker gun control laws = more accidents. Our study found ZERO correlation between gun laws and accidental discharges.

The Brady Score is the most common reference tool used by Gun Grabbers to identify states with “weak” gun laws. Their top 10 states for dangerous gun related incidents are Arizona, Wyoming, Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, Arkansas, Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, and Nevada. So you would think that if weak gun laws were the greatest factor in these incidents a map of negligent discharges would show the same information, but that is not the case.

A look at the number of negligent discharges per 100,000 people across the nation. Our study didn't identify any incidents in Hawaii or Alaska.

Now, the per capita negligent discharge rate is still high in some Brady Score states like Montana and Kentucky, but some of the states that the Brady Campaign identifies through their channels have very low numbers on this chart. Alaska is #3 for “weakest” gun laws and we didn't identify any incidents in Alaska at all while Virginia and Arkansas are ranked 7th and 6th in gun danger on the Brady Campaign's scale, but here we see that they are well within the bottom half of states with number of incidents.

I am not suggesting that weak gun laws = less negligent discharges. The data suggests there is just NO CORRELATION at all between the gun laws and these “accidents.”

WHERE INCIDENTS OCCUR

So it seems that geographical location, access to guns, and even gun crime are not at all significant in the number of negligent discharges. But what about places within those states that have more guns available? Places like gun shows, or ranges, or even going hunting?

Well it seems that the numbers prove that once again these kinds of things can happen anywhere, but sadly from what we have found most of them happen at home.

A view at just where the negligent discharges we reviewed occurred. A few news stories didn't identify the location of the incident. The Out of Home total includes the incidents at the gun range, gun show, hunting, and gun store, in addition to all other out of home incidents.

Now there are many reasons why we saw that the home was the most common place for these discharges to take place. A LOT… and I mean FAR TOO MANY of these incidents happened when a child picked up an unsecured firearm that was not stored properly. There were also accidents while cleaning, or sometimes just playing around with the gun. But the overall motif behind each shooting is the same: It was simply due to a lack of care being taken at home and people letting their guard down. It makes sense as to why people would think that you could relax more when you are in the comfort of your own house, but as you can see from the numbers the idea of simply throwing caution to the wind no matter where you are is something that should never occur and may end up being a reason for an injury or something worse.

RESOURCE: See our selection of gun safes

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO PROPER TRAINING

We certainly can tell through all of these bits of information that there is no rhyme or reason regarding location or age or even day of the week.

It doesn't matter what day it is. A discharge can happen anywhere and at any time.

No. There's not a huge difference in safety if you are a Wisconsinite on a Wednesday or a South Carolinian on a Saturday. There is only one real common connection between these negligent discharges and that is a lack of training or a lapse in the practice of gun safety.

It is incredibly sobering to read these stories and know that there is more that we could have done. That's why it is our company's goal to train a generation of gun owners to be responsible, safe, and able to handle any situation necessary. (If you would like to see for yourself the 292 news stories where we got our data, click here: 292 Negligent Discharge Stories.)

Now I don't want to turn this into a lecture about the gun safety rules or the most common barriers to following them. I understand that following a strict diet of training and safety is work. But the work that you put into this can mean the safety and security of you and the ones you love. No, I'm instead asking that after reading all of the above you take a moment and recommit yourself and your household to a higher level of gun safety. Do NOT compromise.

And if you need help or have questions, that's why we are here! Our team exists to support gun owners in the mission to defend the innocent among us from the threats that surround us. A big part of that mission has to be correlated to the strict adherence to gun safety and gun rights expansion. We hope you will be part of our mission and our family!

If you found this content valuable and you think it may help someone in your life be safer, I ask that you consider SHARING it using the share buttons above! Also be sure to let us know your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below. And if you are looking for additional RESOURCES please click here for other content about gun safety!

Here is the complete Infographic from our Study. Below you can find the embed code if you wish to share this on your own website.

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33 Responses to 300 Negligent Discharges: Comprehensive Data Science Reveals Gun Grabbers and Gun Owners are Both Wrong

  1. Roger Knotts March 22, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    I was in a refresher course for permit renewal and our instructor informed us that only one student handled and unloaded their weapon correctly. As he informed us of this he stared straight at me so I assume I was the one he mentioned. I am glad I handled my weapon correctly but it is enough to worry me about the others around me,what are they pointing their weapon at ? If it`s me I don`t feel good knowing I may be one of your next cases. I will wait till the others are done before I go up to unload and place my weapon on the hold table.

  2. Michael Barrett March 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    EXCELLENT article and a MUST SHARE!!! Negligent discharge is not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN!!! If firearms safety protocol is followed 100% of the time, NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE can be AVOIDED. If you at least, ALWAYS keep a firearm pointed in a SAFE direction you can avoid injury or death!!!
    I’d like to Thank Concealed Carry for reporting on this SERIOUS issue and HOPE EVERYONE will share this .
    STAY SAFE and PRACTICE & EDUCATE YOUR FRIENDS FAMILY AND LOVED ONES FIREARMS SAFETY!!!!!

    • Gerbwa March 24, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

      I second that Michael.

    • Tom May 3, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

      Absolutely pointing weapon in safe direction and in same vein treating firearm as if it was loaded therefore you point safe direction is truly First Rule to avoid AD.

  3. Rick Clark March 22, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    A tremendous about of work went into your gun safety study. This research will be kept for a good reminder to be “safe” in all “handling” of firearms.

    • Jacob Paulsen March 22, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

      Thanks Rick. Spent 2 months compiling and extracting the data so we could present this! I hope it has enough impact to have been worth the time 🙂

      • Charles May 20, 2017 at 10:20 am #

        Jacob, if the work you did saves one life, I would say it was worth your effort. Thank you so doing the work.

  4. Jerry Broadus March 22, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    You truly have to know what you are doing and have a lot of training. Then things can still go wrong. You have to be aware of all your surroundings, what type of firearm you are dealing with (know it inside and out with a lot of training). ALWAYS TREAT YOUR FIREARM AS IF IT IS LOADED AND ONE CHAMBERED. SAFETY SAFETY SAFETY!!!!!

  5. mike golin March 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm #

    I just sat in on a nra safety training for my wife and a friend . taught correctly , it is something every gun owner and future gun owner should attend . gun safety is something that has to be 100 % of the time .
    we were at an indoor range for the live fire portion of the course and two men came in and were using the range . both experienced and one of them kept pointing his gun up towards the ceiling when he finished shooting . there is a conference room above the range and a negligent discharge could have injured someone there . he was informed and he proceeded to aim the gun down and away from everyone after . even experienced shooters sometime forget the rules .

  6. Louis Ferri March 22, 2017 at 3:15 pm #

    Good stuff to know and remind gun owners to be extra careful and aware of what your doing. Keep up the good work

    • Rick W. March 31, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      Wow! I am flabbergasted by your comment inre the owners of the “indoor firing range” where you attended the gun safety class would actually have anything built out over the firing lines of a live fire gun range, especially meeting / classrooms!

      How freaking stoooooopid is that?

  7. Greg Buban March 22, 2017 at 3:41 pm #

    First of all, thanks to all who participated in gathering this information. I’ve talked with too many who “I know all that.” We all know the rules when asked. Reinforcing again and again is necessary to ensure it never happens! Can we ever be too careful? I have an arrow taped on the top of my range bag, barrels in that direction so I always know.

  8. John March 22, 2017 at 4:12 pm #

    what firearm was involved the most in adc’s

    • Jacob Paulsen March 22, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

      John, we were curious about that but most of the news stories don’t tell us what the make or model of the firearm was. I’ll add that only of the few stories MIGHT have been prevented if a different firearm were involved. The vast majority were straight negligence.

  9. JD White March 22, 2017 at 5:58 pm #

    I am 60 yrs old and shoot a lot ( have my own range at home) when I was 13 I had a negligent discharge. No one was hurt or even knew it happened. It scared me so bad that to this day i remember it like it was yesterday. I think about it often and what could of happened to my friends in front of me. To this day when I hand a firearm to someone the action is open and unloaded. The first thing I do when handling a firearm is looking to see if it is loaded before I do anything. I just hope to God nothing ever happens.

  10. Dar March 23, 2017 at 10:33 pm #

    How do you know the dog didn’t shoot the guy on purpose?

  11. Jim March 24, 2017 at 6:29 am #

    I had a case of negligent discharge at 14 and she never let me try again! Lol seriously, LEARN weapon skills before you carry, keep your nose picker off the bang switch and always secure your firearms !

  12. Gerbwa March 24, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    What’s the website for the Brady information?

  13. Evan Watkins March 28, 2017 at 8:55 pm #

    Excellent study, thanks for taking the time. Hope to see it make prime time…make sure you pass it along to all the other gun sites. This is truly enlightening info…yes, certainly a LOT of data is missing (those un-reported or that are dramatic enough for news) but in the least it reminds us that shit happens and we need to be cautious all the time – safety, safety, safety!!!

  14. Ron Cleary May 20, 2017 at 9:12 am #

    This study – or similar – should be mandatory reading for ALL gun owners annually. There’s no such thing as being too SAFE.

  15. Eric Ward May 20, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    Excellent material. Informative for prevention and avoidance of NDs. #Safety

  16. Charlie May 20, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    I am in my seventies, have been shooting for over 65 years and have been a Range Officer, military and civilian for well over fifty years. Have seen many negligent handling occurances. There were ten where the firearm actually fired. Nine were from people that had been trained, two Army and seven Law enforcement. The last was a young lady who touched the trigger on a shotgun when holding a shotgun and hit the ground. I continue being a RO today, and am very cautious on the range. All guns are to be treated as if they are loaded.

  17. Jerry McMains May 20, 2017 at 10:36 am #

    This is excellent information, every gun owner should have, even non-gun owners!
    I am an NRA certified firearms trainer for over 29 years! There is no such thing as an “accidental” discharge!!! I tell my students every bullet they fire they own, until it is safely motionless!
    I have been shooting guns for 50 years (I’m 60) and reloading for over 40 years. There is not a time I don’t think safety first!
    As an RSO, I have prevented countless ND’s. Second biggest problem is safety glasses, I have seen too many near eye damaging events as well.
    I love my sport and responsibility, I will do both until I am gone!!!

  18. George V Rowe May 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

    I determined quite a while ago there is NO SUCH thing as an “accidental discharge”
    as some involvement by some individual is required.
    No gun ever loaded and discharged itself by an of it’s own volition.
    No bow ever knocked an arrow, drew back it’s string and released the arrow on its own.
    Some creature was involved, maybe a monkey or someone with a monkey’s mentality.
    George

  19. Lawrence Denning May 21, 2017 at 6:23 am #

    Rule of thumb to LIVE by; Always assume your weapon is loaded, even if you KNOW you have unloaded it. Too often a person may have removed the magazine, thinking it was then unloaded, but didn’t remember having worked the slide leaving a round chambered. With a revolver you can physically SEE that all rounds are removed, however removing them requires knowledge of that particular revolver, as a single action can be dangerous if left partially cocked with rounds still in the cylinder.
    Be safe, ALWAYS ASSUME YOUR WEAPON IS LOADED, and handle it appropriately.

  20. Carolyn Scott May 21, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    Why isn’t the NRA involved in your effort? Why aren’t they funding advertising with billboards and TV adds showing these statistics and addressing the rules for securing and handling guns? Training gun owners when they get their permit and ending it there is like never attending a driving safety course because you took driver’s ed back in high school.

  21. Rick B. August 6, 2017 at 6:14 am #

    This is a very good article. I hope everyone reads this. I’m sharing it and hope you do too.
    Thank you for all the work your team put in.

  22. JP Hales August 10, 2017 at 5:13 am #

    Maybe the dog was aiming at Michael Vick?
    Sobering data that reminds me to recommit to safely storing my firearm while at home. Thanks!

  23. Paula August 10, 2017 at 5:46 am #

    This is an excellent article, and the information is good to know and relevant. It would almost make a person afraid to even walk out of their house! However, we should remember that this article only takes into account 300 incidences that were reported in the news. There are certainly way more incidents that didn’t make the news. But on the other hand, when you consider how many people are handling firearms on any given day, and do so safely and responsibly, with no negative repercussions, the percentage of negligent discharge compared to the number of times a firearm is handled would be miniscule. Most (not all, but most) of the gun owners I know treat their firearms respectfully and responsibly.

  24. Ronnie August 12, 2017 at 2:34 am #

    I had a ND yesterday ive been around guns and shooting since i was 6, im 36 now im a religous when it comes to gun safety i have a gsw to the thigh through and through no major damage i was in my car at lunch wiping it down took it apart and put it back together. After it was all done i cant wrap my head around what happened, it is something i will have to live with.

    • Matthew Maruster August 12, 2017 at 4:43 am #

      Ronnie,
      First off, thank God you are okay and no one was seriously injured. Second, thank you for sharing your incident. I know it probably isn’t a proud moment, but it takes a lot of courage to share something like that and by doing so, you can drive the point home that we can never get too comfortable or lax with firearms no matter how long we have been around them. Your experience, as far as not quite understanding what happened is quite normal, especially that it just occurred yesterday. I imagine it was a very traumatic and anxiety producing event. Our brains can get bogged down in these instances, not just during the incident, but afterward, sometimes for a couple days. This is a perfect example of why it is best not to give statements directly after a shooting. You may have facts mixed up, simply not be able to remember and want to remember, so you start filling in the blanks. Try to give it a few days and then back step by step what happened, after your body and brain have been able to return to its normal hormone and anxiety levels. I am sure you will be able to recollect better and figure out exactly what happened.
      Thanks again, glad you are okay and God bless.

  25. Bob Conrad September 20, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    Excellent article and very eye opening. Safety concern and training is not a one time hit and forget but must be lived every minute of the day. “I forgot” is not acceptable. Thanks for the article and study. Glad to see the postings on Facebook as reminders and presentation of such as this article.

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