The Guardian Broadcast
"Providing Concealed Carry & Armed Self-Defense Wisdom."
A podcast by Patrick Kilchermann, founder of the Concealed Carry University.
"Accidents Don't Happen"
This week, Pat recounts the story of a local police officers negligent discharge at a wresting meet: how it happened, why it happened, how we can avoid it, while delivering a stinging reality about accidents and responsibility.
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Note: 100% accuracy on text transcription is not guaranteed.
Hello and welcome to another Guardian Broadcast. I’m your host and founder of the Concealed Carry University, Patrick Kilchermann.
This week, I want to spend a few minutes focusing on firearms safety. Get a load of this news story. This happened a week ago in my home state of Michigan:
FOWLERVILLE, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say an off-duty Michigan police officer's gun accidentally discharged at a high school wrestling meet.
Police officials say in a release the officer was watching his son compete Saturday in the multi-school event at Fowlerville High School. The bullet from what was described as an "off-duty sidearm" struck and lodged in the gym floor, and one person trying to flee twisted an ankle.
The meet was interrupted for about 50 minutes. Police declined to provide additional details but say a report of what happened will be sent to the Livingston County prosecutor for review after the investigation is complete.
So, there are two things I want to focus on here. One, is the outcome of a mistake of this caliber (no pun intended) with our handguns, like this one. The other is how and why the incident happened at all, and how we can make sure something like this never happens to us.
To begin: it’s important for us private citizens to note that the outcome of an incident like this actually has very little to do with Justice. That’s because a crime WAS committed. A gun was discharged in a building, endangering lives. This is illegal. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the officer’s career is over, or that he will face jail time or even any sanctions, although both are certainly possible. See, we have to remember that most laws are enforced subjectively. And so rather than receiving a mandatory felony sentence or even any kind of criminal charge at all, the outcome of an incident like this is going to depend on a lot of factors:
Primarily, what will happen to this officer depends on how adamant any member of the public is that he should be made an example of. It depends on the officer’s social standing: how important he is to his department, how well-connected he is within his community, how developed is his character, how well most of the people at the wrestling meet know him and trust him and will vouch for him.
If we as private citizens ever experience a negligent discharge, all the same will be true for us, except that we will begin with a lot less of what I call ‘benefit of doubt.’ For example, when the police are called and they hear that a fellow officer’s gun went off, they’re going to be approaching the situation differently than if some random concealed carry permit holder’s gun went off. They’ll know the situation is largely under control already, and while they’ll be seeking to uphold the credibility of their department, they’re going to try to keep things as low-key as possible.
This sort of benefit of doubt is often highlighted by another incident which recently happened near my hometown, where an assistant prosecutor who had been drinking and was legally impaired was involved in a car accident. Had it been you or I, we would have been arrested. This prosecutor, on the other hand, was driven home and wasn’t issued a citation. This is an extreme example and can reek of injustice and corruption to some, but it’s the world we live in. Such is the incredible power of social standing and benefit of doubt.
If, on the other hand, you’re a private citizen and if you cause this kind of negligent discharge, even if nobody is hurt, you can expect a lot more scrutiny. If you’re not extremely well-connected to the families at the wrestling meet and held in very high regard, you can probably at very least kiss your concealed carry permit goodbye – probably forever. You may face a misdemeanor. You may face a felony. You may suffer fines; you may be treated as a dangerous incompetent who must be hauled off to jail and booked right then and there. You will probably suffer a degree of ostracization by your community: the sheep who see you as a threat, and the sheepdogs who see you as an embarrassment.
In this particular case, my guess is that the prosecution, will lay low. They’ll keep the case “open for investigation,” and they’ll wait to see if the incident blows over in the public eye. If it does, the officer will probably be fined and he may have to sit through a media-friendly class on handgun safety, so that if anyone asks questions later, his supervisors can demonstrate that the incident was dealt with in a responsible way.
So, that’s what will happen – now let’s discuss why this happened.
My wager is that this offer was carrying his handgun in an old, worn-out, thin-sided holster – either leather or nylon. My guess is that when he crouched down, the force of his weight caused his pants to buckle and the stiff fabric of his jeans or something in his pocket pressed the holster fabric into the trigger-guard, and as he crouched lower and lower…. Boom. I’ve heard of this happening a number of times, and it’s one reason why I tend to only recommend stiff Kydex holsters for concealed carry. And even then, it’s why I always recommend a periodically thorough inspection of your holster, as you look for cracks.
Now, I have a feeling most of us are on the same page here, but rather than blaming faulty holsters, the real cause here is of course: negligence.
In fact, I’d like to suggest that we as guardians remove the word ‘accident’ from our vocabulary altogether. Instead, we can look at most accidents in the world as either being acts of negligence, or simply unintended outcomes.
For example: It could be that there are no such things as hunting accidents. You either behave negligently, and fire into brush where another hunter is standing, or perhaps there’s an unintended outcome, where a one-in-a-million ricochet bounces off a rock and strikes a hunting partner. You are not always accountable for the outcomes of your actions. But you are always responsible for the outcomes of your actions. In this example, clearly the other hunter would not have ever been injured, if you had just stayed home. Now: You are usually only deemed ‘at fault’ for negligent behavior; in contrast, you are usually given mercy or even treated as a victim of chance due to unintended consequences.
Similarly to our hunting example, it could be that there are no such things as construction accidents. Boating accidents. Flying accidents. One could argue that there are no such things as accidents because nature is governed by consistent and repeatable and predictable laws. Laws of physics and gravity and friction and mathematics.
A rational person not emotionally connected to the situation knows that if a man enters a turn on a slippery road and loses control of his car and collides with a young family and a woman dies, that this was not truly an accident. One could argue that his car did exactly what it was designed to do. That its tires lost traction at the exact point where science would have predicted they would. There is no question that the driver is responsible for causing the woman’s death. The only question is: should the driver be held accountable for his actions?
Legally, if it is determined that our behavior was that of a reasonable person, we are usually not responsible for the consequences of our actions. For example, if our man was driving at speeds deemed safe for the conditions, but that black ice made him lose control anyway, he would not be deemed legally accountable. In fact, he may even be treated as a victim of the situation, just as the deceased woman’s family is.
People like the word accident because it removes from them the heavy burden of guilt resulting in tragic consequences from their own behavior. But here’s the thing:
When it comes to firearms safety, there are no such things as accidents. We will almost never be given passes. Nobody will ever see even a mechanical failure of our handgun or holster resulting in detonation as an accident, because, they’ll ask: did he really need to be carrying a gun in the first place?
We need to understand that in the public eye, carrying a gun is an extreme act. Even when you carry legally, it is not the vehicular equivalent of driving at a speed safe for the conditions. Even when we’re used to it, the public is not. Carrying a gun, even safely, and even a boring old j-frame revolver, is the vehicular equivalent of driving around a racetrack. And if you are injured, people will say: of course, racing is dangerous, what did he expect? And if you injure a spectator, people will – in general – be out for blood.
In other words: we as armed citizens will never be able to hide behind the docile word accident. We will never be given a pass, just because we didn’t mean for our guns to go off. We are on the hook. We are responsible for anything that happens to or because of our guns or holsters or accessories.
Again, I think most people listening to this broadcast are perfectly at ease and in command of the responsibility on their shoulders, when it comes to carrying concealed. But the fact is, not all armed citizens are. I was recently called to speak to a private group of individuals who a religious clergyman was giving permission to carry their guns into church. This was an urban church and therefore was not necessarily a gun-friendly one, and so this meeting took place quietly.
As I spoke and looked around the room, I realized that the majority of the armed citizens in that room were not of the caliber that I expect the listeners of this broadcast to be. These were not warriors, but hobbyists. And I could tell that many of them had not considered what violence inside their church would actually look like, much less what sort of responsibility they had over their weapons.
And I’d like to end this broadcast by sharing with you some words I wrote for that religious clergyman – words that he could pass out to help make sure his congregation understood the gravity of what it means to go armed. Here is what I wrote:
You are welcome to carry your handgun concealed into my church, but only under the following conditions and circumstance:
— That you have received adequate training to the extent that you believe you could make positive snap decisions and take positive actions which would yield benefit to the congregation as a whole in the worst of situations.
— That your weapon is kept securely on your person at all times, and not stored in any kind of bag or purse.
— That you understand exactly the magnitude of responsibility you’re choosing to bear by carrying in as dense and diverse a crowd as a Catholic congregation. FOR EXAMPLE:
— Please keep in mind that, statistically, half of our congregation will vehemently disagree with the notion that you have any sort of right to carry a handgun into public, much less within a Sunday congregation of church-goers. If you are ever discovered to be carrying or if it is made known that I have given you permission to carry in our church, that mistake may lead directly to the exodus of some of our most important families.
— Additionally, we can rest assured that even should the ‘best worst-case’ scenario happen, if you use your weapon within the congregation to save a multitude of lives but injure someone innocent in the process, I cannot guarantee you any protection from criminal or civil suits filed by the state or the injured party. You have my permission and I will therefore testify to the fact so that you aren't accused of criminal trespass, but these laws are murky and those above me in the hierarchy may have the ability to overthrow this permission at any time, with or without my knowledge. Do not expect any help from anyone affiliated with our church: you are not acting as an agent of our church, but only as a private citizen on private property.
— Please understand that when you are carrying in church, you are representing Catholicism to the world at large and you’re representing armed citizenship to the Catholic Church at large. In your 'concealed carry career', you (and others) will most likely carry without incident for hundreds of weeks; tens of thousands of hours. And yet you know that a perfectly flawless safety record with deadly weapons isn’t praised whatsoever: it’s expected. Its demanded - and rightly so. But an accident.... should the presence of your gun even become visible to another congregant; much less should you (and more importantly, your pew neighbors) suffer a negligent discharge of your weapon - there is a very, very good chance that you will *ruin* concealed carry in churches for millions of more responsible people across the country, as bishops and pastors turn away from their support of concealed carry in church or as their congregations demand clear prohibition.
Therefore: I again emphatically ask that you weigh heavily the responsibility, the potential for gain, and the potential for loss before ever bringing a loaded firearm into our church. If you’re up for this challenge and have already considered these factors dozens of times, you - again - have my permission and gratitude. If any of these cautions are new to you, then you may wish to reconsider.
Finally, I would politely ask that if you carry in my church, you do so without a round loaded into the firing chamber of your handgun. I understand that tactical demands ‘on the street’ make this an unwise practice, but in such a densely populated crowd as a church congregation, it is extremely unlikely that - should you need to ever use your handgun - you would find disadvantageous the second or two (and spare hand) required to charge and ready your pistol. Carrying unchambered will eliminate virtually any risk at all of a negligent discharge within my congregation, while retaining nearly all of the advantage of having you present and armed. Please consider abiding by this rule as a professional courtesy to me for the degree to which I’m shouldering risk on your behalf by offering you this permission.
Godspeed, thank you, and: you’re welcome.
Okay, that’s it for this week’s guardian broadcast. Stay safe, my friends.