Facing a negligent discharge (recovery, not legal issues)

For the sake of this posting, my friend Bob is recovering from the trauma of a negligent discharge at home. Despite there being no physical injuries, the incident continues to grind away at Bob as he works to put this behind him and his family. This post is about how best to help.

The incident was at 4AM the morning before a planned trip to the range. His routine was to inspect the pistols, load magazines, and pack the range bag before the family awoke as he is an early riser. The 10MM 1911 had a round in the chamber, and when grabbing the pistol to rack the (very stiff) slide and inspect the chamber, the finger touched the trigger and the powerful round was shot. It shot through the tile floor above and fragments lodged in the 2nd story floor. It pierced a water pipe causing an instant flood and left the 1st floor full of tile and bullet fragments. The cleanup and repairs were costly.

Bob has faced trauma before and successfully dealt with earlier trauma through therapy and lots of family and friend support. The issue here is his inability to discuss openly with anyone other than his wife. Bringing this to a therapist may invite legal trouble, as would disclosure to friends. So what to do? The most important element of dealing with recall and its effect on work, sleep, and relationships has always been open discussion, especially with others who have a shared experience. None of this is available in this case. Bob is well aware of the mistakes made and how to avoid. The problem is how to put this behind for the sake of his family, his job, and himself. How to regain trust. How to move on.

Note: we all know this was not an accident. It was unintended negligence. Nobody to blame other than himself.

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This is a tough situation. I am so thankful that no people were hurt. Judging by what information I have gathered from your post, let me ask this. How large is your circle of shooting friends besides Bob? Can you reach out to other shooting friends to see if any of them have had a NG and would be willing to talk about it with Bob? It wont replace a therapist if he is impacted as deeply as your post suggests, but perhaps if he can hear first-hand that he is not the only one who this has happened to, he can start coming to terms with the fact that he is not alone in facing this situation.

So, outside of that, what do you think he needs? Does he need help getting past the fact that an NG happened to him and he is struggling with all the what if’s and the shame of it happening, or is this more bringing up the past trauma that he experienced?

Also, maybe one of the lawyers can chime in here, but I do not believe bringing this up to a therapist will invite legal trouble.

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I can’t picture what you are going through or I have not stood in your shoes, but I’m going to pray for you so the lord can get you through this. Every situation is different and I could just imagine that shot is always on his mind. Wondering what could have happened even years later. I thank GOD nothing happened.

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I’m glad to hear everyone is physically ok. I’m sure the mental anguish is a struggle. We can ask for input by @MikeBKY to get a legal perspective of therapy. I certainly hope there are good people he can confide in and speak with. Keeping that bottled up when it’s weighing so heavy must be an enormous burden.

We are all here to help in any way we can.

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I feel for him. Something very similar happened to my son. He’d just finished cleaning his 9 MM in his bedroom. He’s single but shares his apartment with his daughter, her husband, and grandbaby. Fortunately, he was home alone. He loaded his magazine and chambered a round. Cardinal rule violated. Finger on the trigger and bang! Went through his wall. I was shopping when I got a call from him in a panic. After getting him to calm down and tell me rationally what happened I was able to make sure no one was hurt. It was an outside wall of an upstairs apartment. I used a cleaning rod to determine an angle, and went out side to see if there was an exit hole. He was so lucky. The building outside was brick. The bullet lodged harmlessly in the wall. It could have been catastrophic. So many what ifs! Negligent and a lesson he’ll never forget or repeat. The trauma he went through would be multiplied in a defensive situation. I’m convinced counseling would also be needed. It was a traumatic experience. Glad we got through that safely!

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Very pleasantly surprised by the comments here. Conditioned to expect the worst from public postings, I suppose. I appreciate all of the varied perspectives.

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I will agree with you that a negligent discharge is not an accident. It happens when we become complacent or too comfortable with our firearm handling.

I have spoke with others through private messages during my time at the USCCA working in social media who have had negligent discharges. I know of one person who had a lot of firearm experience and shot himself in the hand preparing to clean his gun. I use that example in just about every class I teach.

Getting over the guilt/trauma will take a while. I would suggest he makes himself a checklist to go through when he’s preparing his range bag. Also, post a gun safety rules photo in the areas where he handles firearms. Not as punishment, as a stepping stone to remind him that he knows what he’s doing, he just can’t take it for granted.

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That is a great idea @Dawn and thanks because you don’t have to have a negligent discharge to follow those steps you mentioned.

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Remembering the basics is key with firearms. I’ve started giving a lot or private lessons recently and really embracing those safety rules is so important to responsible gun handling.

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Sad that we are human, and make mistakes. Very good ideas above. One of very first instructors, AF Vet, well respected, excellent with training, background, and so on, had a negligent discharge. Uses that experience in his instruction. My hope that Bob recovers, moves on, and shares the story to have us “humans” be more aware. Thank you for the story, and we will share with our circle. Tell Bob we will be thinking of him and a little prayer.

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Tom, we will take the story as a training concept, and talk about. Never to post ignorant comments. Positive outlooks. We learn. If we are ignorant, and drive with road rage, we should not carry. Again, and again, thanks for sharing!

I thought i should edit this a bit…a little story, I was hurt in a bad accident, and am a burn survivor, If I can help one person, or many, with my experience, I am always available to reach out to others.

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@Tom56, welcome to the community. I admire your concern for your friend which is exactly what he needs right now.

I recall the first time I dropped my motorcycle. I didn’t want to ride again. A friend shared how she handled a similar situation and it made me get over it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is it happens to the best of them. Tons of YouTube videos of NDs to LEARN from.
Accepting that truth facilitates moving on from a situation such as that.
Please continue supporting him and encouraging him.

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Guys often solve the emotional damage by doing something concrete. We are wired like that. Even when we are open about thoughts and feelings, we still want to “do something” to “fix it”.

This is why guys are often not good at listening. Sometimes people don’t expect us to provide solutions. They just want to be heard.

In this case, being there for your friend is key. I would keep it within the circle of shooters though. We are the only ones who will understand anyway.

I like @Dawn 's idea about the checklist. Pilots use them, Soldiers use them. Bob can create a set of checklists to ensure this never happens again. This is a concrete, “do something” step that guys like for solving problems.

Tell Bob to forgive himself too. These things have happened to very, very good shooters, military folks and cops. I watched a fellow National Guard pilot and full-time police veteran blow a hole in our Flight Operations Coke machine one day.

The colonel was not pleased.

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To reiterate what others have said, I’m glad no one was injured and it was only his pride and his home that was hurt.

It sucks, and his spouse will be weary for a while but they all learned a valuable and somewhat costly lesson. Time will help to rebuild trust and in the meantime, he’ll undoubtedly be more cautious about where he places his finger moving forward. We’re all human and we inevitably make mistakes. Just be thankful no one was hurt and give it time and reassure him that it was scary, but to use this as a good opportunity to learn from.

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Glad nobody was hurt.

I agree with the need to do something to “fix” the problem. In addition to Dawn’s checklistidea , maybe he can identify safe locations in the house to do the checking/loading/unloading of firearms.

I always do mine with the muzzle pointed into one of 2 beds on the first floor with 8" foam mattresses. I use the bed as my staging area whenever I’m preparing to go to the range, loading my EDC after cleaning, cycling ammo, clearing for dry fire exercises, whatever.

There was a post a while back about setting up a 5-Gal bucket full of sand to use for this purpose and it seemed like a good idea, but I have not gotten around to doing that.

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I remember from my days in the Army long ago. Every orderly room and barracks had a sand bucket to use for clearing your rifle. Never thought about it having a home use too. A sand bucket in your house might start to feel like a kitty liter box with sand on the floor kind if mess after a while.

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@Tom56, a couple more thoughts. Would Bob be willing to join the forum here and perhaps talk with us, either publicly or privately? I am sure there are people here would be more than willing to have conversations with Bob.

Also, I know its closing the barn door after the horses are out, but here is a post of something I made a couple years ago. Perhaps going through the process of making something like this can help him feel like he is regaining control and taking steps to actively create a safer environment.

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I should note that he has not given up range practice. He deliberately went back to handling the firearm involved as well as sitting in that same place where the discharge happened. This to avoid having any taboos and it seemingly has worked. He has said he may be the most careful gun owner in the county now, so giving this up (which his family suggested) hasn’t happened. They now agree. Flashback to the event still breaks him down and is sad to watch. I think he will appreciate hearing that the case may be used for some good purpose.

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I will ask him. I did already ask if I could post the story myself and he reluctantly agreed. The feedback so far may encourage his participation.

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You may have seen me post about riding a motorcycle - I got my license last year. I too dropped a bike before. When I was 19. I won’t say how many years ago that was. But it took a lot of huge life changes to give me the courage to try again. I love riding my motorcycle now and am very vigilant about being aware and confident in my abilities.

Doing something concrete is incredibly helpful for me when things are hard/stressful. They’re steps that may not make everything better, but will help me to improve myself … and really that’s all we can do. Do better next time we’re presented with the situation so we don’t have the same result.

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