Culpability in Accidental Shootings

Crime Scene

I just read an incredibly sad story via Fark, Gun in Donated Clothes Kills Woman in Chicago. Carmen Dominguez was working at the Unique Thrift Store. It’s a small chain of stores, mostly in Chicago. Dominguez and a co-worker were going through donated clothes. Some things were in a sock. The co-worker poured the contents out. Inside was a 22-caliber gun that accidentally went off, shooting Dominguez in the chest. She was pronounced death a half hour later. She was 54 years old.

Thus far, the police believe it was simply a tragic accident. And certainly this seems to be the case regarding the workers at the store. But how exactly does a loaded gun get stuffed into a sock and donated to a thrift shop? Not just a gun, but a loaded gun! I really don’t understand how people can be so careless.

Let me give you an idea of where I’m coming from. I spend most of my life worrying about accidents. When I do dishes, I make sure that all the knives and forks are facing down in the dish drainer. Otherwise, people could be cut. I come from a long line of people who talk with their hands. One could easily stab oneself in that way. But it could be even worse: someone could fall and stab themselves. I don’t mean to press too much on this point, and I know this is partially indicative of my advanced age, but why can’t people take just a little care?

The most basic kind of care is to always assume that a gun is loaded. Yet there was this story from last week, “A 36-year-old man from Independence Township apparently shot and killed himself by accident while trying to demonstrate gun safety to his girlfriend after he had been drinking, authorities said.” Apparently, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. His point was that it is completely safe when the gun is not loaded. Unfortunately, one of the guns he used was loaded.

I understand: standard gun safety procedures are to always assume the gun is loaded. You don’t go around pointing a gun at another person, even if you “know” it is unloaded. But it seems to me that we see this kind of nonsense more and more. And I think this is partly because of the hysteria that is generated in the gun owning community. Guns have stopped being what they were for hundreds of years: tools for doing things like hunting. Now they are critical pieces of hardware that must always be loaded, because if someone wakes you up in the middle of the night, you don’t want to have to wait to be clear headed enough to load the gun. You want—no, need—to be able to start shooting without a thought.

I know that there are any number of reasons how that gun got into that sock. But I still think the fact that the gun was loaded is an outrage that cannot be defended. I have no problem with people storing dozens of guns with hundreds of bullets. But there is no need to keep a loaded gun around the house so it can accidentally kill someone. And I use the word “accidentally” in the most limited way. The person who left that gun loaded is culpable.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Culpability in Accidental Shootings

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