I believe that all gun owners are responsible for their weapons. If an accident occurs, it’s the owner’s responsibility—no matter how tragic the outcome or otherwise virtuous the owner. I understand that the Placer County Deputy Sheriff Ken Skogan and his wife are in hell after their three-year-old daughter Kalli shot and killed herself with one of her father’s handguns. I do not mean to add to their misery. But TTAG is dedicated to telling the truth about guns, and their owners. Details of the Skogan case are now emerging. They raise important questions. In the interests of honesty, education and debate, we’ll examine some of them here. The auburnjournal.com reports . . .

According to Sgt. Darin DeFreece of the Roseville Police Department], shortly before 5:50 p.m. on April 20, Skogen was in the garage of his home in the 300 block of Sawtell Road, cleaning a gun.

“Skogen finished cleaning the handgun and started to put it away,” DeFreece said. “As he was finishing it up, he turned his back away from the gun safe.”

That is when investigators believe Kalli entered the garage without her father knowing it.

“Skogen thought she was playing someplace else and didn’t realize she was near the open gun safe,” DeFreece said.

With her father’s back turned away, DeFreece said Kalli reached inside the gun safe and picked up a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

“It was a personal sidearm, not his service-issue weapon,” DeFreece said.

DeFreece said it would not be difficult for a young child to pick up a pistol and accidentally shoot herself.

“When the gun went off, Skogen turned around and saw what had happened,” DeFreece said. “He called 911 and everyone responded as fast as they could.”

Our sources tell us that a Smith & Wesson M&P .40 is the most likely the weapon involved in this tragedy. [Download the weapon’s Safety & Instruction Manual here] No matter what weapon delivered the fatal bullet, DeFreece’s assertion that “it would not be difficult” for Kalli to shoot herself is entirely misleading. As in most airplane accidents, Skogan must have made a series of mistakes for the incident to occur.

For example, why didn’t Skogan hear his daughter? We have no information about the layout of Skogan’s garage. But three-year-olds are not normally known for their stealth. And garages tend to amplify sounds.

I’m not saying Kalli wasn’t quiet. Or that she couldn’t have snuck into the space. But whenever gun owners with children have their weapons out, their child-sensing safety radar is normally switched on. As it should be. Were the other distractions at the time? Music? TV?

Why was there a gun safe in Skogan’s garage? Outbuildings are one of the worst possible places to store a gun. The security sucks and the temperature and humidity changes do firearms and ammunition no favors. Gun safety is mostly between the ears, but geography matters. Perhaps Skogan wanted to keep his guns away from Kalli.

If safety was his prime concern, why was there a loaded handgun in the Skogan’s safe? Storing a gun and ammunition in separate places is standard safety procedure. Says so right in the standard issue manufacturer’s literature (e.g., Smith & Wesson).

When this accident occurred, the authorities didn’t know if the gun used was service-issue. We now know it wasn’t. Did Skogan leave his service gun at work? If he didn’t, why would he need another gun ready to rock and roll in his safe? If his service piece was unavailable, there was no “good” reason to store a loaded firearm, even if he didn’t know any better. Which he did. Or should have, as a gun owner. And a police officer.

Loaded. Bad. Bullet in the chamber. Worse.

Leaving your gun’s chamber empty is the second to last line of defense against accidental discharge (before the mechanical safety). A three-year-old is not likely to be able to know how—or be able to—pull back the slide of a .40 semi-automatic. Another fact of which Skogan was no doubt aware.

Note: the M&P can be purchased with or without an external safety. We don’t know how Skogan’s gun was configured—or if it was a Smith & Wesson weapon. But a gun owner with children should give serious consideration to restricting his purchases to guns with an external safety and then, of course, use it. If the gun doesn’t have a safety, basic precautions (storing it unloaded, ammo elsewhere) as even more important.

In short, I’ve not read anything that suggest that Kalli Skogan’s death was anything other than a deeply regrettable yet preventable accident. One from which we can all learn.

8 Responses to Report: County Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Skogen’s Daughter Snuck Into Garage

  1. I find all your assumptions based on that, assumptions. Why would the S&W be the most obvious choice for one? I find your attempt to be "dedicated to the truth" to be laughable. You attempt to sound like a noble warrior. In fact, you are simply a blogger with an opinion. Not like we have enough of those, huh? Why would you assume that he had access to his service weapon? Perhaps it is left at work and that is why he had the other weapon loaded and ready. It seems your rational is tailored to fit your opinion.

  2. Andrew. Good points. Text amended. I am no noble warrior. I'm a jobbing journo with some, but not much, firearms experience. Enough so that I know that I know very little. What I do have: contacts in CA who've indicated that the S&W M&P is the piece in question. Until I receive official confirmation (which may be never), it's true enough that the gun could have been a Glock, Beretta, SIG, etc. All of these guns have safety systems (although the M&P didn't have a safety at the beginning of its run). Did the system fail or did the operator fail to use the system? Both? Neither?

    I've tried to indicate that these are questions, not assumptions. Another example: why a .40 cal off-duty gun? Most cops carry smaller weapons off-duty. How many guns did Skogan have? Am I wrong to ask these questions?

    • Why not a .40 call off-duty? It is a fine round. The Glock comes in a very small .40 cal package very suitable of off-duty. My point being, if all you have is assumptions, not facts, your article will never be accurate and your conclusions will most surely be wrong. What is the point of spreading erroneous information?

  3. While I do not agree with the concept, I am familiar with some firearms owners who store a "emergency" gun in the safe so if they are forced to open the safe under duress they have a weapon immedietly. From my very limited circle of friends this seems to be more common among LEOs than civilians,

    While I do not agree with the above practice there unfortunelty been some instances where such a storage system may have been usefull. I am personally familiar with a case in Indiana where a gun owner was assulted in his home, forced to open the safe and then tied up and shot in the back of his head by the intruders (the trigger man had 1 murder conviction already and had just finished a 12 year jail term).

    NukemJim

  4. NukemJim: Good point. Firearm safety requires compromise. A weapon that's stored in a way that makes it extremely difficult for children to access or use is going to be extremely hard to ready quickly in an emergency. That's why safety conscious gun owners need a good home defense plan, which could include any number of options: personal carry, biometric safes, a baseball bat, alarm system, panic button, tactical knife, safe room, etc.

    There are two factors which I believe take precedence. First, safety. Safety first. If you have to compromise combat readiness to avoid this sort of accident—and you do—do it. There are limits, of course. Laws that require a trigger lock or disassembly may be too much of a compromise, in certain situations. And as children get older, you may be able to back off from the strictest safety systems.

    Which brings up number two: education. A three year old knows not to touch a hot flame. They can and should be taught NEVER to touch a gun (and then given hands-on instruction when they're ready). They can also be taught what happens when you touch a gun (at the range). Yes, kids disobey parental rules. Test them. But if we can instill fear of running with scissors, we can do the gun thing too.

    Your thoughts?

  5. Your thoughts?

    Teaching kids is better than hiding guns. Age 3 is a little young for serious understanding, but by age 5 both my boys knew 1) never touch a gun when Daddy's not around, 2) never touch a gun without permission, and 3) if you want to shoot, I'll take you and let you shoot all you want. Just ask first.

    Never had a problem. Burned up lots of .22 rimfires.

    I also had (almost) all my guns locked up, with one ready gun out and available. At age 3, keeping it on the top shelf was enough, but I understand the individual situation may vary.

    Also, never have any gun loaded while cleaning – even if it's not the gun you're cleaning right now. Too easy to reach over and pick it up yourself to risk it. All guns empty until you are done. Period.

  6. Also, the gun safe in the garage? Maybe more to do with the wife than anything else. As in, "I'm not having that big ugly thing in MY living room! Put it out in the garage with all your other toys." And given that some safes are very heavy, putting it on the second floor of a house is not going to work. The garage may have been the only acceptable location. With the right safe, the temp and humidity issues can be managed.

  7. I’ve always wondered how many people follow the “NEVER KEEP AMMUNITION IN THE SAME PLACE AS THE FIREARM” advice. I mean, how many store their ammo in their gun safe? It might be wise to put it in a locked ammo box inside the safe, but most I’ve seen just stack it up on a shelf. And of course, if you are keeping your gun nearby for safety, who stores their mag on the other side of the house? Wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

    That said, it’s ABSOLUTELY stupid for a LEO to store a loaded gun in a cabinet with the mag in and a round chambered. Clearly he took his eye off of it, which is bad. I’d say he’s lucky it wasn’t him, but I could imagine no fate worse than losing my child, especially due to my own negligence, and then having to live with it.

    If you’re going to store it in the safe, why not store the gun with the loaded mag out. Maybe sitting next to it. Or maybe with the loaded mag concealed somehow. But certainly not with a round chambered. Be smart.

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