Austin Brunson (courtesy liveleak.com)

As Matt in FL reported in Monday’s Daily Digest, there are mounting suspicions (so to speak) that guns owners wielding flashlight-equipped firearms are more likely to discharge their gun negligently than gun owners handling firearms without on-board illumination. Maybe so; any mechanical function, physical task or mental challenge added to the process of firearms manipulation increases the odds of a ballistic boo-boo. But – just like real estate – gun safety is all about location, location, location. Specifically finger and muzzle location. Keep your finger off the bang switch or your muzzle pointed in a safe direction (preferably both at the same time) and nothing bad can happen. Not that you’d know if reading this story [via liveleak.com] . . .

Deputies said 22-year-old Kyle Guessford bought new accessories for his pistol.

He was checking them out in his room and then decided to walk into the living room with the gun. When he turned on a mounted flashlight, the gun somehow fired . . .

Chris Brunson woke up to the gun shot.

He was asleep on the couch when the bullet hit his brother, 22-year-old Austin Brunson, in the head. He died before paramedics arrived.

“Right down to the end I watched him and looked into his eyes,” said Brunson. “As I watch him going, he fought for every breath. He was just a fighting kid and just wanted to press on.”

Guessford has not been charged.

Not even with involuntary manslaughter? Anyway, guns don’t somehow fire. By perpetuating the idea that firearms have a will of their own they imperil our natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Responsibly.

36 Responses to Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge of the Day: Flashlight Edition

  1. Involuntary manslaughter? I’d say negligent homicide. Manipulating the flashlight doesn’t make the gun fire. He clearly had his finger on the trigger – since that’s what DOES make the gun fire. Maybe he was stupid enough to put the pressure switch on the trigger? Who knows. But the fact is, he has to have pulled the trigger. Period.

  2. If the NRA wanted to put out a useful marketing campaign, they could start with dispelling this “guns just go off” meme.

  3. Pointing the weapon in a safe direction defeats the purpose of a weapon mounted light since it’s intended to provide target identification and location, it must there for be shined on someone before it’s decided if they are a threat. This isn’t inherently unsafe and it’s rather safer than the alternatives (no light shoot every silhouette or not shooting a potential threat). The problem here is just pure stupidity, finger on the trigger, loaded gun while trying out a new accessory, no muzzle control etc. This is just what happens with stupid people, they do stupid things and it’s often tragic or at least inconvenient for everyone else.

    That said, stupid ought to hurt, and this moron ought to be charged. I hope he loses enough in the civil suit that he can’t buy more arms or accessories. This sort of irresponsibility deserves a social ostrification if any ever did.

    • I personally believe a weapon mounted light to be secondary by it’s very nature. You should have a handheld light first.

      However a commenter pointed out the other day that in a darkened room pointing a gun light at the floor is enough to light up an entire room enough to see a target.

      • Having gone into some dark rooms with a weapon mounted light, the likelihood that you point it at innocents is nearly 100%. On the other hand, until illuminated, they could have been threats, and having the weapon on them during identification is crucial. It’s really ok to point the weapon at innocents, just don’t shoot them. If trigger discipline and shoot/no shoot control isn’t in ones repertories, there is a serious safety gap that isn’t solvable with the four rules. The rules were developed for sport shooting and hunting, general weapons handling. They don’t and can’t apply to tactical use of firearms. This subset though is a rare application and most of these rare uses are by professionals. Failure to understand that the 4 rules don’t apply when, for instance, clearing ones house for a potential intruder is suicidal. Of course you point the gun at anything that might be a threat. Just don’t shoot people you can identify as family members. Do shoot the person you don’t recognize if they don’t surrender immediately/when called upon to do so.

        The use of weapons as weapons, that is, against other humans, is much different than the rules for administrative handling or cleaning or skeet or a pistol range. If you really believe that the person in the next room is a likely threat (and if you don’t why are you pointing a gun around) then you need to cover them first and identify them second. Obviously, shooting them is third, but you need to be ready to do so instantly upon threat identification. I assure you that the BGs aren’t using the 4 rules, or if they are, pointing their gun at you still qualifies; they are willing to destroy you.

        You can muzzle a million people and never shoot anyone, these are not the same thing and there is no lasting harm to being muzzled. If you would use a firearm for HD/SD purposes but would not muzzle a person who isn’t obviously the threat, you’re at a severe tactical disadvantage. You don’t enter a room with your weapon in low ready, you enter it with your weapon at eye and chest level while scanning for threats. Failure to do so generally results in death when there really is an armed threat.

        I’ve heard a lot of BS about ‘safety’ when it comes to a gun fight. The reality is this; There is nothing safe about a gun fight! In many ways the least safe wins because they are quicker to shoot.

        If you’re really worried about safety, don’t mount a weapon light and don’t check out things that go bump in the night. If you are serious, mount a light, check things out and just don’t pull the trigger on friendlies. This isn’t rocket science or HS/LD tacticool stuff, it’s just basic gun handling. Don’t shoot unless you mean to and don’t handle you gun in such a way that you might shoot when you don’t mean to. Its as if once guns are mentioned everyone’s common sense evaporates. This stuff isn’t that hard.,

        • Ah, no. . . I do NOT think that it’s OK to point a gun at innocents to verify that they’re innocent. The rule is VERY strict: DO NOT ALLOW THE MUZZLE TO COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO DESTROY. It doesn’t say, “. . . unless you can’t really identify it first, in which case it’s perfectly OK to point the muzzle of a firearm at it to make sure you that you don’t want to destroy it.”

          Gun-mounted lights are convenient, but sometimes deadly, gimmicks; If you want a coaxial light source, learn the Harries Technique, or ‘Stacked Hands,’ or ‘Chapman,’ or ‘palm grip.’ ANYTHING is better than having just one light that forces you to point a gun at an object before properly identifying it. You can still have your gun-mounted light, but with a second, independent light, you at least have options. You might as well have a gun-mounted laser, fer crissake.

        • I agree with John. It isn’t that it’s actually safe to muzzle first, identify later. It’s that that’s a trade-off one can make in the name of speed, as Ardent himself concedes. Put another way, it may well be quicker to exit a vehicle if you’re not wearing a seatbelt, but that speed doesn’t retroactively make driving unbelted a safe option.

          I’m not even convinced that the four rules must necessarily go out the window in tactical situations. If I were clearing a building, I would appreciate it if my partners on the other side of the wall were aware of their target and what’s beyond it. Kinda cuts down on the whole friendly fire thing. Know what I mean, Vern?

          The rule to keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire is still valuable in tactical situations, too. Look closely at SWAT team pictures during entries and you’ll see many of them doing just that. Yes, there is that time saving trade off again between speed and safety, but there’s also the risk of negligent discharge. A finger on the trigger, or even across the trigger guard, as opposed to along the frame, is highly susceptible to involuntary contraction and trigger pulling should the shooter be spooked. That would sure suck if you’re one of the “million people” whom Ardent is content to muzzle without necessarily intending to shoot. Awww….but what’s the big deal? It’s a one in a million shot, right? Unless you’re that one, of course, then it’s pretty much one and done.

  4. Something seems odd here. The guy was shot in the head. I wonder if the genius was trying to pull a prank and instead pulled the trigger.

  5. “Keep your finger off the bang switch or your muzzle pointed in a safe direction (preferably both at the same time) and nothing bad can happen. ”

    Not completely true:

    • Sorry, but the genius with the weapon light wasn’t trying to diagnose a FTF. He was playing with his new light. He turned it on and pulled the trigger.

      • I never said he was, and I wasn’t addressing that. I was addressing the point the AUTHOR made, that as long you keep your finger off the trigger nothing bad can happen —- which the video shows is obviously not always true.

    • I would love to know what the thickness is, of that stainless steel back plate. I know the all mighty and powerful 25 ACP is not much for penetration, but the back plate was only a couple of feet away.

      I got to thinking when he said he was going to bring a bucket of sand next time, that maybe he ought to bring a roll of butt wipe also, just in case!

  6. NOTE: William Burke has been banned from posting on TTAG. Please note our posting policy: no flaming the website, its authors, fellow commentators or anyone, really. Email any comments about TTAG’s editorial stance or style to guntruth@me.com

  7. I still do not understand how switching on the light leads to a discharge?

    At least for the weapons lights I have, its an up/down motion, not a trigger pull motion. That said, I always use my none gun hand to turn on the light but that is just me. I have practiced using the trigger finger as well and I have never had a discharge.

    Really, I am confused as to how this happens.

    • I was perplexed as well Pascal until a friend in administration at an agency that banned a particular type of weapon light switch demonstrated to me how it can happen. First, as any responsible shooter knows, weapon lights should only be utilized in limited and narrow circumstances where pointing a firearm at a threat is justified, and should never ever never ever never ever be used for any circumstance that simply requires a flashlight. Switches such as the Streamlight TLR 1 and 2 Contoured Remote Pressure Switch ( http://www.cheaperthandirt.com/product/75513 ) have been banned by many law enforcement agencies as they should be. That type of remote switch is activated by pressing with the middle finger of the weapon hand which can easily cause a sympathetic reflex press of the trigger and unintentional discharge if the index finger is on the trigger or even just inside the trigger guard in a high stress adrenaline charged situation, therefore, all responsible agencies have banned that particular type of remote switch since the risk of negligent discharge is simply not worth the risk. A safe and proper method to activate a weapon light is with a thumb or finger on the reaction (support) hand while keeping the trigger finger firmly anchored (indexed) on the pistol outside the trigger guard.

  8. A buddy of mine, fellow soldier, and former Ohio State Patrol Academy Instructor was famous for the saying “keep your booger hook off the bang switch”

  9. This incident was negligence from the start, he was playing with his rifle after installing a weapon light. That started the cascading failures that led to discharging the rifle and fatally wounding his friend.
    1. Playing with his new tacticool light.
    2. Bolt in battery without safety on.
    3. Round chambered and charged.
    4. Finger on the trigger.
    5. Muzzle facing towards people.
    I have numerous firearms including several AR15 platform rifles, they never sit with rounds chambered or charged, even the mags are out of them, my mags stay loaded, but they’re never in the firearms unless I intend to fire them. I can’t preach enough about responsible behavior around any kind of firearm, this is the kind of story that feeds the anti gun crowd and we don’t need that, I don’t intend on loosing my 2nd amendment rights over someone’s poor judgement…

  10. Responsible gun owner.
    Take responsibility for your own safety.
    Take responsibility for your f’ ups.

    Responsibility is the root of the gun-grabbing libertyphobe mindset. In the “everybody gets a trophy”, “nobody loses” mindset, failure carries no penalty. If no one is allowed to defend themselves, then no one can be blamed for not trying. They’re so afraid of being judged that they establish rules to cripple the ability of others to succeed. When bad men hold a gun to your 17-year-old daughter and try to force their way into your house, there is no difference between the parents who refuse to prepare, and those who had their ability to prepare stripped away. It’s only the parents who rise up and perforate the would-be murdering rapists who stand out and shame cowards. That’s why they hate us.

  11. I saw a piece on a website not too long ago that described a pistol instructor using his rail mounted laser sight as a laser pointer in a class. That set a good example…

  12. I only run weapon lights on long guns, due to the obvious lack of a third hand, but there’s nothing wrong with lights on pistols.

    And, to all those people saying “don’t run a weapon light, so you don’t muzzle bystanders…”

    I say this in response, you don’t have to point the light directly at something to make use of the light. Point the weapon/light at the ground, point the weapon/light at the ceiling, or even the corner of the room…

    Any weapon light, or otherwise, over 100 lumens will provide enough area lighting in the dark to allow identification of people without directly pointing the light, and weapon by association, at them.

    • Without sarcasm, and without trying to ‘bait’ you, your advice is correct–and, of course, the technique you describe also perfectly paints YOU in a beautiful cloud of reflected light, making YOU a better, identifiable target. This is a trade-off with ALL weapon-mounted lights, and two-handed flashlight techniques using an independent flashlight coaxially. The EffBeeEye technique is designed to negate making the flashlight and you the same target.

      Sometimes, life, and gun-fighting, just isn’t fair. Sometimes, the best course of action is to turn the room lights on! (Gosh. Wish I’d thought of that. . .).

      • Being the GGs means sometimes you have to make hard choices… BGs can shoot indiscriminately and without concern.

        I would rather be shot by a BG because I had a light on my gun, then accidently shoot a loved one because I didn’t have a light to identify who was making the “bump in the night.” That’s my point of view.

        • Again, you are right in what you say, and I, too, have mounted lights on my AR and shotgun as one can’t do much with a hand-held flashlight when the normal allocation of hands (two) is occupied with the long gun. However, in nearly every circumstance, the area you really need to search has lights that can be turned on, negating much of the need for carrying a light with you. If the power has failed, which is a bit much of a coincidence, or your BG has shut it off, which isn’t likely, it’s nice to have your own light source. On the other hand, if you’re going to search an area that is without light, I think that you should be asking yourself, ‘why?’ Maybe you should let the BG, and maybe HIS light, come to you?

          I am NEVER, however, going to be placed in the position of shooting an innocent because I couldn’t identify them as such due to lack of light; If I can’t identify it, I’m not going to shoot at it.

  13. So Mr. Guessford walked into the occupied part of the apartment, points a loaded pistol at his roommate’s head, and pushed the wrong button. That’s what we are calling an accident these days? Mr. Guessford might just be a colossally negligent idiot, but some charges are probably appropriate for taking Mr. Brunson’s life.

  14. He shot his friend in the head and damned well should be facing charges.

    As for weapon mounted lights/lasers, it all comes down to trigger and muzzle discipline.

    Some things me and RF are in disagreement on, this BS “gun just went off” meme AIN”T one of them. Weapons don’t just “go off” for no reason, someone has to pull the trigger. Only exceptions are dropped/thrown against hard surface while a rd is chambered(exceedingly rare) and mechanical malfunction, which can be verified by a competent gunsmith(and again exceedingly rare).

  15. Oh, and no, I don’t currently have any mounted lights on my weapons. Had an off the shelf light for awhile, damned thing ate batteries and had to keep replacing bulbs so I ditched it. I have a belt carrier for light now, it pivots and holds securely. Point light forward and slightly down and it does a good job of lighting up a room or open area. Using a Tasco 3 setting LED light for a year now, no real complaints.

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