(courtesy witn.com)

Brannaird Riley’s next door neighbor is a Marine at Cherry Point MCAS, Lance Corporal Marianne Lee. Corporal Lee was packing her belongings for a move back to California when she “tried to make her 9mm pistol safe.” That’s how witn.com sets the stage for what you know is about to follow. But before we get to the ballistic denouement, I’d like to point out that unloading a gun isn’t a particularly intellectually challenging task. Assuming we’re talking about a semi-automatic pistol, you just point the gun in a safe direction, drop the mag, rack the slide, rack the slide again (why not?) and Bob’s your uncle. Oh, and keep your finger off the trigger. Hang on. It seems that Corporal Lee wasn’t making her gun safe after all . . .

They say Lance Corporal Marianne Lee’s gun fired while she was cleaning it, sending the bullet through a wall into Riley’s apartment. It ricocheted off a wall stud, through another wall and hit the man [in the arm].

The 47-year-old Riley was transported to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern for treatment.

After consulting with the district attorney, police said no charges would be brought against Lee.

So the Marine was cleaning her gun prior to the negligent discharge – presumably without “making it safe” first. As for that ricochet, wow! Who could have seen that one coming?

Um, anyone? Bullets have this tendency to go through things. So when you’re unloading your gun, you have to think about the bullet’s potential travel direction. And you know that moment right before you pull the trigger to remove the slide on some guns? That’s an excellent time to check the gun (again) AND think about bullet travel.

As we’ve pointed out before, sometimes there isn’t a safe direction at which you can point your gun. In that case, the corner of your structure – where there’s lots of metal bits to impede the bullet’s progress – may be your best bet.

Lance Corporal Marianne Lee lucked out. She could have killed her neighbor. Or faced appropriate disciplinary action for her irresponsible gun handling, from the local police or the Marines. Or had her face plastered over the evening news. Nope. She skates. But not from TTAG’s opprobrium. And thanks to WITN we know exactly where to send her IGOTD hardware.

82 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Lance Corporal Marianne Lee

  1. If she’s a Lance Corproal she is NOT referred to as Corporal. Stupid boot, is fitting in this case, but definitely not Corporal.

    • True dat… I have seen 3 Lance Corporals comparing dates of rank to determine who is in charge! As far as the “every Marine a rifleman” bit, in 30 years of service, I have seen few aviation Marines I would feel comfortable being around with loaded weapons, particularly females…

  2. Maybe the police won’t file any charges, but you can bet your bippy she’s gonna hear about from her CO.

    • “you can bet your bippy she’s gonna hear about from her CO.”

      Curious – What’s a typical response a C.O. does to a troop who pulls a bonehead stunt like that?

      • Well, my platoon once had a ND, and the responsible soldier was fired and sent to work in the S-shops. In this case, it’s a woman, so no pushups, no Article 15, and she already probably works in the S-shops.

      • This happened in my unit when I was stationed at Cherry Point about 2 years ago. A Staff Sgt. “accidently” fired his gone when cleaning it and the bullet traveled straight up into the neighbors apartment destroying some water pipe. He didnt hit anyone or anything but he had to stand in front of the companies and tell everyone his dumb ass story and how you have to be safe blah blah blah. After that he was the duty SDO with the restriction Marines for a couple months.

    • I know there are at least some models (I believe the XDm is one of them) where you can remove the slide while loaded.

        • You have to clean the chamber first while empty, then reload and clean the rest of the gun. At least I think that’s how they must be doing it. Either that or they’re loading a patch, the pushing it out by firing a round behind it.

        • The XDm does NOT have that rather stupid “feature” where one has to pull the trigger to disassemble the gun. The XDm just has the disassembly lever…no triggering required. It’s astonishing that Glock (and S&W?) require this. It’s counter-intuitive and certainly counter productive to teach people such a thing.

      • I’ve never thought about this, but in retrospect, you can remove the slide on nearly ANY semi-auto pistol without actually clearing the chamber. The exceptions would be those that require the trigger be pulled first. Plus, you can disassemble almost any pump-action shotgun without clearing the chamber. The trick is to not pull the trigger or trip the sear. . .

        In fact, you could completely disassemble and reassemble a 1911 with a chambered round if you were careful, because the only time you release the hammer is when the slide is already off and you are removing the mainspring housing. As the barrel would already be out of the slide before you manually depressed the firing-pin to extract the retainer plate, that, too, would be relatively safe.

        THAT’s scary!

        I admit, I’ve had to partially disassemble loaded firearms to get a stuck live round out of a chamber, but that entails an abundance of caution and blocking or removing the hammer/firing assembly if possible. Taking one completely apart while loaded just never occurred to me.

        I hate it when I think of things. . .

        • And that’s one more reason I love my Ruger SR9C, mag has to be removed and the slide gets pulled back during the disassembling process, so it forces you to keep it empty while disassembling, and trigger pulling isn’t involved at all. Dummy proof. Unless there’s someone worse than a dummy?

        • Point of contention…………..

          The only way you could disassemble a 1911 with a loaded chamber is if the extractor was broken or non-functioning, as the slide must be retracted to allow the slide stop to be removed from the barrel link/frame. This will in turn allow the slide/barrel assembly to be removed from the frame.

      • You have to lock back the slide on an XD/m before you can rotate the disassembly lever so you will automatically eject chambered round. I don’t see how you could chamber a round even if you were stupid enough to forget to drop magazine because the physical act of removing the slide will not scoop a round from the magazine. If you have one go play with a snap cap to how difficult it would be to even get the pistol configured in a way that chambers a round when you are field stripping it.

    • If this was an M9, it can’t ‘accidentally go off while cleaning’ without a huge shitstack of negligence.

    • Speaking as one who cleans guns professionally, it is clear to me that there’s lots of “official excuse making” going on in some of these “…was cleaning it when it ‘went off’…” conclusions.

      When I was a kid, lots of suicides would be written up by the cops as “…appeared to be cleaning his gun when it went off, striking him in the head…”

      OK, I get the point – the cops are trying to do the widow a favor, make it look like an accident rather than a suicide (so the life insurance pays out), but let’s be adults here: how many people who aren’t gunsmiths spend lots of time looking down/at muzzles when cleaning guns, hmmm? And because I do spend lots of time looking down/at barrels, you can bet your buttocks (both of them) that there is no ammo in the work area when I’m doing this.

      There are some guns and some situations where you could, hypothetically, be honestly “cleaning” a gun and “have it go off,” but they’re absurdly academic situations. Occam’s Razor leads us to more correct solutions to the issue, and that comes down to this: She was doing something stupid with her sidearm, finger, trigger, bang. She’s a Marine. Marines train people how to handle weapons, including sidearms. By the time she’s a LCPL, she’s had plenty of training on how to safe a weapon.

      • Most Marines are not trained on the M9, and after MCT the only time an air winger is going to handle an issued firearm is an M16 once a year for marksmanship qual.

      • The whole point to the hopefully-mental exercise of trying to disassemble or ‘clean’ a semi-auto handgun that has a round in the chamber, or still has a seated loaded magazine, is to point out that you really, truly, have to be intentionally, wilfully negligent to set up the chain of events that result in a negligent discharge. Unless one just throws caution to the winds, and disregards every notion of safety and proper gun-handling, a negligent discharge is actually rather difficult to induce–you have to work at it. To get someone hurt or killed as a result of an ND is adding another entire level of negligence to the original series of negligent acts.
        If one is wilfully, intentionally negligent, then seeing a live round in a chamber when one draws the slide back just enough to remove a slide release device may just not be enough to ‘trigger’ the proper horrified response and the realization that one has been wilfully, intentionally negligent.
        Those that DO have NDs while ‘cleaning their gun’ are not ‘accidentally’ pulling the trigger on loaded chambers; They are intentionally leaving a round in the chamber, and intentionally pulling the trigger, and intentionally pointing the gun in the ‘wrong’ direction. It’s no accident.

  3. Was that a perfect safe action Austrian you know what? How hard could it be to NOT shoot someone? And why does the military get a pass? What does she think she is-a cop?

  4. Definitely BS. She wasn’t cleaning the weapon. She learned well from politicians these days; Americans will buy any excuse so you might as well lie.

  5. Point of fact, there AREN’T lots of bits of metal in a structure’s corner, at least in wood frame houses. There are, however, additional studs there that might impede a bullet’s path. Responsible gun ownership might include an awareness of how your domicile is constructed and the proximity of your neighbors in order to determine the best direction to point a firearm when attempting to unload it.

    • Or, if there’s no safe direction, rather than figuring out the best part of your house to shoot, get a bucket of sand from Home Depot. Unless you’re clearing a .50 BMG, most rounds won’t travel through sand further than six inches or so.

        • So far I’m batting 1,000 using this strategy and think that I’ll probably shuffle off this mortal coil with that record intact.

          It’s not that hard and even cheaper than a bucket of sand.

          It is, in my experience, possible to always know the loaded / unloaded state of your weapon when pulling the trigger…

        • Well, yes, ideally. But everybody is capable of doing something stupid when distracted, or becoming complacent. I’m a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy, and the human brain is not always the most reliable safety device.

      • Clearing a weapon:

        1) Remove source of ammunition

        2) Charge 3 times

        3) Reconfirm no source of ammunition present

        4) Observe Chamber – No ammo, Chamber Clear

        That isn’t the Army standard. That is the way I taught my guys to clear EVERYTHING.

        Why? Even with an M2 or Mk19 the third “charge the weapon” step will cause a weapon with ammo present to discharge a round (for both the M2 and the Mk19, as well as the Bushmaster on a Bradley, you have to charge the weapon twice to chamber). Result – none of my guys ever shot a clearing barrel.

        If the observe chamber step seems redundant – extractors break.

  6. The two loudest sounds in the world.

    A click when you want to hear a boom.
    A boom when you want to hear a click.

  7. In law enforcement circles “injured while cleaning a sidearm” was often a euphemism for attempted suicide.

    –Just sayin’

  8. I’ve got an old military flack vest leaned up against a pile of phone books in my shop. There’s a concrete wall behind that. That’s where I point my guns when clearing, getting ready to clean, and when checking trigger jobs.

  9. Why is a finger on a trigger? I thought you only put your finger on a trigger when you are ready to shoot, hmmmm. Some will never learn, hope she is not a driver of a motor vehicle. Better stay off the road she maybe texting? Let’s be careful out there.

    • “Why is a finger on a trigger? I thought you only put your finger on a trigger when you are ready to shoot,”

      Some guns you pull the bang-switch to remove the slide.

    • I assume you meant to say “wook” instead of “work”? And if so you’re probably right, I wonder if there’s data on that.. I’m gonna check.

  10. As to the “safe direction” and “metal bits,” I once had an instructor suggest keeping a stack of phone books in your cleaning area. Pulling the trigger with the barrel pointing into the stack gives a fairly safe direction. With phone books a thing of the past, I suggest stack of newspapers, since shooting at all the BS in the media has the added advantage of stress relief.

  11. You know, one of the reasons the military and police seem to “get away” with NDs is because they’re a nationally and federally recognized (and funded) organization.

    Armed citizens don’t have a Civilian Militia or any organization that is recognized with protections even remotely similar to the police or military….

    COP. Citizen on Patrol. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to stand for? And yet, may officers tend to think they are above the same scrutiny they provide “average” citizens.

    Well I think a citizen is a citizen, and all are equal (or should be) in the eyes of the law. Maybe the pro-2A organizations in the US should rally together and start an official Militia that affords us some of the same protections the people in uniform enjoy. With as many people that lawfully carry and with the 2A being prolific in the news (not to mention a lot of victories for 2A lately), we could benefit from some form of federal or national recognition. Similar to how there is a National Guard, why isn’t there a National Militia?

    In TX we have a great organization called Texas Law Shield, that provides expert legal services in the event of a DGU all for the price of a reasonable monthly fee. That’s the sort of warm fuzzy I think should be available at a national level for all armed citizens. It’s not like armed citizens perform a positive service to the country if you look at dropping crime rates and all the DGUs, right?

    Maybe it’s about time armed citizens get some benefits and recognition for being the first responders we are. Granted the only problem with an organization like this is well … regulation.

    • TLS is awesome and we are members in our household. In addition to the civil and criminal representation, there’s also the ongoing education. Be sure to read their email updates on major court rulings and verdicts, plus attend their annual legal overview presentations (especially when new Texas laws take effect).

      A couple of things to keep in mind, though, are some limitations of the service. It strictly covers DGU’s only, not negligent discharges/displays of the firearm, nor carrying in prohibited places. Also, they won’t represent you against another client of theirs. Sooo…..if a couple has a couples membership and things turn violent, they cannot represent either one of you because you’re both members.

    • …one of the reasons the military and police seem to “get away” with NDs is because they’re a nationally and federally recognized (and funded) organization.

      So are the Boy Scouts. But they have adult leadership.

    • You know, one of the reasons the military and police seem to “get away” with NDs is because they’re a nationally and federally recognized (and funded) organization.

      Marines don’t “get away” with ND’s, I know guys who’ve been reprimanded for ND’ing blanks on a hike. But since she’s a wook she’ll probably get off relatively light, the whole “every Marine a rifleman” is about as bogus as gun control.

  12. And a Marine too. Probably an unq. Aka second chance pizza box. The very least shes not in the infantry. Every marine a rifleman my ass.

    • I was thinking about that saying as well. Apparently “Every Marine a rifleman” only covers rifles and not pistols, at least in this LC’s case ; )

  13. Her commanding officer will deal with her, to be sure. I’m not sure why the civil police are giving her a pass. I wouldn’t.

  14. I always point my guns at my bed when unloading them. I’ve had an ND before, and it went into the bed and stopped at the floor. It was 7.62×39. Seemed to work pretty well.

    • “I always point my guns at my bed when unloading them.”

      Hmm. That could be good method for an _instant_ divorce…

  15. “I was cleaning it and it went off” is to negligent firearm discharges what “I slipped in the shower” is to foreign objects in delicate places.

  16. I’ve seen people recommend keeping a bucket full of sand specifically to point their guns when decocking/disassembling.

  17. I know this is over the top for many gun pros, but there have been too many ND’s while “cleaning a firearm”. We all know somehow a booger catcher got to the trigger.

    Recommendation: If you are going to clean your firearm, get a 5 gallon plastic bucket, fill it with about 40 lbs of sand. Clear the firearm by pointing it straight into the bucket, drop the magazine, rack the slide twice, lock back the slide and look in the chamber for a bullet, after that you’re good to go if there is no bullet in the chamber. Oh, and pick up the bullet that was in the chamber.

    We’ve all made mistakes, this process covers us for the 1 in 10,000 times when we screw up. Also, we have a decent chance of no one knowing if we foul up.

    What was that loud noise you ask? Just a 2×4 snapping.

    As a codicil to this, ask anyone who has ever reloaded if they have made a mistake in reloading. . . . and yes, I can verify that squibs are not as powerful as a cartridge properly loaded. So mistakes do happen, just plan for the mistake.

    My neighbor once asked me why the bucket of sand in the garage. I told him it was for ice in the driveway. We live in the south.

    She should not have been given a pass by civilian authorities. From now on, only allow her to use a Nerf gun.

  18. Speaking of NDs. Accidents happen. Short of injuring someone else, let’s say you’re responsible enough to create a safe backstop that you use every time you’re unloading your weapon. Let’s say you have an ND or perhaps a technical malfunction that results in an AD.

    Do you think that the penalty should be the forfeit of firearm ownership as some are suggesting? Unless someone is injured or killed or it was intentional or gross negligence (ie. trying to dryfire but obviously not being responsible), I’m thinking the penalties being suggested (ie. confiscation) are a bit stiff… and I’m sure the people assigning the penalties would change their tune if they find themselves the ones facing those same penalties….

    I’ve never had an ND or AD yet, and hope it never happens. In the meantime I point my firearm at a bulletproof soft panel in my EDC pack when I’m unloading it.

    I think the penalties should be in context. Proximity to neighbors, using a safe backstop, etc. all should play a role in determining what safety measures you were taking when the malfunction or ND occurred. I would think the person that aims their firearm at their neighbor’s wall that has an ND should face a more severe punishment than the person that has an ND but has taken all necessary precautions to control and mitigate the damage their errant round could cause.

  19. I’d have to say that someone does not know how to properly operate a pistol. You’d have to be a blithering idiot to not understand a revolver, and semi-autos are not too difficult either. This article pointed out the basic steps, and if they can’t be followed or are not understood, don’t touch firearms.

  20. In the case of no safe direction, there is always the ground.
    If on the bottom floor of a house, point at ground before handling.
    If at second/top floor, point upwards.
    Most people won’t be unloading handguns in a skyscraper so I don’t see how this rule is hard to follow.

    • You don’t need to be in a skyscraper to have a potential issue. There are plenty of relatively short apartment/condo buildings (e.g. 3-4 stories) that have units both above and below them.

  21. Was a cleaning rod found at the scene?
    I would imagine that cleaning rod would make quite a serious wound!

  22. When I hear “it went off while I was cleaning it” I think Bullshit! Before you start you make sure the chamber is clear. Hard to use a cleaning rod with a cartridge in the way.

    Ignorance is curable. Stupidity isn’t. Except where alcohol is involved.

  23. I know it’s well intentioned, but saying pointing your gun at the corner of your house during cleaning is ‘your best bet’ doesn’t seem like good advice with me. Anything to do with firearms should never be a betting game. If you’re not 100% sure about being in a safe place to clean it, you’re just going to have to clean it some other time or place.

    Please consider editing this advice.

  24. So let me make sure I understand this correctly …

    The person who didn’t hurt anyone but dares walk around with a handgun to defend herself (the PA mom who is being prosecuted by NJ) faces the full force of the criminal justice system.

    Meanwhile, the person who actually did physically hurt someone by mishandling their firearm gets ignored by the criminal justice system?

    Something seems very wrong here.

  25. So after LCPL, sorry PFC Lee…..make that….Private Lee shot some dude, she probably realized…..dumb boots make dumb mistakes. I can only hope she was Cpl select, because the thought of her dropping a few pay grades from the rank she THOUGHT she would be only makes this tale of woe funnier. Dumb wook probably didn’t drop the mag and “cleared” the pistol by racking a round out, thereby chambering another round. For the record, I’d like to point out that Cherry Point is all airwing, and not really representative of the USMC in general. Further, Lee was probably some admin 01XX MOS, which further means she shouldn’t be judged by her actions. She should simply have her pay reduced by 1/2 for 60 days, and her rank reduced to E-1. Dumbass Boot!

  26. At any rate, she will not be a career Marine after this. If she had a weener, her chain of command would have put it on the red curb outside the battalion office and had the battalion CO stomp on it as hard as he could. Rightfully so, I might add. Instead she’ll probably face some form of charges under the UCMJ, and get busted down. They cynic in me thinks that if she was in long enough to receive orders to a new duty station, she was already either a special case. Normally you won’t get orders to somewhere else unless you reenlist. Ah well.Good night Chesty Puller, wherever you are!

  27. So, alternative defense. My father (former 82nd ABN) negligently discharged a shotgun out a window a couple years back as he was going to clean it. Thanks to some serious neglect, the extractor was frozen. He racked the slide until it stopped spitting rounds and racked it again. It failed to remove the final shell from the chamber and so, when he pulled the trigger to released tension on the striker and unlock the slide, BANG.

    This is why I physically put my finger in to the chamber to endure it is empty. Seen many people just assume if nothing came out when the slide was racked, then everything is clear.

    While LCPL Lee deserves the IGOTD, if she had a striker fired semi-auto and was going to clean it, and she dropped the magazine, racked the slide a couple times (but had a frozen extractor), and then pulled the trigger (as you typically do to let the slide loose), instead of click, she would have gotten BANG.

  28. I’m still kind of amazed that some of you are honestly advocating a bucket of sand be kept around to “unload” your fire-arms!

    Really?

    How about you just learn how to do it correctly. I unload my gun by dropping the mag and then racking the slide to safely throw the loaded round out onto the bed or couch (don’t wanna ding up the case of an expensive hollow-point by letting it hit the floor!). No bucket of sand required because I don’t need to FIRE the gun to unload it!

    Come on people if you can’t trust yourself to safely unload your sidearm then you should rethink your gun ownership. Geez…reminds me a little of the guys that won’t carry with a round in the chamber.

  29. This is a good example of why only the military and police should be allowed to have guns. This took a lot of intense training and responsibility to reach this level of proficiency with a firearm.

  30. Disgusted. Marines are taught from day 1 about weapons safety. She shouldn’t be allowed to touch a weapon again in the Corps. First thing I ever do upon picking up a weapon is check the condition while pointing Ina safe direction. She is a disgrace to the Corps

  31. This is the first incident I have ever heard of an ND from a Marine. I was active duty myself. The punishment this Lance Corporal probably received after blowing the embarrassing the MArine Corps in TTAG must be catastrophic.

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