Cenrter-Lok Overhead gun rack (courtesy greatdayinc.com)

Yup, that’s the headline over at charlotte.cbslocal.com: “NC Teen Shot In Head By Rifle In Pickup.” Condolences. Now, who knew rifles drove around in pickups looking for Tar Heel teens to murder? It get worse. “Authorities say a 16-year-old boy has been killed after a rifle went off in a pickup truck [not shown] where he was a passenger.” Regular readers of this series will know our main point: guns don’t “go off.” They discharge negligently. I mean, someone is responsible for their negligent discharge. Someone transported a firearm in a loaded condition. Someone allowed the gun’s muzzle to point in an unsafe direction. Not this: “Investigators told local media outlets that Austin Hedrick’s father was driving the pickup truck late Friday night and his son was in the passenger seat when the rifle fired.” The way this story’s written, the rifle had been waiting for just such an opportunity . . .

Police say the father told them the rifle had been in the truck all day.

Authorities say they are still investigating the shooting and no charges have been filed.

Stories of negligent firearms discharges should not shy away from the truth about guns. “Accidents” are the direct result of negligence. Nothing more, nothing less. When you’re transporting a firearm in a vehicle, unload it and secure it properly. If you have to buy special equipment to do so, do so. That is all. Well, there is one more thing . . .

Whether or not charges should be filed against the person or persons responsible is an important question. One school of thought: those responsible have suffered enough. They will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives. The other perspective: punishment creates deterrence. What’s your take?

 

59 Responses to Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge of the Day: “NC Teen Shot In Head By Rifle In Pickup” Edition

    • I don’t understand this mentality that all guns must be always loaded, ready for action. Yes, a self-defense gun should be kept ready to go, but if you are transporting a hunting rifle in a gun rack, there’s no reason to do so with a round chambered and the safety off. In that safe state, the rifle is hardly “useless.”

    • David, you win my award for asinine statement of the day.
      Hunting guns should be unloaded until the user is actually hunting.

      • Unfortunately, and illegally almost everywhere, a good deal of “hunting” is done from the road. Often out the window.

        • In NC it’s legal to hunt from your vehicle as long as the passenger seat isn’t occupied, and the engine isn’t running.

        • Is it so wrong to shoot a deer that’s standing in the middle of the road? Hell, most of the time, I don’t even need the gun. Just turn on the lights, honk the horn, and the deer will jump in front of the truck to become instant venison burgers.

        • Nick, those are just suicidal deer. I don’t believe there are any laws on the book regarding “citizen assisted suicide?” Are there? 😛

    • I would argue this applies to firearms used for self defense and not hunting. I cant count the amount of horror stories Ive heard my entire life about things like this, guys climbing out of deerstands, over fences, stalking through brush, you name it. The common factors (other than hunting) were they had a long gun, a round chambered and no safety on. Thats before even bringing up the four rules.

      Its tragic beyond belief for those involved and events like this serve as a constant reminder of how I will teach my children some day. Best wishes to the family.

    • States such as mine (CO) allow for an unloaded (per CRS “empty chamber”) long gun in the vehicle for transportation. There is a reason for this. Transporting a loaded long gun (IE: round in the chamber) is just flat out dangerous. The statute doesn’t restrict a loaded magazine.

      On patrol, we keep our long guns in “cruiser ready” condition. This is defined as a loaded magazine with an empty chamber. Unlike most handguns, long guns are generally not “drop” (or for that matter “bump”) safe. There are typically not firing pin blocks in long guns, and unless you have a modified to a titanium (or similar) firing pin with a heavier firing pin spring, you can inertia fire the gun. Check out the primer of a .223 that has been chambered but not fired in an AR sometime. You will often see the little dimple of where the firing pin has made contact when closing the bolt.

      Since I have not yet clicked on the link to read the whole story (but considering RF didn’t post the reason on here), I’m assuming we don’t know what happened with this story. This very well could be an inertia fire incident, and that would be negligence by transporting with a loaded chamber.

      I personally don’t believe our (unloaded chamber) statute would constitute as an “infringement of rights” since I definitely don’t want to be a driver in a nearby vehicle that gets hit by your inertia-fired long gun.

      David, your statement is negligent in character, and I sure hope you don’t end up being a future “Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge of the Day” story!

    • And a dead son is a useless pile of decomposing flesh. Which would you rather have? I will take the useless firearm and keep the useful son.

    • Sorry to get you guys all worked up. I was merely responding to RF’s implication that it is a bad idea to transport a firearm in a loaded condition. But what does loaded mean? Does he mean with a round in the chamber? To me loaded means ammo in the gun but not necessarily in the chamber.
      Here in PA you can’t drive around with a loaded rifle. Would i if i could? No. I agree with you that that is a stupid idea.
      I do drive around with a loaded handgun every day. RFs statement implied all guns, not just hunting rifles, so i through my comment in there. Should have seen the S storm coming

      • David, thanks for following up and clarifying your point! My hope was that this was the case and you simply didn’t explain yourself in the original post.

  1. I have a feeling that the person who failed in his responsibility to unload the rifle has already been shot. Let’s leave it at that.

    • Possibly, but it very well may have been the father or even an unnamed third party. In the first two cases, the punishment is already much too severe for the crime and no further charges are needed.

      • If not charges (which do seem unnecessarily cruel), then publicity. Dad should be required to participate in a public service announcement acknowledging what happened and stressing, for example, the 4 rules. Public humiliation and regret, to affect others and their behavior, as opposed to jail time.

        • *this*

          No prison, gun rights permanently revoked, and “I was a dumbshit and killed my own kid” safety presentations for 20 years.

          If he’s not cool with the lecture circuit, 20 years state pen.

  2. This reminds me of the cop who put his hwndgun under the seat and his toddler in backseat got it, and shot him. A tragedy that needs no further discussion except to remind others to be safe.

    On the blood dancers of MDA and elsewhere, I have nothing to say, as to me they are below despicable, and deserve no further notice.

    • That story is BS, you don’t even have to think to see a suicide, covered up by “investigators” in order to allow the “accidental death” payout from the insurance company. “Cop”, “toddler”, “under seat”, real damn likely, right?

      • Except the incident he is talking about wasn’t a death, and he is paralyzed from the waste down. The bullet lodged in his spinal column. It was exactly as stated. He left his loaded G21 under the seat and his youngster got ahold of it. A true (negligent) tragedy that will affect him for the rest of his life. 🙁

  3. ” The other perspective: punishment creates deterrence. What’s your take?”

    My take is if the possibility of accidentally killing his own son was not reason enough to transport his firearms in a safe manner, then no law will further deter such negligence. Long prison sentences are effective deterrents only for those who would otherwise contemplate willful criminal activity.

    We should fill our prisons with those violent, amoral thugs who have a high likelihood of repeat offense, not people who kill their own family members through sheer stupidity.

    Besides, for all we know it could have been the son that put the gun in the truck and assured his father that it was unloaded.

    • That is true, but the deterrence spoken of was not related to the father already bereaved, but others who might learn from his incarceration. Nonetheless, I agree that would be ridiculous.

      • That’s what I thought to, for about half a second, until I remembered that losing one of my boys would always, forever be a much greater deterrent that any prison sentence.

  4. Obviously the rifle was not secured properly and safely. From my understanding most states do not allow rifles to be loaded while inside a vehicle. For example, here in Nevada it is perfectly fine to keep a loaded handgun anywhere in one’s vehicle, even out of sight and no CCW needed to do so, but all rifles and shotguns need to be unloaded.

  5. Just as you cannot fix it you also cannot deter stupid. The ability to deter requires a capacity to understand and learn. A state of stupidity exists in an understanding/learning vacuum therefore deterrence is not possible.

    It’s a fantasy to somehow believe that the threat of punishment will limit a behavior. Everyday people drive recklessly despite the threat of being wrapped around a tree. Everyday people stick-up and rob folks despite the threat of being shot in the face.

    Maybe if clearance rates were substantially higher than 30% (like upwards of 80-90% and highly publicized everywhere all day every day) that increased likelihood of facing said punishment may deter an action but as it stands the one-of rape, murder, robbery, assault, whatever is very unlikely to result in any punishment just as the everyday speeder is still unlikely to end up wrapped around a tree.

  6. I wonder what he told the police. I wonder what really happened. I wouldn’t bet those two things are the same.

    • The most rudementary investigation would highlight any inconsistencies so your wondering is pointless. Also what exactly are you suggesting happened that is more likely than an all to common hunting accident?

      • Guns don’t fire by themselves. Someone pulled the trigger with the gun pointed at the head of a human being. Could it have been an accident? Yes… I guess. Though it’s hard to imagine pointing the barrel of a rifle at your head and pulling the trigger within the confines of a vehicle and having that be an accident. Also could have been suicide or murder.

        But the gun didn’t magically go off… nor did it magically get aimed at someone’s head.

    • 2A rights permanently revoked, and give gun safety lectures for 20 years.

      That will have the best chance of doing some (albeit small) good.

  7. Simple solution: put rounds in the magazine and leave the bolt open, the weapon can be quickly employed while also being mechanically incapable of firing

    • Even better solution. Bolt closed and striker forward on an empty chamber.

      When I used to hunt with friends, the farmers were always wary of poor and lax gun handling by city slickers. Our safety standards were higher than the farmers by always insisting on empty chambers and clearing the firearms before returning to the car.

      Needless to say, we never had any problems with getting permission to shoot on those properties later on.

  8. A popular idea from my neck of the woods was a truck gun. People thought they were badapple rednecks if they kept a rifle in the back glass of their truck. I’m not saying any of this applies to this situation, but their is a strong culture of people out there who thinks it’s a totally good idea. If this idea persists stuff like this will keep happening.

    • I can’t see any problem with a truck gun, if it is placed in a secure rack, preferably in sight. I note that Sam Walton used to keep a 20-gauge quail gun in the rack of his red pickup, in case there was sport between the office and his home.

      A truck gun should never have a round in the chamber(s). It only takes seconds to chamber a round. Even in states that mandate an empty magazine as well, popping two in the magazine and racking the bolt takes very little time.

      Without more facts, investigation, commenting on the father and son seems inappropriate. However, the idea that a negligent homicide should bring no jail times strike me as absurd, though I have seen such a result more than a few times, essentially condoning some truly outrageous behavior amounting to wanton disregard for life of others, criminal negligence. The notion that “he’s suffered enough” or “he has to live with that for the rest of his life” strikes me as true in a sense, but empty, insufficient to dissuade others like him from carelessness. A jail sentence isn’t about him. It is about community effects, deterring.

  9. One school of thought: those responsible have suffered enough. They will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives. The other perspective: punishment creates deterrence. What’s your take?

    My opinion is that failing to properly secure a weapon, resulting in someone being killed by a negligent discharge, is criminally negligent manslaughter. There is no intent to kill, but if you took the precautions a reasonable person would have (or should have) no killing would have occurred. FindLaw indicates that the usual sentence for this crime at the federal level is 10 to 16 months in prison.

    I am not a law and order type; I generally range to the far end of limited government libertarian. For some reason, I feel pretty strongly on this one that it is a legitimate application of police force to imprison someone for negligence with firearms that results in a death. I agree they are probably already more hurt than anything the state can ever do by their own actions, but to me the symbolic element of “you committed a crime, therefore you go to prison” has meaning for society.

    That said, the matter of proving criminal negligence by the person responsible beyond a reasonable doubt seems like a very tall order to me.

    • In CO, our equivalent is Criminally Negligent Homicide (18-3-105). Manslaughter in our state constitutes recklessness. I don’t know enough about this incident, but most likely it would only be negligence. For our state, it is a Class 5 felony which is only punishable by 1-3 years in prison and a $1,000-100,000 fine. Since it would be unusual for federal charges in something like this, I think throwing him in prison is a waste. I prefer some of the other suggestions that have been listed on here, something like several thousand hours of community service teaching gun safety or something. It would be a powerful message and it would cost him time and money while hopefully saving a life.

      As for proving criminal negligence, if he is the responsible party for transporting with a loaded chamber, then I think it would be a 50/50 toss-up before a jury. Every hunter safety class teaches empty chamber, so there is a definite possibility of a conviction. My guess would be that it would plea with probation, community service, and possibly a fine, but each state and jurisdiction is different.

  10. Make the guilty pay! Fullest extent of the law!

    It’s possible that the deceased is the guilty party. If so, there’s nothing we can do about that. It seems unlikely one could accidentally kill themselves with a rifle, though. Not impossible, so don’t go posting examples, but unlikely.

    So we’re probably either talking about a negligent discharge by someone else, who should be prosecuted. Or we’re talking about a suicide, with a false police report and perhaps some insurance fraud mixed in. So prosecution could be in order there, too.

    I don’t like negligent discharges and I don’t like suicides with firearms. I especially dislike those stats being lumped into “gun violence” and used as ammunition to infringe my freedom. Make the guilty pay.

  11. Father and son out hunting decide to drive to a different location. Since they are driving on the ranch, and only going a mile or two, no need to unload. Dad is driving and Junior has the gun buts resting on the floorboard. Dad hits a bump causing one of the guns to bounce on the floorboard with enough force to cause firing pin to bounce against the primer.
    I can see it happening
    I hit a bump one time that bounced me out of the passenger seat of the Jeep.

  12. IF that picture is one of the actual rifles in the actual vehicle then there is very little chance the gun shot the kid without human intervention. That being said I think it is very negligent to carry around a hunting rifle loaded. Most likely the kid was shot when someone was handling the rifle in an unsafe manner. Probably at least 2 of the basic 3 rules were broken. The thing about the 3 basic rules is that you have to break more than one to shoot anyone. So, no matter how you slice it there was a gross safety error. And NO the gun did not shoot itself or aim itself at the kid that was shot. Nor did it pull it’s own trigger. I would bet a lot on that. It is very irresponsible of any news agency to report this incident in the way that they did. As if it was the gun’s fault. Ridiculous.

  13. Incidents like this remind me of one of my friends that has a concealed carry permit but has never taken a safety class or any other class. He says it is his “right” to be able to carry and he does not have the time for a class. To me that is an irresponsible and dangerous attitude. Maybe he has a right to keep a gun in his home. Even then he puts his family at risk without the proper training. But to carry a gun out into society without proper training is negligent IMO. Also puts him at risk if he ever needs to use his weapon. He may have NO idea the potential ramifications if he ever has to use it or what to do or say if he does to protect himself. But, it is his “right” so why should he worry about any of those issues?

    • Being responsible doesn’t come from a class.
      Plenty of people take driver’s Ed and cause accidents.
      Plenty of kids take sex Ed and get knocked up.
      Plenty of police graduate from the police academy and still…
      Plenty of doctors commit malpractice.
      Plenty of Presidents usurp the Constitution.

      Plenty of people that have never taken one single gun safety class have ever done anything stupid with a firearm. Mandates are a Liberal/Progressive belief. That doesn’t fly with me.

        • Because what he said is dumb. Do you really think cops and doctors with no training are a good idea? How about you come over and I preform some untrained surgery? Seems like something you two would be fine with.

      • But in every single one of those cases taking classes VASTLY reduces the odds of something bad happening. That has been proven over and over so many times I don’t know how you can even say what you are saying and think you are remotely right. I know you were trying to make it seem the other way, as if training isn’t important, but what you pointed out are very good examples of why people do need training on some things. Would you go to a “doctor” who never had any medical training? If so that is even more telling.

        And please don’t say mandates are only a liberal/progressive thing. Everyone does it, and saying so just makes you look painfully naive.

        • My point is that training may give you knowledge on any given subject for sure, however negligence is sill going to be negligence which doesn’t depend on the amount of training one has.
          I tell you what, here is your class. Pass this on to everyone in the world.
          DON’T BE A DUMB ASS!
          There. That should just about cover everything.

    • Have to agree with Michael here. You don’t need a class to be safe with a firearm. Some of us learn and study on our own. Is training a good Idea, yes. But should not be Mandated for carrying.

      Yes I carry without having had ‘training’. I do plan on it, but need some more funds first. However I follow the 4 rules, and have studied the laws of my state. pretty sure that will keep me in good shape for now.

  14. A guy I used to work with managed to shoot himself in the head with his hunting rifle once. Survived even thought he sustained a lot of damage.

  15. Headline: “Infant Killed by Locked Car Doors in Summer Heat”
    Do we not punish the parents or whomever left the baby in the car?
    It should be the same with gun negligence.

  16. Either he hit a big pot hole, the trigger had an extremely light pull weight, something made it’s way into the trigger guard, or any combination of these. The rifle was likely butt down behind the seat. I agree to some extent with the previous post that an unloaded gun is a useless gun, but a chambered round in an unsecured and condition one rifle is a tragedy waiting to happen. Another possibility is that this was one of the many Remmy 700s on recall for the now infamously flawed trigger design.

    Either way, this is a prime example for the rest of us to reevaluate our carry and transport protocols.

    I have had one ND in the many years that I have been a shooter, and it taught me volumes. I was in a rush (root problem) after work to get out to my stand after work to salvage as much daylight time as I could. I keep all of my bolt guns secured with trigger locks since they make poor home defense options. When I got home, I quickly dressed, grabbed my rifle, tossed it into my truck, and headed out to my spot. When I arrived I loaded the magazine (700 BDL) put a round in the chamber, pushed the bolt forward, and as I rotated it down, BOOM. Windows up, head in the truck, and in shock. When I realized what had happened, I forgot to remove the trigger lock as part of my prep routine. I was cursing myself for being an idiot, and thankful that I was in a 50 acre field of some of the densest woods in the southeast. In the driver side rear door, a barely noticeable entry, and on the body panel a VERY noticeable exit hole. I followed the trajectory and found the tree that my .308 went through, another, and a 3rd that finally stopped it. Thankfully the only victims in this were my truck, and my ego. Add the bonus of a permanent ring in my ears that serves as a constant reminder of the consequences of complacency.

    I never had the hole repaired. Anyone who asks about it gets the full unedited story. The ones that know me usually act surprised since I am very blunt and short with them about safety when I take them to the range. I let them know that this incident sealed the deal with me about safe practices and the four rules.

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