Question of the Day: Should Chance Gallant’s Shooter Be Prosecuted?

I’ve been railing against mainstream media reports of firearms “going off” for years. Guns don’t just “go off.” They don’t magically discharge on their own. If a gun fires just because it was knocked or dropped, any damage, injury or fatality is still the gun owner’s responsibility.

Here’s a typical evasion of same via bangoredailynews.com‘s Man accidentally shot to death in Baldwin was ‘great advocate for guns’ . . .

A mother and father are heartbroken, after losing their 20-year-old son in what appears to be an accidental shooting. It happened Sunday in Baldwin [Maine] . . .

Six friends were target practicing in a sand pit Sunday afternoon when one of the guns jammed. Investigators say as two men tried to fix the gun, it went off.

The sand pit is a popular place for gun enthusiasts like Chance Gallant and his friends to target practice. Chance’s parents say investigators told them their son walked around a pickup truck to see if he could help fix the jammed gun, when it fired hitting Chance in the chest. Immediately two of his friends, who are firefighters, tried to save him . . .

Chance’s father says his son and his friends practiced gun safety and just made a mistake.

“He was a great advocate for guns,” Schoolcraft said. “He loved them. There wasn’t anything he didn’t know about them.”

My condolences to Mr. Gallant’s family and friends.

I understand why investigators have ruled this incident an accident. Although it was clearly a negligent discharge, from the report, it seems purely unintentional. I also get why the DA decided not to press charges against the shooter. And I respect the motivation behind Mrs. Gallant’s declaration “We don’t hold anyone responsible.”

That’s an admirably forgiving and generous position for Chance’s mother to take. But someone was responsible. Regardless of the gun’s condition before the discharge, someone broke the Four Rules of Gun Safety. Someone pointed that firearm in an unsafe direction. And Chance Gallant paid for it with his life.

The Bangor Daily News chose not to report the responsible party’s name, though it’s no doubt in the police report. And he/she apparently won’t be charged. The local prosecutor is likely taking the “(s)he’s suffered enough” position in an unquestionably tragic incident.

But it seems to be a clear-cut case of manslaughter if ever there was one.

So we’ll leave it up to the collective wisdom of the Armed Intelligentsia. Should whomever was holding the gun that killed Chance Gallant be prosecuted?

comments

  1. avatar Gregolas says:

    It sounds to me that his friends may have had the gun pointed in a safe direction, but when he came around the pickup, the victim walked into line with the muzzle.

    1. avatar Tile floor says:

      Yeah I’d have to see a diagram of what all the locations were until I could decide, but initially at least I agree.

      That being said, The gun still discharged. There were two of them struggling to fix it. If you don’t know how to fix a malfunction, call someone who does or take it to a gunsmith. Most malfunctions are easy enough to repair, but even the tougher jobs don’t need a finger on the trigger.

      1. avatar Chris. says:

        There’s the possibility of Hang-fire in that situation too though. Perhaps no finger was on the trigger at the time. (although obviously there was at some point).

      2. avatar jwm says:

        There are guns, like the SKS, where it’s possible to get a slam fire without your finger being on the trigger. I managed it with a cheap european .25 auto back in the day. Firing pin would jam in the forward position and just chambering a round could cause it to fire.

        I have no stats on this situation but I have seen it and heard of it.

    2. avatar Nyglockowner says:

      They should have been clearing the gun on the firing line with the muzzle pointed down range.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Like many rural folks they’re at a place in the wilderness to shoot. For all you know they might have had it ‘down-range’ when the victim walked around and put himself ‘down-range.’

        Maybe, maybe not… but that’s what the article makes it sound like.

  2. avatar Some Random Dave says:

    With all due respect, and with no intent of victim-blaming, it appears the young man may have placed himself in the line of fire, however inadvertently:
    “…their son walked around a pickup truck to see if he could help fix the jammed gun”
    If anything, this points to both parties not having adequate situational awareness (it’s not just for DGUs).

    1. avatar PeterK says:

      Not really victim blaming in my mind. Just people trying to learn and spread lessons from sucky situations.

      One should be VERY careful around “jammed” guns and make sure the safety rules are even more closely followed.

      It really does take very little to have a bad accident. With guns or otherwise.

      1. avatar Militant Centrist says:

        I learned my lesson about malfunctioning guns when my buddy and I were shooting a busted .22 LR Luger replica. Failure to fire, failure to load, unreliable safety lever. At one point I was convinced the pistol was empty, my friend picked it up, said “Oh yeah?” and shot a live round downrange.

        In theory good muzzle discipline should save you every time (as it did for us), but it was still a very spooky feeling not even knowing whether a round was chambered moment to moment. It just makes it that much easier to make a mistake.

        Morals: A malfunctioning gun is an unsafe gun; leave it in the safe until a qualified gunsmith repairs it.

  3. avatar Shire-man says:

    Probably not. Could have been pointed in what was considered a “safe” direction before he strolled through.
    Either way it doesn’t sound like they were being wantonly reckless and there is nothing to gain from prosecution.

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    “Should whomever was holding the gun that killed Chance Gallant be prosecuted?”

    No. Period.

    “But someone was responsible.”

    Yes, but that doesn’t mean that someone needs to go to jail. Should every fatal accident result in criminal charges? God help us if they do.

    There is such a thing as a “civil action.” If the deceased’s family and estate chooses to to sue, it’s not up to us to challenge that decision.

    “If a gun fires just because it was knocked or dropped, any damage, injury or fatality is still the gun owner’s responsibility.”

    That was Remington’s position. And Remington justifiably and predictably lost.

    Don’t be so quick to condemn. There but for the grace of god . . . .

    1. avatar doesky2 says:

      Agreed unless it was reckless endangerment and it doesn’t sound like it was.

      How is this accidental death by gun any different than 10’s of thousands of vehicular deaths which occur each year and is usually the result of somebody F’n up? (I’m obviously not putting drunk driving in that category)

  5. avatar strych9 says:

    I’m of two minds in these kind of cases.

    On the one hand safe handling is a thing.

    OTOH, safety is everyone’s responsibility. Whether we’re talking guns, vehicles, machinery or forklifts I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen safe operation become unsafe because someone, not paying enough attention or ignorant of the danger, walked into the “danger zone” when the person operating the vehicle or tool couldn’t see them do it.

    For example, if someone with their nose in their phone steps out into a street and gets run over while it’s legally the driver’s “fault” the person who got hit put themselves in the position to get hit.

    I don’t know what happened with this situation but I’ve seen a lot of “knowledgeable” gun people walk down range in unsafe ways and I’ve seen them basically muzzle themselves by walking through a place they should bloody well know better. Yes, unsafe handling happens when morons abound but a good chunk of safety is on YOU understanding where you can safely be and where you can’t safely be. Misjudgements on this topic may cost you your life, so be careful.

  6. avatar Seth Hill says:

    I agree with the previous 2 posters. The gun owner was most likely concentrating on the gun, while it sounds like maintaining the direction of downrange, and didn’t notice that the victim was the one violating the rules of safety when the gun discharged. THAT would explain why no charges were brought against the gun owner, nor should there be.

  7. avatar pwrserge says:

    This is why it makes sense to wear armor when plinking. I’ve already caught one .45 ACP to the chest due to an idiot deciding that pointing his gun sideways while trying to clear a jam was a good idea. As someone who’s been hit with bullets three times in his lifetime, (Two ricochets and the incident above.) I’m very weary of crowded ranges open to the public.

    On to the original question… manslaughter requires reckless disregard, not temporary inattention. While tragic, it seems like everyone involved was trying to do the right thing, the victim just managed to walk into the line of fire.

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      The more I think about it the more I think you’re right. Bullets sometimes come back from a poorly built/maintained or damaged backstop. That’s how I shot a guy in the chest.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        I’ll remember that the next time I shoot a guy in the chest. 😉

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          I’ve posted about that incident before and called out the range by name.

          I’ll never go there again… And I’m guessing that the guy who caught my bullet won’t either. Pretty sure he needed new shorts after that little SNAFU.

    2. avatar PeterK says:

      Weary or wary? Not trying to be pedantic. Probably close enough in meaning that I shouldn’t have brought it up, but honestly curious.

      That is terrifying. 🙁

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Both. Stupidity is exhausting.

  8. avatar Jim B says:

    “Guns don’t just “go off.” They don’t magically discharge on their own. If a gun fires just because it was knocked or dropped, any damage, injury or fatality is still the gun owner’s responsibility.”

    Really? Is it the owner’s fault when a Remington Model 700 goes off when the safety is disengaged? Yeah, I know, it never happens. The trouble is I know people that it did in fact happen to and the documented evidence of this is well known. It doesn’t happen on any other rifle I know about. I guess the media is just picking on Remington, huh? Of course the gun press comes to Remington’s defense calling it anti-gun propaganda. What BS.

    Some guns do just go off despite what you say.

    1. avatar Koolhed says:

      Never had a REM 700 A.D., but my Rem 600 sure did. I let a friend shoot it a few times. He liked it and had just filled the chamber to fire again. Closed the bolt and BOOM! Missed hitting me in the back by about three feet. Probably was the best teaching tool imaginable. Kind of like electric shock is a good teacher, too.

      1. avatar Jim B says:

        Your Remington 600 is part of the recall and Remington will fix it for free thanks to the people that persisted in court and those that were injured and died because of the faulty Remington Walker trigger which Remington knew about for years and failed to correct. The shooting press was of no help and blamed the victims staying firmly on the side of one of their largest advertisers and even turning it into an anti/pro gun question which it wasn’t. It was a safety issue and a product liability issue. I will never buy another Remington product again. They were nothing but scum buzzards on this whole thing blaming the victims and lying to the public with a slick video.

        The real heroes were the Montana couple who refused to settle out of court. Most did and Remington would claim that they had never been found at fault in court. Scum! If you remember the incident the woman was taking the safety off in order to unload the rifle. She had it pointing at their horse trailer. Unfortunately her X-ray vision wasn’t working so she didn’t see that her son had walked behind the trailer. The rifle discharged killing her son. Of course the pathetic gun writers said it was her fault for pointing the rifle in an unsafe direction. I mean how much did Remington pay these jerks? The jury thought differently.

        http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/son-s-death-prompts-family-to-dig-into-remington/article_f1d93683-b31b-5125-a6ef-ad5c4b3751ed.html

        “Is my gun affected?
        Most likely, if you own any of these Remington firearms: Model 700, Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, 721, 722, and 725 rifles, or the XP-100 bolt-action pistol.”

        https://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/08/want-your-remington-gun-fixed-heres-what-you-need-to-know.html

        http://settlement.repair.remington.com/

  9. avatar Jay says:

    “If a gun fires just because it was knocked or dropped, any damage, injury or fatality is still the gun owner’s responsibility.”

    Newer manufactured guns have drop safety mechanisms built in. If a newer gun drops and fires it is the manufactures responsibility for their defective product.

  10. avatar rt66paul says:

    Sometimes an accident is just an accident. If there was no horseplay or alcohol involved, why ruin another person’s life?
    I am sure that this will haunt him the rest of his life, so why make it worse? We have people in prison these days because of overzealous prosecuters, and others that actually had malice in mind that get out of it. There are accidents where blame is not an actual offense.

  11. avatar BC says:

    Well, do you view laws as designed to deter, punish or rehabilitate?

    I don’t think the parties involved intended for any injury or death to occur, so they wouldn’t be deterred by the law. They had no intention of breaking any laws.

    So do they need to be punished or rehabilitated? Again, I doubt there was any criminal intent, so what is there to rehabilitate? As for punishment, what does it accomplish? Are they a threat to society that needs to be removed? Is sending someone to jail going to prevent them from doing the same thing again?

    To me, this is an unfortunate incident, but nothing about it seems criminal. Sure, we are a nation of laws, but not everything that happens has to have legal consequences.

  12. avatar Ragnarredbeard says:

    “Someone pointed that firearm in an unsafe direction.”

    Or, it was pointed in a safe direction and Chance walked around the pickup truck and effectively muzzled himself. Why does its have to be the fault of the guys holding the rifle and trying to fix it?

  13. avatar Adub says:

    I would not charge the people handling the gun without more information, but it serves as a good lesson to keep a gun pointed downrange or towards the ground when attempting to fix it.

  14. avatar former water walker says:

    I’m with Ralph on this one…and it “appears” the guy who got shot was al so culpable. Oh and fix your fields thingy!

  15. avatar Killjoy says:

    No charges warranted.
    It Does happen. I had a Taurus. 45 acp with the safety on, discharge while chambering a round. I watched him do it, no finger on the trigger. I preach the 4 rules in my house and anywhere I am. So the gun was pointed in a safe direction. The gun got shipped to Taurus the next day. The bad part is that was June last year and Taurus still has not officially received it? And I have no idea what to do about it.

    1. avatar Trace Summers says:

      How did you ship it? You should have gotten a tracking number and possibly even a signature.

  16. avatar TX_Lawyer says:

    Prosecuted for what? Murder? Not unless they did it on purpose. Manslaughter? “Recklessly, or with criminal negligence, causes the death of another human being.” Nope, this act might not have even been negligent, let alone reckless or criminally negligent. Almost no negligent acts are criminal. Generally, an act must be “criminally negligent” or “reckless.” Both of those mean pretty much the same thing, but neither of them mean the same thing as negligent. Most of the negligent acts that are criminal are strict liability offenses that only require a volitional act (one that is not forced), and good luck proving they weren’t volitional.

    “Although it was clearly a negligent discharge, from the report, it seems purely unintentional.” That sentence is nonsense. Every negligent act is unintentional. If it was clearly negligent, then it doesn’t seem unintentional; it is unintentional.

    Not every injury resulting from the discharge of a firearm is the responsibility of the gun owner (even if you only mean user). If someone negligently (or worse) steps in front of a person focused on a target, it’s the shootee’s responsibility. If someone attacks an owner and gets shot, it’s the shootee’s responsibility.

  17. avatar little horn says:

    Someone pointed that firearm in an unsafe direction. And Chance Gallant paid for it with his life.
    um NO, read the damn article, HE walked in front of the gun. HIS FAULT. the end.

  18. avatar Jim B says:

    It reminds me a bit of the Dick Cheney incident when he shot a fellow hunter named Harry Whittington. Whittington did a very stupid thing, something one would expect from a child not a 78 year experienced hunter. He approached a point without announcing himself which is something you never do. The hunters are concentrating on the dogs getting ready for the flush. They have marked in their minds where all the other hunters are. Whittington came along after searching for a lost bird from a previous flush without saying a word and got in the line of fire. If you ever have hunted birds you would know that once the bird flushes your concentration goes to the bird. You do not expect someone to step in the line of fire without making his presence known. That is just not done. That is why Harrington apologized. He was wrong and did a very stupid thing.

    Technically it is Cheney’s fault since like the captain of a ship the shooter is always responsible. However, this was an extremely stupid thing Harrington did. I would never hunt with anyone again that pulled a stunt like that whether he got shot or not.

    Of course the press that knows nothing about hunting blamed the entire thing on Cheney. They didn’t even try to get the details of the story.

    In this incident it was the child that ran in front of the gun. One should be extra careful when children are present around guns because, well kids do stupid things. Still it is seems to be an unfortunate accident with most of the blame belonging to the child.

  19. avatar Det. Nick Valentine says:

    I agree with others saying that from the sounds of it they probably thought the was pointed in a safe direction but the victim walking into the firing line. Nonetheless, there obviously are safer ways the gun could have been pointed the entire time. I imagine the pain of having killed your own friend is far worse than any criminal sentence he could receive.

    I’ve been on the scene for a couple scary incidences where people are trying to clear jams, new shooters in both cases, and accidentally had the weapons pointing in unsafe directions. One even temporarily had the gun at my face and then their own. I quickly intervened and pointed out the safety issues.

  20. avatar BDub says:

    We dont know the circumstances. On the face of it, I agree – mistakes were made and somebody died because of it. But I can think of at least one scenario where events could unfold exactly like this and it not be the fault of the persone holding/working on the gun.

    https://tinyurl.com/BirdORPitchersFault

  21. avatar Darkman says:

    A tragic accident. Yes… Criminal? Not enough information to make that determination. Having been on a jury before I know how important it is to have ALL the evidence before making a judgement. The best possible outcome from this tragedy, Is for it to become a teachable moment for everyone. Sometimes we become to comfortable with what we are doing. Safety becomes presumed. Mistakes happen. No bad intent. We drop our guard. Tragedy. This can happen regardless of the activity. Situational Awareness is the most important factor in everything we do. So take this incident and not only learn from it but teach with it. Remember always Be Alert. Be Aware. Never Assume. Stay Safe.

  22. avatar Peter says:

    It was his fault as well it seems. He walked around the truck to help a guy trying to clear his jammed gun? Seriously? The guy most likely wasn’t paying attention to anything besides the gun, looking closely at the chamber.

  23. avatar Andrew Lias says:

    No matter opinion on guilt or innocence, it only takes one time fucking up to wind up dead. Be safe out there.

  24. avatar Doktor says:

    Blame and punishment are dished out separately and in different amounts.

    Rules were broken and a life was lost. But 100% of gun owners make mistakes. This is not Stalingrad where we execute people to prove points. Everything is complicated.

  25. avatar barry smith says:

    I see five of 39 rsponses.

    1. avatar 16V says:

      Mine’s gone – which was actually visible….

  26. avatar 16V says:

    I’ve been railing against mainstream media reports of firearms “going off” for years. Guns don’t just “go off.” They don’t magically discharge on their own. If a gun fires just because it was knocked or dropped, any damage, injury or fatality is still the gun owner’s responsibility.

    Unless it’s a 700 Remington. Then, yes, they do just “go off”. Safety on, off, finger nowhere near the trigger. Don’t even suggest that you’ve never muzzle swept/been muzzle swept by someone with a loaded gun with their hand nowhere near the trigger. The only way that’s possible is if you never have a loaded gun with anyone else around. If it hasn’t happened yet, I guarantee that there’s a 99.99% possibility that it will.

    I don’t disagree that this was an obviously bone-headed error, but they happen. Hundreds of times a day. Generally though, nobody gets hurt.

    I really love to find out what the rifle was….

    1. avatar John in AK says:

      Aye, there’s the rub.

      The other side is, “What is a safe direction to point an unsafe gun?” That question, posed by somebody who knows a LOT more about Remington 700 Walkers than do I, Jack Belk, always poses a problem to folks who believe that it is ALWAYS 100% the fault of the person holding (or in control of) the gun if somebody gets shot inadvertently, particularly with a Remington Walker rifle.
      Sure, it is the responsibility of the ‘shooter’ holding the gun to ensure that the muzzle doesn’t cover anything important; However, muzzles are strange things: They are ALWAYS pointing at SOMETHING. That ‘something’ may be a random transitional point between gun case and intended target, but there is always SOMETHING at the other end of the muzzle’s field of fire.
      Given that, and given that Remington Walkers CAN fire when THEY want to, and not necessarily when the shooter desires to do so with an intentional trigger pull, what then?
      Yes, I will still assign at least partial blame to the ‘shooter’ for having the muzzle pointed at something not-a-target if something goes horribly wrong; That’s their JOB. However, in the case of a Remington Moment, I can ALSO portion out a lot of the blame to Remington and their hordes of corporate attorneys who have not published, or allowed to BE published, in every possible venue, in large red block letters, that their rifle cannot be trusted.
      In this case, though, the fellows holding the rifle KNEW that something was wrong with the gun, and should have been EXTRA cautious with the muzzle; Remington or not, they were holding a hand grenade with the pin pulled out, and things ended badly.

  27. avatar ATTAG Reader says:

    I have made it a habit for some years now (although definitely not when I was 20) to pull behind other cars when changing lanes rather than cutting in front of them just because I can punch it out. I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but in that situation the guy should have gone around behind his friend who was having trouble with the gun, called out to him that he was coming around, etc. but 20 year olds don’t think like that. Or maybe a bit too much brew was involved. As a college friend once sent me in an email – with all the stuff we did when we were in college, it’s amazing any of us are still alive.

  28. avatar John in AK says:

    Every day, people are killed in motor-vehicle ‘accidents’ wherein one or more driver has made a ‘mistake.’ Sometimes, that ‘mistake’ rises to the level of criminal negligence. Drivers are prosecuted for those ‘mistakes’ that do reach that level for their criminal conduct that resulted in a death.
    Granted, someone has to go above and beyond a simple traffic infraction to reach the level of criminal behavior. Usually, it takes an intentional act or gross misconduct.
    In this case, the act of frenzied ‘clearing’ of a ‘jammed’ gun overshadowed all common sense and safety protocols, and someone died uselessly.
    Obviously, there was a ‘safe’ direction already established, as they had been shooting BEFORE the discharge; Obviously, the ‘clearers’ were fully aware that the gun was loaded. Obviously, a gun that IS malfunctioning-but-loaded is an extremely dangerous device capable of firing at any time, giving it ‘multiple triggers’ to leave untouched.
    I’d hate to believe that this was a Remington 700, as it quite possibly WAS considering the rifle in the photo. . .
    That’s a full 75% of the basic safety rules disregarded willingly.
    You can’t get much more negligent than that, I’m afraid. And their actions were gross misconduct.
    ‘Accident?’ Not hardly.

  29. avatar Sprocket says:

    There’s this magical place called down range where you can point your firearm while fiddlefucking with it and not send bullets in random directions. This is the sort of negligence that needs jail time. It’s also a reminder that having idiots as friends is a bad idea.

  30. avatar Ken says:

    I live in Maine, the local news reports all state that he walked in front of them as they were trying to clear the jam. Sometimes accidents happen and it’s no ones fault.

    1. avatar Independent George says:

      Except if someone walks in front of the muzzle, it is someone’s fault – either the gun wasn’t pointed downrange, or the person walked downrange.

      Just because it’s accidental doesn’t mean it’s not someone’s fault.

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