“A 7-year-old boy [Joseph Loughrey, above] had been buckling himself into his safety seat in the back of his father’s truck when he was shot to death after a handgun accidentally went off as his father got in the front seat,” the AP reports [via washingtonpost.com]. Normally these passively constructed negligent discharge stories eventually get around to pinning the blame where it belongs: on the gun owner who violated the firearms safety rules. Not here . . .

Joseph V. Loughrey, 44, told police he had been trying to sell the guns Saturday at Twigs Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. He unloaded the magazine at home, but didn’t realize a bullet was still in the chamber . . .

State police Lt. Eric Hermick said Sunday the father had secured a rifle in the back of the truck and placed his pistol on the console when the handgun went off.

No wonder gun control advocates fear firearms. The damn things go off by themselves. An idea that you’d expect the official police statement on this terrible incident to refute. Unless you’ve read dozens of these tragic tales . . .

“It is very clear-cut exactly what transpired here,” [State police Lt. Eric] Hermick said of what he called clearly an accident. “As he’s laying it down, it discharges.”

The Mercer County coroner ruled the boy’s death an accident on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. The results of the investigation will be given to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems, Hermick said. A message left with Kochems was not immediately returned Sunday.

Hermick said the father was very distraught and cooperative; he said he doubts there will be charges, but that it’s up to the district attorney. The father could face charges, including involuntary manslaughter, Hermick said.

“It’s obviously negligent and reckless to some degree,” he said. “It’s obviously in that gray area, where it’s a true accident. But is there negligence or recklessness with him not clearing the chamber?”

Yes. Yes there is. Not to mention the negligence of pointing a gun at a seven-year-old and pulling the trigger. Note to the AP (again, still): the truth hurts but ignorance kills.

Firearms safety lies between the ears of humans, not with the guns themselves. To suggest anything else is, as Michael B says below, subliminal propaganda. That puts us all in harm’s way.

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40 Responses to Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge Post of the Day: Got Safety Edition

    • My wife would be waiting at home for me with the shotgun. I would have to leave the country and change my name, and even then she would track me down and kill me, I would just be delaying the inevitable.

  1. “…and placed his pistol on the console when the handgun went off.”

    As he’s laying it down, it discharges.”

    Ignoring the passive voice, which was it? Was he in the process of laying it down, as the second quote indicates, or had he already laid it down and it (supposedly) went off without any external interaction, as the first quote would seem to indicate?

    • he was probably pointing it at the kid and mouthing the words boom while pulling the trigger and expecting nothing to happen (except bad handgun handling protocol). He (or the kid) had to have pulled the trigger.

  2. This refusal to assign responsibility goes far beyond gun accidents. Just this morning, NPR described how (reportedly drunk and speeding) Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent’s “car went out of control, killing his friend and teammate Jerry Brown.”

    Absent very rare mechanical malfunctions, cars do not ‘go out of control,’ and guns do not ‘go off.’ Cars *are driven recklessly* causing deaths, and guns *are recklessly pointed at people while the trigger is pulled* causing deaths.

    • Amen! Machines are not sentient and do not operate by themselves, except in rare cases where something really important goes haywire.

      Although, I have had a car “go out of control”; my tie rod broke while I was driving an old Celebrity up a mountain. Talk about pants-wettingly scary–trying to turn the wheel so I wouldn’t go over a cliff and having nothing happen…thankfully I hit ice and spun back into the side of the mountain!

  3. It is going to sting the first few times, but the police are going to have to start stating “this moron pulled the trigger resulting in the tragic death of…..”. It may seem uncaring or cold, but the propaganda is only hurting everyone else.

  4. I wonder what level of “training” would have prevented this (retorically). I doubt anything beyond 60 seconds understanding the function of a semi-auto and one or two previous examples would have provided additional benifit. On the other hand I suspect the father could have answered a short answer quiz of all the safety practices and critical functions, but this still happened. Is is possible to train diligance? Would a mandated two week firearms-for-civillians daycamp done the trick? I don’t think so, I see neglegance as opperating beyond the knowledge gained by training.

    • Training will only do so much, some people just disregard rules or have their head in the clouds and aren’t paying attention.

      Look at drivers, almost everyone goes to driver’s ed, gets tested, and has a license issued (even if revoked you’d still know how). Yet there are many who ignore traffic signs, don’t pay attention to the road, or drive while under the influence. They know, they just don’t care.

      Like you said, you can’t really train diligence, they have to want to.

      • Training?

        I doubt it actually transpired in the way the report says, just like Pat said above.

        “I was cleaning it and it went off.”
        No, you were f*cking around with it and forgot it was loaded. Or were reasonably sure it wasn’t loaded. But were wrong.

        “I placed it down and it went off.”
        No, you were pointing what you thought was an unloaded gun at your kid and pulled the trigger for S&Gs.

        Cynical? Skeptical? Yeah. I am.

        Clear. Clear. Then clear again. I don’t care who makes fun of me for being “OCD”. If I can’t see light through the barrel into the chamber, the only thing it’s pointing towards is the dirt. I keep a laser pointer in my range case for this reason. Cheap and easy ‘chamber checking tool’.

  5. I still can’t figure out why firearms manufacturers don’t start suing people for slander or defamation or libel or something. How can someone just claim someone else’s potentially dangerous product spontaneously activates and kills people and get away with it?

    If there were an ounce of truth to the myth that guns “just go off” then the manufacturers would’ve been sued into oblivion decades ago.

    • I haven’t seen it reported what make or model of handgun this was. Would a manufacturer have standing if the whole industry was libeled? …Thinking as I type I suppose it is possible.

      • If you read “Glock – The rise of America’s gun” you would know that law enforcement and government agencies would no longer be able to use the same excuse. It’s been a while since I read it.

    • Because the police felt sorry for him just losing his kid and didn’t want to add insult to well.. more than injury. I guess.

      In a tragedy it’s much easier to blame an inanimate object. Darn machines, always zigging when we want them to zag. In a way I get it, the guy lost his kid. He has to live with what really happened all of his life anyways.

  6. I hope the father gets prosecuted for manslaughter. If found guilty then sent away for a long time doing hard labor. I’m motivated about sending a loud public message to other gun owners, some of whom are irresponsible and careless about safe gun handling, than I am wanting to see him punished.

    • And killing your son isn’t a loud public message? Prosecuted maybe, but no punishment except perhaps public service. If the death of a son isn’t enough punishment, I’m not sure anything would be.

      • Good points. Maybe public service for a long time speaking out about the experience after some prison time. Otherwise, for some people sadly no, unless they are forced to pay some price (even beyond the killing of their own child) it is not enough. Bottom line: many or most people will go ignore the event and not apply it enough to their own life. They will often assume the attitude it won’t happen to my family.

      • I think the differance is while the father will likely blame himself for the rest of his life, the masses watching the story on TV will blame the gun, or worse yet, bad luck. If it’s proven in court, in public, that it was human error, that society blames humans for, maybe other folks will clue in and stop pointing uncleared weapons at their children.

  7. Save for a particularly light trigger on my Savage rifle I’ve never come close to an AD/ND (knock wood) but the one time I was surprised by my accu-trigger, it was *gasp* because my finger was on the trigger getting ready for a shot (at a shooting range so it was pointed safely downrange with no possibility of striking anyone). How frakking hard is it to maintain trigger discipline?

  8. Tragic. We can all see that at least Rules 1, 2, and 3 were violated. Certainly an ND and a likely case for manslaughter charges. However, beware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Food for thought

  9. It’s entirely possible for a loaded and cocked firearm to go off without external forces acting upon it…

    …If it was poorly made and poorly cared for, or just old and worn.

    There’s also a possibility that a black hole will pass through the earth, but I personally think that’s more likely.

  10. He violated the 4 rules of gun safety…all of them at the same time. Following any one of them would have prevented the death of his child but he violated them all at the same time. How simple can it be.
    I feel sorry for the kid that he killed and other family members, not so much for him.

    • This. Except that 4 isn’t relevant since he didn’t have a target. But not treating the gun as always loaded, pointing the gun at something that he didn’t want shot, and putting his finger on the trigger… at some point, reality is a brutal teacher.

      • Lets substitute this for #4, keep your gun in a holster that protects the trigger.
        My point was that he didn’t just have one small slip up. He did everything wrong all at once.

  11. Here’s a question which hasn’t been raised: why was the father handling the gun AT ALL? The cabin of a passenger vehicle is not an appropriate location for handling or “setting down” firearms under any circumstances but a DGU.

    • “…is not an appropriate location…” sounds like you have a lot of rules that you’re assuming are written in stone somewhere. I know CCW holders who move their firearm from their IWB to either a car holster or a crossdraw location when they get in their car. No DGU there, just keeping it handy. In many states, not having a gun case does not prevent law-abiding gun owners from transporting a handgun inside the car. As for the wisdom of having an uncased gun inside a car, the guy clearly did not know what he was doing at any level.

      1) Selling a gun through a gun shop is for widows and offspring terrified of their scary firearm inheritance. Guessing that the dad here was the offspring of a responsible gun owner who recently died.

      2) Not checking the chamber when you unload is a mistake made by people who assume that guns don’t get loaded until you need them. Hunters think that way. For those of us who have a gun for self-defense, there’s supposed to be one in the chamber and before you hand a gun to me, you’d better check the chamber first or I’m going to get cranky.

      Which reminds me, if he was coming out of the shop, didn’t the shop employees look over his guns? Which of them took a look at that handgun and didn’t rack the slide to look into the chamber or watch him check the chamber?

      • “Which reminds me, if he was coming out of the shop, didn’t the shop employees look over his guns? Which of them took a look at that handgun and didn’t rack the slide to look into the chamber or watch him check the chamber?”

        Another report stated that the store didn’t buy used guns. So the store guy probably never handled it.

    • Well, technically the photo came from a news story, who sourced it from Facebook. But I’m curious why it matters? If you read the story in a newspaper, or saw it on the local news, it’d probably have a picture of the kid. Why is it tasteless or exploitative here?

      • Agree with Matt…what’s the rip? Seeing that kid just made me want to open the safe and double double check my weapons. This is a tough lesson in our community and one that we all can take heed from. That picture makes it that much more personal in my view.

  12. An accident is nothing more than several factors coming together to create an incident.

    It’s sad that people don’t know how to take responsibility for their actions anymore. They merely blame inanimate objects that rely on their actions to cause harm.

  13. Why is the distinct possibility the trigger was pulled with clear intent to shoot almost always ignored in these stories? The one with the pillow last week was the only one I’ve seen that we questioned, and only because that was glaringly obvious. It’s a sickening thought to be sure, but someone needs to consider this man is going to get away with an extremely late term abortion. I’m not making an accusation, and I know most responses if any will be worded as though I am, but the possibility can’t be ignored.

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