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In 1976, my family had moved across the state. I’d left all of my friends behind. In December of that year I had the chance to go back for the Christmas holidays and spend a week at my best buddy’s house. We’ll call him T. We’d planned and plotted what we’d do when we got together. We knew it was going to be a week to remember. I had no idea how right we were . . .

T’s dad had taught us to clean his handguns. We were both well versed in the sequence: clear, disassemble, reassemble, test, load and put away. We needed money for the movies. So we jumped at his father’s offer to pay us to clean his firearms. T was going to clean the Luger. I was working on a Webley revolver.

As you may know, a Webley breaks at the back. The whole front assembly tips forward. So there was no real breakdown involved, just a simple opening and cleaning. It was a pretty quick process. I did my thing and then headed to the bathroom to answer nature’s call.

T came into the room. Seeing a cleaned gun and rounds laying on the bed, he presumed I was done. As I recall, there were only four rounds. T loaded them, closed the gun and put it back down pretty much where I’d left it.

We had a whole lot of serious bike riding and driver’s license fantasizing to do; we were both eager to get on with the day. When I got back from the bathroom, I sat down on the bed and picked up the revolver. I could hear T headed towards the room. I didn’t notice that the small pile of ammo was no longer there.

And then I pulled the trigger.

Hearing a firearm going off indoors without any sort of hearing protection was one the most startling experiences of my life. It’s not unlike a SWAT team’s flash-bang. I was literally stunned. It took me a few seconds to realize that T was in the room. I’d just shot him with a .38 caliber projectile at a distance of about four to five feet.

To this day I can still see the smoke from the shot hanging in the air between us in a slight circular pattern. I can still taste it too.

T didn’t fly backwards like they do in the movies. He didn’t yell out in pain. He simply said “Oh goddam” and carefully laid down on his side. I’d fired the Webley at a slightly upward cant hitting him in the solar plexus.

My first reaction: this had to be a joke. I opened the revolver and spilled the ammo onto the bed. I saw three live rounds and one spent casing.

I didn’t know it at the time, but T had a sucking chest wound. When I pulled his shirt up in front I saw it. I expected a gaping hole; all I saw was a small oozing spot and no exit wound.

We were both in shock, but I managed to call an ambulance and T’s mother. I had to tell my best friend’s mom that I had just shot her son.

The ambulance arrived. They quickly loaded in T. At that point we are both transported; T to the hospital and me to the police station. I gave them a statement.

The officers were waiting to hear T’s condition. A blank space in their report was ultimately filled in as “accidental shooting.” If things had gone differently, they’d have written “involuntary manslaughter.”

If T had died, I don’t know how the police would have dealt with me as a 15-year-old who’d committed homicide. Thankfully I never found out. The round went in and out of his left lung and stopped just short of exiting his body. It missed his heart by a few inches.

The police were actually quite kind to me at that point. They explained that even seasoned officers broke down after shooting someone. That didn’t really blunt what was going on in my head, but they did their best and I still appreciate it to this day.

I wanted to go to the hospital and check on T. I was so distracted by this need, it completely escaped me that once I got there, I’d be face to face with his parents.

I had always admired T’s dad. He was a proud Italian. An ex-boxer. As I rounded the corner in the Intensive Care Unit, T’s mom and dad were waiting for me. I stopped short. I prepared myself for a well-deserved beating right there in the lobby of the ICU.

Instead, they embraced me, triggering my complete and total breakdown. I’d realized what I’d done, but it had seemed abstract until then. T’s dad looked at me said, “OK, Chi Chi. Its OK.”

Finally, I got to see T. I’d never seen a bullet wound patient in an ICU before. It looked like they’d installed a highly intricate irrigation system in his body. There were tubes coming from every direction, all of them ending up somewhere inside T.

I visited him as many times as I could before I had to go back to the upstate and pretend everything was OK. Thankfully, I only had a few friends there at that time. Nobody really cared what I had done over the Christmas break.

I didn’t get another chance to sit down and hang out with T again until 2009. T and I are close friends again, but that meeting was truly one of the last great fears I have ever had to face.

Ultimately, I’ve taken responsibility for that negligent discharge. Back then, though, I blamed the gun. And that’s how I became an anti-gunner at the tender age of 15.

Bill Frady is a honey-toned gun rights advocate who podcasts for Gunowners Of America Radio. Click here to download his latest show.

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  1. That part about his dad telling you it was okay made me well-up, I’m not ashamed to say. There’s nothing more beautiful in the world than forgiveness, is there?

    That said, I’m glad T survived, and glad to have you aboard, sir.

  2. i understand after such a trauma at such a young age becoming anti-gun. i understand people having strong feelings on a given subject. what i don’t understand is the anti that decides his opinion should be law and that the opinions of pro gun people have no equal value.

  3. He’s anti-rights because he made several mistakes. Would he be anti-powersaw if he cut off someone’s finger?

    Typical poor thinking.

    • I’m sorry that happened to him, but he broke at least two firearms rules. That’s why he shot his friend, not the evil gun.

      • Yup. That is why, even though I know I was the last person to put a gun away and I know that I don’t store my guns loaded, I always check that they’re empty before my finger goes near the trigger.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. I can’t imagine being in that situation. Gives perspective to the mantra “always treat your gun as if it were loaded, never point it at anything you don’t intend to destroy”, ect.

  5. A powerful tale. It illustrates once and for all why firearm safety is critical to preservation of our rights; an ND can not only injure or kill someone, but assuming everyone survives any witnesses might decide guns of all sort need to be banned. A woman I know at my college is rabidly anti gun,because in her middle school years some nitwit was showing off with his dad’s revolver and pointed it at her head. Thanks to that imbecile’s criminal behavior, the Brady’s have a lifelong disciple.

    • A right can’t be taken away from one because of the actions of another. Firearm safety is critical to the preservation of life, not the right to keep and bear arms. Diligence and courage are the only thing critical to the preservation of our rights. That diligence includes, recognize the person or persons attempting to infringe the right, go though all possible attempts at greivance resolution. If that fails and the infringers still persist, kill them.

  6. I am reminded of a great US History teacher I had in high school who was profoundly anti-war. Typical teacher, you say. And so I thought.

    And then I learned she had lost two sons and a husband in Korea and then Vietnam.

    After learning that, I decided she could be anti-war to the end of days. She had more than paid the most horrible price for my freedom.

    • I’m not sure if your teacher was anti-war or anti-war of aggression (which Korea and Vietnam both were). It’s one thing to be skeptical of someone who’s against war to defend your country from invaders and another thing entirely to criticize someone who’s against waging war against other countries for trivial matters.

      • Well put, but I came to know that she was against war on all conceivable grounds. And I came to understand why.

        Essentially, her pain was so great, the exact etiology notwithstanding, she was simply against war, period.

    • Her two sons and husband paid the most horrible price, not her. She could have lost her two sons and husband to a car accident. Would she then be anti-car? She was a coward who didn’t understand how freedom works.

  7. IMO…This was truly a hard story to read but it’s always good to reinforce just how important the 4 rules are.

    I certainly agree with Mike S, forgiveness is a very powerful force and this story surely showcases that kind of love…

    Thank you…

    • It’s easy to be flippant, to say “I would never do such a stupid thing”. What kind of idiot would handle a gun like that?

      I’m currently reading Jim Cirillo’s “Guns, Bullets, and Gunfights”. As a member of NY City PD’s “stakeout squad” in the 70’s, Cirillo won numerous gunfights and may well be the most successful gunfighter of the modern era. He was also an expert instructor and competitive shooter. I’ll quote Cirillo from the first chapter of his book: “… I have fired not one but three accidental shots on different occasions. I hate to admit it … I describe my own mistakes to emphasize to the students that if I, a so-called ‘firearms expert’, can make a mistake, then so can they. ”

      Bill, thanks for posting your story as a reminder of the very serious responsibility that comes along with the right to keep & bear arms.

      • It’s the “almost” times and the stories of other that makes the greatest impressions.

        One good thing about the training I did in the Army is that you’d spend weeks and weeks running around with rifles and MGs loaded with blanks, giving everyone a chance to experience a few “almost-oopsie” or even “oopsie” moments where the result of an ND was only a small fine, instant humiliation and constant ribbing.

  8. Why did Bill pull the trigger? Curiosity? Why?
    Unless the gun is being function tested there is no reason to operate the trigger. And if being tested it should be recleared and verified empty. And not pointed at anyone.
    But Bill understands this now/

  9. A sad story to read. Glad that his friend survived and glad that the family was a forging one. I remember reading Gen. Yeager’s book on how an accidental discharge of a firearm killed his brother. Some times bad stuff happens to good people.

  10. Well it was good to see that the parents understood it was an accident. You had enough to deal with in the fact you shot your friend. To that end good you two remained close to this day.
    I don’t know why this would make you an anti. Possibly you became fearful of guns, which is completely understandable. Maybe you want nothing to do with guns, which again is completely understandable. Why this would classify you as an anti I don’t know unless you have gone out of your way to rid the world of all guns.
    In which case starting in Syria, Libya, The Congo, etc would be great!

  11. Even as careful and OCD as I am I realize I could make a mistake like this. So, when I’m cleaning a firearm I remove any ammo I typically use with it from the room completely. I’m usually pocket carrying so I’m not completely unarmed even when cleaning a gun.

    Anyway, all my loaded guns are either on my person, in the safe, or in a holster. I treat every gun as if it’s loaded unless it’s completely broken down.

    If I’m going to show a friend a gun I make sure to follow the rules Army ROTC and various firearms classes taught me: unload the firearm, check it, and present it to them with the breach open and clear.

      • I do the same. Buddy of mine would roll his eyes every time I asked him watch his muzzle even though his pistol was slide locked & empty.

        Then he had an ND. I don’t have to explain anything to him anymore.

        • Maybe a little OCD, Sanchamin, but I completely agree with Mike S’s compulsion.

          The only time I treat my semi-auto pistols as if they are empty is when the slide is removed from the frame. EVERY other time, I only pull the trigger when the guns are pointed in a safe direction. Some would say this is a little OCD, but I have never had a single ND.

          I’ll admit that I’m not perfect. I have had a couple accidental discharges (when the trigger was accidentally pulled before the sights were on target), but I was at a gun range and the gun was pointed down-range at the time. Never had a single bullet go in any unsafe direction or at any place other than down-range at a gun range. I have since changed my habits, and now I keep my trigger finger on the side of the frame unless the sights are on target. No more accidental discharges even at the range.

  12. any blame for the shooting would have to start with the father that left 2 teen age boys unsupervised with guns and ammunition. apparently they weren’t as well trained as the father believed and the real blame here should start with him.

    • True that. I was also wondering how he could leave loaded handguns with teenagers to clean unsupervised. This AD proved that to be a bad idea.

      • From the sounds of the article, Bill and his friend T. were at least 12 or older. At that age my old man would leave me unsupervised at our private range with guns or while hunting. Obviously, you can’t hunt without a loaded weapon… OTOH the 4 rules were drilled in very hard.

        • that’s true. i was hunting and shooting unsupervised at a young age. with rifles and shotguns. the old timers that raised me gave you freedom and responsibility in increments according to the ability of the youngster. being unsupervised with a handgun was the last level of freedom we could expect. it’s simply easier to screw up with a handgun than a long gun and the old timers knew this.

    • Thank you for sharing with us, and for the advocate you have become. I admire your courage, as well as your honesty. There is no way to tell your story and look like a saint, but your lesson is timeless, and will help to keep all of us safe.

  13. I’ve never understood pointing and clicking real guns.

    Back in the day an Army reserve ordinance non-com brought an expended “dummy” grenade in “Toon Town”, the unofficial name for the computer lab where I worked. We were a little rambunctious. The device had a compelling heft, and we looked with interest at the *real* but spent ignition mechanism, and where the smoke charge had once been. Some folks took to operating the mechanism. Pull the safety. Flick the other thing. Release. Count to seven. Don’t die & laugh about it.

    One guy wouldn’t play with it. Disassembled, confirmed to be both a dummy and spent – wouldn’t touch it. When someone asked why, knowing it was inert, he wouldn’t play with the thing he replied: “Well, I know it’s a dud. But, I’ve been wrong before, and being wrong on this would hurt.”

    Years later telling this story to a much-experienced vet he replied: “Yeah. We used to slip flash-bangs into them, to teach the idiots a lesson.”

  14. “Bill Frady: How I Became An Anti-Gunner

    Ultimately, I’ve taken responsibility for that negligent discharge. Back then, though, I blamed the gun. And that’s how I became an anti-gunner at the tender age of 15.

    Bill Frady is a honey-toned gun rights advocate who podcasts for Gunowners Of America Radio. ”

    comment: “Folks, I appreciate all the comments. This story is not finished. Give me a chance to conclude , and keep the faith.”

    — Dear TTAG, I found the headlines, body of story, end of story, pro-gun stand of writer, and later comments very unclear and initially confusing to understand the big picture.

      • I can’t wait to hear how you turned back around, assuming you’re a gun-rights activist today.

        It’s an enthralling story. I would have punished T’s dad for the incredible stupidity of allowing two teenagers who did not know the 4 Rules of Gun Safety handle guns unsupervised.

        Also, since you weren’t 8-years-old and you should have known better, you would also have lost your gun rights for life.

        I realize some people become safer than ever after a terrible experience like that, and you may be one of them, but most who do that are just stupid, awkward, apathetic or on drugs or alcohol. Those guys don’t learn.

        • i do in all honesty and fairness hold gun owners to a higher standard. you miss the honesty and fairness parts. you’re simply looking for any reason to strip guns from people.

        • When Mikeb holds the BATF and those in authority responsible for their consistent failures to enforce the existing laws as much as he holds gun owners responsible for ALL the violence committed by the career criminals, gang members, and suiciders which accounts for over 92% of all deaths by illegal use of a firearm, then a common ground may occur, but mikeb never will.

        • MikeBnumericmystery. This was an attempt to show an object lesson. Thankfully you are not in charge of anything resembling law and wouldn’t recognize anything like responsibility. This was an accident caused by lack of education. Yes for a time I was against ME owning a gun, but I did not apply that to anyone else. What is your excuse? By the way, in part 2 you will find out the cathartic moment when you grabbers focused on a tool instead of the sick SOB doing the shooting.

        • mikeb302000 said: “No, I would just like people to be qualified to own guns.”

          This is a disgusting comment.

          The right of the PEOPLE to keep and bear arm shall not be infringed. I understand that people being pushished by the judicial system lose their rights and I agree with that. However, once their debt to society is fullfilled, their creator bestowed rights are fully restored. To say or do otherwise is Tyranny.

        • Your creator did not bestow upon you the right to own a toaster for your morning breakfast. Nor did he bestow upon you the right to own a gun or any other particular inanimate object. That’s total bullshit.

          Your 2A rights are already infringed, so grow up and face the facts. Gun owners are already screened and qualified, insufficiently so, but it does happen. My position is that it needs to be stricter, that’s all.

          Is that disgusting?

      • Got all the answers MikeB, and how enlightening it must be to be all knowing or perhaps it is all presuming. I guess its good that I was taught not to steal. I might have appeared before Judge Mikeb. By the way you Mikeb did not answer my question.

        • Here we go again. The weakest personal attack of all, the whining “you didn’t answer my question.”

          Which one was that, Bill, “what’s your excuse?” I thought it was rhetorical.

          By the way, did you post Part 2 yet?

        • “By the way, did you post Part 2 yet?”

          I can’t wait to see this as well. Big props to Bill for having the courage to post something like this.

  15. The best thing that can happen to a gun owner is an almost-ND. It gets your attention in a big way. The worst thing is an ND for real, especially when someone gets hurt or worse. What happened to Bill and his friend is all too common when too many hands touch a gun.

    Check or clear a gun every time you pick it up, every time you put it down, every time you hand it to someone and every time it’s handed to you. No exceptions. It only takes a couple of seconds to make sure that all’s right with the world.

  16. I have had one negligent discharge in my life. It was a hot day in July, I had just got done with a practice session when I racked the slide, checked to make sure the chamber was empty, dropped the mag then pulled the trigger to be sure the hammer was down. BOOM that was the loudest boom I had ever heard.

    Some of you might have caught what I did wrong. Racking the slide should have be done after dropping the mag. I was aiming the gun at the ground but was pointing it at my CED range bag. Now 10 years later I still put my finger on that little 9mm hole to remind myself to never let my guard down.

    • For other folks, Norm. You have already learned this lesson.

      This is why even an empty gun must be treated as if it’s loaded. Because it might not really be empty.
      Even though he flubbed up the unload sequence, then didn’t double-check that it was truly unloaded, he continued following the Four Rules, and the Four Rules made sure that nothing bad happened. Not a perfect performance that day, but still pretty good.

  17. I agree that this story reinforces the notion that one must pay attention whenever a gun is involved. The interesting thing about the four rules of firearms is that simply breaking one of the rules is not going to result in injury or death. You need to actually break two or more for that to happen.

    I don’t care what anyone says. If you follow the 4 rules religiously, you will never have an ND period. I’ll admit that once in a while, through inattention, I’ve broken one rule. I’ve never broken two.

    If you consciously remember that you are holding an instrument of death in your hands whenever you pick up a gun and treat it accordingly, you will never have an incident like what happened to Bill.

  18. I was taught that when you pick up a gun that has been out of your hand or sight, don’t take anyone’s word (including your own) for whether or not it was loaded. The lesson was applied via generous application of leather to the end opposite the head I was supposed to be using, You might think it was empty when it was loaded or it might be empty when you need for it to be loaded. Either case could be bad, check every time.

    • I was mentioned on a radio show. I’m sure it was very flattering. I’d love to hear it if there’s a link.

      Italian gun control laws don’t concern me for two reasons. One, so few of the people here are gun nuts that it doesn’t matter and two, I’m more interested in the politics and culture of the US.


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