Judge Patrick O'Shea's Revolver (courtesy ammoland.com)
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[via ammoland.com] It happened on 15 September, 2017. An Illinois Judge, Patrick O’Shea, 67, accidentally fired a short barreled Smith & Wesson five-shot snubbie (above) in his apartment in Wheaton, Illinois . . .

The bullet went through a mirror, the wall, and into the next apartment. No one was hit, and there was little property damage. He checked to see if anyone was in the apartment. There was not.

He may have thought “No harm, no foul”, and proceeded to attempt to lie his way out of the problem. Big mistake. It changed his life. From dailyherald.com:

On Sept. 24, the neighbors told police they found what appeared to be a spent bullet on their living room floor. They turned over the bullet to police, along with photographs they had taken of their damaged wall.

Police reports say O’Shea gave property managers at least three excuses for the hole, including that he accidentally put a screwdriver through the wall while hanging a mirror and that his son accidentally caused the hole while using a pneumatic nail gun.

Ekl previously called the shooting an “accidental discharge of a gun” that O’Shea believed to be unloaded.

As a condition of his bond, O’Shea was ordered to turn in all his weapons, ammunition, FOID card and concealed carry permit to Wheaton police.

I have a strong suspicion that this was a dry fire accident. They happen to people who take carrying a firearm seriously, and while rare, happen often enough to take precautions so they do not happen to you. The common situation goes something like this:

A person is dry firing a firearm (People who do dry firing tend to be serious about maintaining proficiency with their firearm).

They decide to stop dry firing and load their carry gun.

At this precise moment, they are distracted. Perhaps by a telephone or other item that demands immediate action without leaving the area.

The distraction stops. They consider – where was I?-

The memory of dry firing comes up.

They pick up the firearms, aim it, and … blam!

If they are lucky, no one is injured. Many televisions have given their lives for the sake of dry firing. In the Judge’s case, he lost months of income, was lambasted in the media, and was criminally charged.
Five months later, another judge, in another county, dismissed the charge against him because it did not meet the legal requirements of the law. From chicagotribune.com:

A DuPage County judge who fired a bullet through his apartment wall and into a unit next door was acquitted Friday of misdemeanor reckless conduct charges.

The case against Patrick O’Shea was tossed out at the midpoint of trial by Kane County Judge Keith Johnson. The judge agreed with O’Shea’s attorney, Terry Ekl, that prosecutors had failed to meet their legal burden of proof and filed a complaint against O’Shea that was legally deficient.

“There was no evidence that there was anyone even in the building when the gun went off, so it could not be reckless conduct, and he should have never been charged with reckless conduct,” Ekl said afterward.

The judge was alone in his Wheaton apartment in September when he fired the snub-nosed revolver and the round penetrated a mirror and went through the wall.

It is the mirror that makes dry firing a likely culprit.

If you wish to avoid this type of life-changing accident, here are things you should do when dry firing:

– Unload and load in a separate location from where you will be dry firing.

– Aim at something that will stop the bullets you normally carry. A fireplace or a bullet-resistant vest can work.

– Create a simple ritual before dry firing: Say unloaded, unloaded, unloaded.

– When you reload, say: Loaded, Loaded, Loaded.

These simple steps can prevent a tragedy or the sort of life-changing accident Judge Patrick O’Shea experienced.

These incidents tend to happen to people who are serious about being proficient. People who read this article tend to be serious. Follow the rules above, and avoid dry firing accidents.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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  1. This might be a more compelling reason to use snap-caps, than just to protect the firing-pin!


    • Until you draw your gun in self defense pull the trigger and it goes click, YOU FORGOT TO UNLOAD YOUR SNAP CAPS!

      • I’ll take the risk. Simulating duds and other malfs is worth it to me. I don’t load whole mags with snap caps, I keep them away from carry ammo, and I check to see if I’m actually loaded. Also, I rest and rotate my mags a few times a year.

        I know there’s a risk, but for me it’s fine. YMMV.

  2. What I do.

    Check to see if weapon is un-loaded – while you handle it – it is safe.

    If you holster, place the gun on table, etc. – the gun becomes loaded.

    When you pick the weapon up – check to see if it’s loaded.

    I do agree that loading/unloading should be done away from dry-fire area.

    Making a conscious effort to load/unload is important. Once the weapon is loaded, place it in it’s holster or safe place. If you remove it – check to see if it’s loaded.

    Many people get irritated with me when the hand me a gun to look at – they will check and hand it to me – then I check it. They will often say “I just cleared that thing” to which I reply “so did I”.

    Vigilance always

    • For what it’s worth, I get super annoyed at people who assume I cleared it properly and grab it carelessly, ride the trigger, point it at me, etc. Nobody’s infallible.

      • here in australia the slightest slip up is enough to get you kicked out of the range and have the RO’s report you to the cops if it is a severe breach. i am not saying this is a good or a bad thing. everyone makes mistakes at some point however with firearms all due care must be taken. i use snap caps for dry fire practice, never leave them in the gun (though we cant have it loaded in storage either) but that would not make a difference to me even if i could “legally” carry as i would do my drills with a separate magazine and before picking up a gun i always check. i have made it habit since day one even back when we could have it stored with a full mag. Also note that i use the term legally the way i do. the laws we have here are a long way from lawful as are many of the laws you have in the US. remember all laws are legal, but not all laws are lawful

    • I insist on having each person check it as well, and teach my son the same.

      If it annoys someone, explain why, once. If they are still annoyed, I don’t want to be around them while handling guns.

      • I agree. Getting constantly muzzle-covered is no fun.

        Even worse when theymare dry firing as they ponder the gun in their clueless mind.

    • He did not exactly skate. He was suspended from his job for months. He had to hire an expensive attorney, likely costing him $10,000 or more.

      He was pilloried in the media, and even got national attention.

      Being a judge, knowing the law, and having the resources to hire a good attorney enabled him to keep his job and his rights.

      I would not call that “skating”.

      • Compared to what would likely have happened to anyone who wasn’t well connected, yes, he skated.

  3. In addition to using a backstop (part of never point in an unsafe direction) and some of the other great recommendations described above, I like to put a bit of blue painters tape on the slide behind the front sight and another over the magwell, after loading a snap cap in the chamber. When the snap cap comes out, the painters tape comes off.

  4. Step one; unload gun
    Step two; double check that the gun is unloaded
    Step three; ask yourself what in your immediate vicinity would be no big deal if it were shot
    Step four; ask yourself what’s behind that
    Step five; when you’re satisfied that it would be no big deal if you forgot to follow step one and two, pull trigger.

    • Pretty much what I do. I don’t live in an apartment so the basement is something I figure is a good bullet trap.

    • Good rules. For me, as a matter of course I keep separate “store ammo” and “fooling around with guns” rooms. Anything not being worn gets checked and ammo put away before it gets fooled with.

      • I firmly believe that smart people do really, really stupid things all the time (usually behind the wheel of a car), so if you’re going to do things (like dry fire practice) that invite Old Man Murphy into your home you should have a systemic method of keeping him locked out. Thinking that these things can’t happen to you because you’re too darn smart for that is a recipe for humiliation. Or worse.

        • Cool? If you think I was saying nothing bad can happen to me, project your issues elsewhere.

  5. No excuse for this on a revolver when it is quite easy to visually inspect the cylinder to see if it’s loaded. Was it reckless? Of course it was!

  6. Wow Judge Ment Day you fucked up didn’t you. Next time you go to throw the book at somebody, remember anyone can fuck up,

  7. “There was no evidence that there was anyone even in the building when the gun went off, so it could not be reckless conduct” – Really? The judge checked the building to make sure no one else was there before shooting???

  8. Personally, my go to is to simply say three times, “Dry fire is over, Dry fire is over, Dry fire is over.”

  9. The judge lied about it. That’s a cover-up. That’s interfering with a police investigation. obstruction of justice. That’s not an “accident”. He’s a liar and unfit for the bench. Anyone who appears before him has a great case for a mistrial.

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