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A familiar caveat: if you are in control of a gun, you “own” it. If someone hands you a gun it’s “yours.” You are responsible for its condition and disposition. No matter what anyone says to you, even if they utter the most meaningless words in the English language (“It’s unloaded”), it’s up to you to maintain firearms safety. Oh, and if you own the gun and hand it to someone, you’re still responsible for its safe handling. And if you see someone handling a gun irresponsibly, you have two options: leave or correct them. Sorry, there’s no getting away from this shit. OK, so . . .

Regular readers wil recall a previous anecdote wherein I revealed that a major AR-15 manufacturer shipped a loaded rifle to the gun dealer. Here we have that same fundamental disregard for firearms safety taken to the next level, both on the shipping AND receiving end. A poster on tells the tale. . .

I recently won an auction on gunbroker for a USP compact. It was being shipped from Arizona. I went to a FFL dealer and had all the paperwork done. When I finally got an email from the Senders that they will be shipping the firearm I was happy.

Couple days go by and I am just sitting here waiting for a phone call to go and pick it up. When I received the call I was talking to the owner of the receiving FFL.

Supposedly the shop that shipped it, packaged it fully loaded.

When they realized this it was too late. Inadvertently the employee that was inspecting it ended up shooting himself in the hand. So now my USP is sitting in evidence and there is going to be an investigation. confirms the story. From the address we can identify the FFL dealer as the Elmore Marine Corps Exchange and Marine Mart at the Norfolk Naval Yard (hence the involvement of NCIS).

Once again, a military outfit displays callous disregard for basic firearms safety. Let that be a lesson to us all: familiarity breeds fatality. Or not, if you’re lucky. Oh, and don’t trust and always verify. There is no such thing as an unloaded gun.

[Hat tip to Benjamin T. Shotzberger]

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  1. I told Ben yesterday, having been in this particular “gun store” (it’s really just a counter in the back of your typical armed forces exchange) I was not impressed in the least by what I saw from the sales staff. I can’t say I’m surprised gun safety rules weren’t followed on their end.

  2. Robert,

    “Once again, a military outfit displays callous disregard for basic firearms safety. Let that be a lesson to us all: familiarity breeds fatality. Or not, if you’re lucky. Oh, and don’t trust and always verify. There is no such thing as an unloaded gun.”

    You are quite right in your assessment of firearms safety except for the last paragraph. I am active duty Navy currently stationed in the Norfolk area. I have been to this exchange and all of the employees are civilians, many of which have no prior military service (most of them are teenagers). Also, describing the exchange as a “military outfit” is a little misleading. Yes, the exchange is affiliated with and co-operated by the Marine Corps, but it is not a “military oufit” with marines working in it. Thus, I find your above comment to be a little off target. There is a very good chance that the employee in question has absolutely no familiarity with firearms. On the other hand, they may have had years of training and combat experience. Who knows. What I do know is that he was not military. The reason that NCIS got involved is because the exchange is on goverment property operated by the USMC.

    Familiarity can play a part in negligent discharges. I have witnessed my share of them (thankfully no one was hurt, though an outboard engine did not fair so well). However, this story is not an example of “familiarity breeding fatality” in the military.

    That being said, I think your website is great and I read it every day.

    Very Respectfully,


  3. I’ve never transfered a gun, but it makes me wonder who “owns” the gun legally. I’m guessing the rightful owner is simply out of luck; but in a case like this the only right thing to do is for the negligent gun shop (take your pick here) to buy the gun back, exchange or otherwise make this right.

    • My understanding is that the seller owns it, until it gets to the FFL, who then transfers it to the buyer. If the buyer is denied, then the FFL has to transfer it back to the seller, so basically, the FFL owns the firearm until you take possession of it.

  4. The purchasing party might as well order another one; that one will be tied up for a good while..

  5. Charles is correct regarding the status of Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the reason NCIS is investigating the shooting. Marine Corps Exchange is under the auspices of Marine Corps Community Services, but is staffed by civilian employees. In addition to running exchanges across the Corps’ bases worldwide, MCCS is tasked with things like voting assistance, dependent verification and enrollment in TRICARE and other benefits, affordable on-base travel lodging, etc. It fulfills the same role in the Corps as Post Exchanges in the Army, though they fall under different organizations tailored to serve the needs of their core armed servicemember customer base. Without information from NCIS we have no way of knowing whether the employee was familiar with the safe operation of this or any firearm.

  6. Put Ziva David on the case for NCIS. She’ll solve it in 37 minutes, not counting commercials, and look hot while doing it.

  7. Actually there IS such thing as an “unloaded gun”, and we all know there is. We also know that the rule is to treat every gun as loaded if the breech is closed. The simple thing is to always handle the gun in the breech open state as much as possible and require that the person handing it to you put it into this state prior to accepting it. Of course, many molded gun cases do not allow this, but cable ties can be threaded through the breech in that case. Some of the newer .380 and older weapons don’t have slide locks, so, as always, there are exceptions to this rule of thumb. But, it’s a habit we can and I think should all get into. All my guns are stored breech open when possible. It’s amazing to me that so many people were involved in this chain and never checked the breech for ammo.

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