Accidental discharge: Should America ban guns in public buildings?

January 21, 2014

Existing gun laws routinely come under fire following accidental discharge incidents, and a recent accidental discharge  in Kentucky has added fuel to the fire, forcing lawmakers to consider whether imposing restrictions can prevent these occurences. As activist groups demand the gun owner in this case, Rep. Leslie Combs, to step down from office, accidental discharges continue to occur throughout the country, which has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.

Children play with a gun

Children are the major victims in accidental gun discharge incidents. From Elias Bizannes

An accidental discharge turns into a security threat

Issues surrounding gun ownership and safety echo after the recent shooting, in which Kentucky Rep. Leslie Combs accidentally fired her handgun inside her office at the Capitol Annex. Since the story reached the media, Rep. Leslie Combs’ casual statement,“It happens,” has garnered severe public disapproval.

Combs was unloading her gun, a Ruger 380 semi-automatic, when it fired. There was only one other person present in the room at the time. Though neither of them was injured and she didn’t face charges, this incident brings to light an earlier proposal for a law that would have banned guns inside the Capitol building.

Combs carries a concealed carry permit and, since the incident, has advocated gun safety programs. She insists that she was adhering to the training procedure while disengaging the gun. However, experts say that there is no safety faction in the Ruger 380 and that there lurks a possibility that the gun could fire even if the magazine is out.

Combs’ incident draws criticism

Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, expressed surprise after she learned of the incident. “I think we need to really look at whether or not we’re going to allow guns around here. I tried to prohibit them several years ago, and it did not meet with success,” she said.

Criticizing the incident, the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said that “incidents such as this cannot be tolerated, especially by our elected officials” and has demanded Combs’ immediate resignation. The gun violence-prevention group has also urged lawmakers to push for a ban on firearms in city- and state-owned and operated properties.

Banning guns in public buildings

Concealed guns were banned from the capitol by former Gov. Paul Patton after the General Assembly passed a concealed-carry bill in 1996. But two years later, the General Assembly revised the order. Some lawmakers support Patton’s ban, while others believe that if the person carrying the weapon is careful, there is no harm in carrying it.

Democratic Rep. Derrick Graham says that though he supports the concept of everyone carrying their own guns, “there are places like here [Capitol building] they should not be allowed.”

Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, believes that the incident is not enough of a reason to impose restrictions. “I don’t have a problem with her having a gun, but you need to be careful using one,” he said.

Speaking against gun restrictions, Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson agreed. saying that there is no reason responsible owners like her should have their Second Amendment rights impugned.

With liberal gun laws, Kentucky has a strong heritage of gun-ownership rights embraced by the legislature. The state imposes zero restrictions on gun bans, on licenses or permits to purchase guns, or on gun registrations.

Accidental discharge and its repercussions

The most recent available data from 2010 shows that 70-80 million adults own guns. Of these, 67 percent say that they use it for protection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that due to accidental discharge of firearms, 554 deaths were reported in 2009 and 606 people died in 2010. Most of the accidental gun discharge deaths occur in children, either while playing or due to mishandling. Other major factors behind these accidental shootings include improper handling of the firearm, failure to notice the victim, and inadequate storage of the firearm.
To prevent accidental discharge, gun owners should keep these five basic rules in mind.

  1. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction (whether loaded or unloaded).
  2. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.
  4. Be aware of what is behind your target.

When handling firearms, never use alcohol or any drug that might impair your awareness or judgment, including prescription drugs.

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Category: Guns, Surveillance