Last week an officer with the Midland Police Department accidentally discharged a handgun resulting in a leg injury. According to the news accounts, this happened while he was cleaning it. Here's what the Midland Reporter-Telegram print edition said:
According to a Midland Police Department statement, police and EMS responded at approximately 9:25 p.m. to a Northwwest Midland residence.
[A police officer], a nine-year employee of the department, had accidentally discharged his weapon, which he was cleaning at the time of the incident.
The gunshot resulted in a wound above the left knee. The gun [the police officer] was cleaning was not his duty weapon, according to the statement.
[The police oficer] was taken to a Midland hospital with a non-life threatening injury, according to the statement.
The Police Department's shoot team responded and will investigate. As normal procedure, the shoot team responds and investigates in times when an officer discharges a weapon other than for an approved event, training or to destroy an animal, according to the statement.
The investigator assigned to the case will compile a report, which will be submitted to Midland Police Department Chief John Urby.
According to sources, the handgun was a Springfield XD in .45 caliber. The XD is similar to the Glock but with the addition a grip safety, however both the XD and Glock require that the trigger be pulled as part of the disassembly process. See the Unofficial Glock Manual in PDF and download the Springfield XD manual at the Springfield XD site.
From the XD Manual: "Pull the trigger with the pistol pointed in a safe direction to fully unlock the slide from the frame."
It seems counter intuitive to require the trigger to be pulled for disassembly when practically every version of the gun safety rules says not to pull the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Is that a design flaw? You be the judge.
Gun handlers know to check to see whether a gun is or isn't loaded, but this is one area with a zero tolerance for error. If we do something so often that it becomes routine, then the routine takes over and we do that thing without conscious thought. That's when it gets dangerous. If there's a one in thousand chances of slipping up, then do it enough times and the odds will eventually catch up.
[Added later.] Here's another example of a similar accident, emailed from Brandon:
Well, I’m a statistic. I fired my Springfield XD-9 in the house while taking it apart, and in the process, burnt my hand because of the ported barrel. However, in my case, I didn’t actually have a round chambered in the firearm. The disassembly process of the XD is the exact same process as chambering and firing a round. Slide back, slide forward, squeeze trigger. I foolishly forgot to check and make sure no magazine was in the grip. I chambered the round while taking it apart, and didn’t notice the indicator flip up on the slide because my hand (the same one which was burnt and hit by chards of lead) was in the way. As I went to squeeze the trigger so as to move the slide off of the receiver, much to my surprise, the gun went off. Luckily no one but myself and the tile floor was hurt.
I’ve been around firearms my entire life and have been shooting them since I was little. I owned my first one at 14. I’m 20 now and still cannot believe that I did this. I’ve always respected firearms and the need for caution when dealing with them. I know the rules of firearm safety to a T. The “it could have been worse statements” don’t really mean anything at all. However, one thing is certain, it will never happen again.
Brandon followed up with this:
Also, keep in mind that I am not blaming Springfield or the XD-9 for the accident. The gun did exactly what I would expect it to do if a bullet was chambered. Sure, perhaps it wouldn't have happened if the XD had a different disassembly method, but the fact remains, I am at fault for not checking the firearm.
Thanks for sharing that, Brandon.
So here's the lesson we've learned: Whenever anyone handles a gun, the very first thing to do is check to see whether it's loaded. Do it every time. Concentrate on it.
Finally, I've been meaning to compile a list of links to items found at this weblog addressing accidental discharges and Glocks. Here it is, with the most recent on top:
March 14, 2006 - The Two Recent Accidental Glock Discharges, detailed;
March 09, 2006 - Accidental handgun discharges and Glock;
November 30, 2005 - Glock handguns -- another accidental discharge;
April 27, 2005 - Accidental police gun discharge - San Antonio;
April 11, 2004 - Are Glock handguns safe?;
and for an example of a lifesaving use of a Glock handgun,
October 08, 2003 - Bear killed with .40 caliber handgun - Alaska.
And for the popular video of the DEA agent accidentally shooting himself in the leg with a Glock in front of a class full of children, see it at Google VIdeo.