Negligent Discharge vs Unintentional Discharge

By John Farnam

Gun Condom
Negligent Discharge vs Unintentional Discharge
Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

Ft Collins, CO –-( “‘Security’ is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children of men, as a whole, experience it. In the long run, avoiding danger is no safer than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing!” ~ Helen Keller

“Negligent Discharge”

My good friend and colleague, Dave Grossman of Grossman Training Academy, correctly points out that we unwittingly create the false expectation that all “bad outcomes” can be prevented, when we globally use the term, “negligent discharge” (ND) to describe all gun accidents.

Negligence” is a legal term, and we blindly concede legal liability when we use it casually and automatically.

“Unintentional Discharge” (UD) is a better and more inclusive term. Many, probably most, UDs are NDs, but not all, as yesterday’s Quip demonstrates.

As another sage friend and colleague, Skip Gochenour, points out:

“Safe” gun-handling is an imaginary concept and is probably is not possible, any more than is “safe” driving, “safe” downhill skiing, nor “safe” sex!

The term, “safe” implies a guarantee:

“Do it this way, and nothing bad will ever happen”

Sleazy, ambulance-chasing personal-injury attorneys insist that every “bad outcome” is the direct result of some fault on the part of the nearest deep-pocket. Sometimes, they’re right! But, “fault-finding,” particularly when the only real motivation is financial, generates unrealistic expectations.

The sage among us handle guns “carefully” and “correctly,” but we still handle guns!

And, we also drive carefully and ski downhill as carefully as it can be done. I’m not even sure what “safe sex” is, but it sounds like a colossal bore!

I routinely advise students that my range is not a “safe” place, and that all who are under the impression that when they’re here, they’re in a super-safe environment where no one can possible get hurt, no matter how hard they try, labor under a delusion. Our goal is personal victory, accepting all inherent risks, and we go about it as safely as we reasonably can!

The notion that all “bad outcomes” are foreseeable and thus preventable is a false and destructive premise. As noted above, it leads to unrealistic expectations and ultimately suffocates all human progress.

Victory is the only reality in the universe!


About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance, if any. Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

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Jeremy Powell

I once had a buddy who thankfully, is extremely cautious when handling firearms. As he chambered a round on a bolt action rifle, it went off just as the bolt locked home ( holding the fore grip in one hand, it is almost physically impossible to pull the trigger while working the bolt). Since he is extremely diligent and was keeping his muzzle pointed in a safe direction, our only casualties were our ruined shorts. Mechanical failures can, and do happen. The scariest part was that it was only about a 6 month old rifle, and the Manuf. couldn’t find… Read more »


I’m beginning to believe that the difference between an AD and a ND is whether or not the shooter has a badge. regards, Alemaster

Wild Bill

Fascinating, O8, is there anywhere on line that we can read more of your authored work about risk management? What is a risk model and how do you build it?


Hate to really disagree with anyone since there are so many ways to skin a cat. But have to disagree with Danny and probably some others in that Risk Aversion is an element of Risk Management, not separate. I agree that nothing is 100 percent safe 100 percent of the time; that’s why God gave use our senses, to alert us when something “May” happen so we can do something to prevent it ahead of time. Based on past history we can make the assumption of the side of caution that some things can happen along with their consequences –… Read more »


The “Range Accident – After Action Report” May 5th story is in fact about an accident, but the accident was clearly a result of negligent gun handling. There is no excuse for what happened on that range and the instructor needs to be fired for what happened.

There is no room in the gun culture to make excuses and allowances for people who discharge a firearm in an unsafe manner regardless if the discharge was by choice or unintentional.

Kieran McMullen

Hallelujah! This is what I have been saying for years! We put ourselves in harms way by using the term “Negligent Discharge” every time a gun goes off with bad results. Sometimes it is an unavoidable accident, sometimes it is a mechanical malfunction. I have a 1903 Colt pocket pistol that I use for demonstration when giving firearms classes. It will not fire until the grip safety is RELEASED. It is worn out. Guns are a piece of machinery and machinery is susceptible to breaking. We need to stop calling everything ND! It only helps the lawyers and is as… Read more »

Danny Todd

Risk aversion and risk management are two separate things. We know we can’t eliminate the risk, in life in gereral or in gun handling and use. But not making reasonable efforts to manage the risk makes as much sense as not wearing your seatbelt on the strenght of idea that since we can’t eliminate the risk, why even try? If firearms operators have good muzzle discipline and trigger finger habits, we reduce (manage) the risk. Period. I have been muzzled at a shooting match – and that was negligence. I get that if we put all our efforts into obsession… Read more »

Bill regina

Are you kidding me. An unavoidable accident. Really? The gun owner pointed the gun at his 10 month old son who was laying on the bed and he pulled the trigger as he was moving the gun from a case to by the bed. Killing the child. All those violations were either accidents or malfunctions. Give me a break. I’m at the range training of course the discharge was unintentional. It was also caused by unsafe or bad habits. Other it would not have occurred. Legal term or not, we have too accept responsibility and there is a very real… Read more »