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All Things Negligent Discharge (merged)


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Is there anybody else out there who thinks we have too many accidental discharges? I know it‘s been discussed, before, but I think these two articles "press home the point". The first is from "The Age" (Australia), the second from "The Jerusalem Post" (Israel).

Dileas Gu Brath,
M.A. Bossi, Esquire
Army inquiring into gun death
Thursday 10 August 2000
An army inquiry will investigate why a rifle lying in the back of an armored vehicle accidentally discharged, killing an Australian peacekeeper in East Timor.
Corporal Stuart Jones, 27, was fatally wounded yesterday when the vehicle hit a bump, apparently dislodging what was believed to have been a Steyr rifle, Australia‘s East Timor commander Colonel Greg Baker said today.
A board of inquiry will investigate the death of the corporal, a member of the Darwin-based 2 Cavalry Regiment which has only been in East Timor since July 25.
Wounded in the chest, Corporal Jones died in a Black Hawk helicopter taking him to hospital in Dili.
Colonel Baker said Corporal Jones was commander of a six-member squad heading back to base in one of the army‘s eight-wheeled ASLAV light armored vehicles after a patrol near Maliana, close to the border with West Timor.
"They placed their packs and weapons in the vehicle and they then proceeded back to base," he said.
"The vehicle went over a particular part of the terrain and jolted to one side.
"We think that what happened is that one of the weapons dislodged from sitting on packs at the back and discharged accidentally, wounding Corporal Jones. "We believe no one was touching it at the time."
Colonel Baker said the Steyr had a safety mechanism which should have prevented something like that happening.
He said it was not known if the safety catch was engaged at the time, whether it was Corporal Jones‘ own rifle or whether he was wearing body armor.
"There will be a board of inquiry convened shortly which will look at the circumstance surrounding the incident, the procedures used and all other details and then make recommendations to ensure this doesn‘t happen again," he said.
"The weapon will be identified as part of the investigation and obviously examined to see if there was any fault."
The Austrian-designed Steyr rifle, introduced to Australian service in the early 1990s, has achieved notoriety for the number of accidental discharges.
There were so many in Somalia that new handling procedures were introduced which defence sources say significantly reduced the problem.
Defence maintains the Steyr is not at fault and that unauthorised discharges stem from failure to follow proper safety procedures. Offenders are fined or even charged.
Defence Minister John Moore confirmed a board of inquiry had been convened to investigate the circumstances of the tragedy.
"The government is very concerned about any injuries or loss of life in the defence force and will be fully briefed on this incident," he said in a statement.
The inquiry is expected to be conducted in public with findings and conclusions made public.
Corporal Jones is the second Australian soldier to die in East Timor, following the death of a soldier from pneumonia.
It is the second time an Australian soldier has been killed by an accidental weapon discharge in recent peacekeeping activities.
Lance Corporal Shannon McAliney died in Somalia on April 2, 1993, when a Steyr rifle held by a colleague accidentally fired as they set out on patrol.
He was Australia‘s only casualty of the Somalia deployment.
Australian troops have been on a heightened state of alert and are actively patrolling the border area since militiamen shot dead a New Zealand soldier late last month.
IDF rejects device which prevents rifles discharging accidentally
By Arieh O‘Sullivan
TEL AVIV (August 11) - The IDF has been offered a device which would probably prevent an accidentally discharged bullet from hitting innocent bystanders, but has rejected it because it wants its soldiers‘ firearms to be constantly at the ready.
But the inventors of the "Shotguard" say that the IDF really is stalling because it does not like the image it transmits of soldiers who are not in control of their weapons.
"The IDF has a mental problem about this device because it doesn‘t suit its macho image to have extra safety device," said David Ramati, of Mofet Etzion, manufacturers of the Shotguard.
The 10 cm.-long Shotguard weighs just 300 grams and fits over any rifle‘s flash suppressor. The bullet hits a disk on a spring and disintegrates. The device only blocks the first bullet. All other shots fired will exit normally, which makes it excellent for preventing accidental discharges, said Emanuel Dryfus, marketing manager for the Shotguard. They cost about $40 each.
The makers said the Shotguard is in service with forces in Holland, Singapore, and Australia. The US Marine Corps has just tested it.
"This thing is fairly inexpensive. It‘s not for the commando units or those with a lot of weapons experience, but it certainly can be put on the weapons of soldiers in basic training," said Ramati.
According to Michael Cohen, the inventor of the Shotguard, his device could have prevented tragedies like the one last weekend when a soldier cleaning his gun accidentally shot dead his aunt, a mother of four. "Whenever there is a report of a person who was shot by mistake, we think it was a pity that this device is not in use," he said.
There are no statistics on the number of people injured by soldiers accidentally misfiring their weapons. Last year, two soldiers were killed by accidental discharges. Two were also killed in 1998.
Dryfus said that the IDF has actually tested the Shotguard. He said it has agreed in principle to purchase a few thousand, but it says it doesn‘t have the money.
The Israel Police and the Border Police have purchased a small number of the Shotguards.
"We believe that the IDF is not rejecting it for budgetary reasons, but mainly because it doesn‘t want the rifle of a combatant to be blocked by something that will prevent him from shooting the first bullet," said Cohen.
The IDF Spokesman denied the army had ever considered purchasing a device which fully blocks the barrels of its firearms. "There does not exist such a barrel block. There are a number of barrel blocks which have been developed and are suitable for use in training, which prevent the firing of live bullets during training with blanks. This device is part of the IDF‘s procurement plans for next year," an IDF statement said.
"Even if there was a full barrel guard, the IDF would not use it due to the need of soldiers to be on full alert all of the time," the IDF Spokesman said.
There are two sides to the coin when discussing ADs - the attitudes of the soldiers carrying the weapons, and the reliablity of the weapons themselves.

As to the former:

An incident occured in the last year concerning an ex-soldier, and the story has been making the rounds. I believe I have the essence of the story correct here; I am leaving out the details to protect the person‘s identity.

He had been a reservist whose attitude left a lot to be desired; a smarmy, cock-sure type who you could never tell a thing to because he knew it all. He was also lucky; married a woman in law enforcement and managed to find himself a good job in the prison system.

It turned out that he was at an institution transferring a prisoner and upon surrendering his weapon at the gate, he removed the magazine and was asked by the person on duty "aren‘t you going to do an individual safety precaution?"

The question of how the individual acheived the next feat is still unclear to me, and quite frankly defies belief - but ultimate stupidity is often hard for the rest of us to grasp...Anyway, said individual simply replied with his trademark attitude "Don‘t worry, you can‘t fire it without the magazine" and promptly discharged the weapon.

The bullet was reported to have imbedded itself in the bulletproof glass (answering years old curiousity as to the window‘s resistance) and worse, removed part of said individual‘s hand and deposited it on the walls.

Luckily no one was killed.

Is that considered an "accidental discharge"? Having known the individual in question, I can picture him putting his hand in front of the muzzle and pulling the trigger. Some people are THAT sure of themselves.

I hope that individuals like that find themselves released from the service, or at least put where they can do no one physical harm.

Unfortunately, familiarity can breed more than contempt. A bad soldier looks at his weapon as simply a tool to be treated in the same manner as his shovel or utility knife; I can‘t imagine why a loaded weapon was left to merely sit on a pile of packs in the back of a vehicle. I‘d like to think Canadian troops take weapon safety much more seriously than that.

My father knew a man from his hometown who served with 3 PPCLI in Korea. He was shot (and killed) five times by another Canadian. He claimed to have been "cleaning" his Bren Gun. I‘d like to read the official investigation of that one, and if it too was labelled "accidental." First thing anyone does is to unload a weapon if they‘re going to clean it.

I‘ll leave the discussion of the reliability of our weapons to those who have made a living out of using them...
It is easy to call into question the competence of someone who has an AD but in reality the more time you spend around loaded weapons the better chance you have of having an accident with them. ADs or NDs are inevitable. Some of the best trained and competent soldiers have had them. People get tired, lazy, and cocky, have bad days, etc ...it‘s just human nature and the law of averages. The longer you go without having or experiencing an accident the cockier you get, also the less time you spend using live ammunition the less seriously you take it. The key is to hammer home the practice of safe weapons handling at the beginning. IE never point a weapon at someone unless you intend to shoot them that way if or when you do have an accident hopefully you won‘t hurt anybody. Anyone who has been on operations will tell you the incidence of NDs is higher on operations than on exercises simply because of the constant exposure to loaded weapons. While this seems to contradict what I previously said the actual number of rounds fired on a typical operation is very low, this, combined with hours and days of mind numbing boredom and a requirement to clear your weapon everytime the wind changes direction will lead inevitably to NDs.

As to the Korean question, did he mean to kill the other guy? If not then it was accidental. Negligence is a different story.

As to the reliability of weapons, different weapons have different characteristics. I have never had any safety related problem with the C-7 or C-6. The C-9 on the other hand has a problem in that sometimes, through no fault of the firer,you can find live rounds in the body of the weapon. I was on a bus when the guy sitting two seats behind me found a live round beside the return spring on his gun while stripping it for cleaning. After repeated safety precautions and clearances had been made. Kind of unsettling but that‘s the nature of the job.
Andybody, thanks for that. I guess that‘s what I meant to say by "familiarity breeds more than contempt" - to me, you make sense with your remarks regarding casual attitudes creeping in around troops and the handling of their weapons. I‘d like to think Canadian soldiers do have discipline and respect for weapons drilled into them from the start.

Re: Korea. Good question. Circumstantially, you would almost have to believe that a soldier who can let off five rounds from a Bren Gun would be doing so deliberately. That‘s what a lot of people apparently felt after the fact. The Sten was notoriously unreliable, and had it been a Sten that had gone off, it would be a little less suspicious than a Bren.

At the time, who knows what happened....maybe the soldier in question walked onto an impromptu range while the Bren gunner was zeroing his weapon. I have no idea of the circumstances surrounding the shooting; if they were two feet away from each other or 200 yards, if it was daytime or night time; but I think my dad and his friends suspected foul play. I‘ve never seen anything substantial regarding the incident.

Like you say, though, accidents happen - and after a few days or weeks in the line in Korea, fatigue and shock would play their part in lowering the odds against accidents of that nature. I would be interested in learning more about this specific case - the soldier in question is listed on the roll of honour of the PPCLI - do they include accidental and non-battle deaths on the roll?
Negligent Discharges are one of the more common charges overseas in Bosnia (and until recently Kosovo). The fine ranges anywhere from $500 to $1500 depending on the severity (causing the death of a soldier would be a court martial).

As a point of note, the CO of the RCD who was in Kosovo and banged his helmet off of a C6 trigger sending 3 or so rounds off was charged and was given a $5000 fine (everyone is charged now - includign padres).
Having given many, many, chemical safety training sessions I think an statistic from the North American petrochemical industry may be of interest here. With regards to chemical accidents resulting in severe injury or death, a disproportionately high number of incidents occur with those having many years of experience. The idea being that new people are generally too afraid to get themselves into serious trouble (for the most part). When a serious incident occurrs, it is statistically more likely to happen to a senior worker who has become overconfident, complacent, or knew a special shortcut that had always "worked for him". I always find that the attentiveness of those with a few gray hairs usually goes up after that...

There have been some great comments on the issues of AD‘s above. Especially the one of the round(s) in the C-9 seeming to gravitate to where they shouldn‘t, even after individual safety precautions...Yikes! The other point that I haven‘t seen mentioned with respect to the Aussies misfortune was the practice of throwing the weapons on a truck and walking back to base. Didn‘t we learn in basic, as well as in Rawanda, that weapons belong with the soldiers, not with the baggage???
I have been observing this site for a couple of weeks, and have decided to join the fray. WRT AD/NDs it has been my experience that these occur, predominately, as a result of operator error( ie complacency,inattention,lack of skill, etc) as opposed to firearms malfunction. Refresher training and vigourous supervision, at all levels, can correct this. Adding more parts to a gun (spring bullet trap) or more restrictive safety measures( you get to see you weapon only once a year!) are window dressing and not,in my opinion, a viable/realistic solution. A gun IS ONLY a tool! (Would any one throw a running chain saw into a truck and then board the back?) It is only the individual‘s personal skill/motivation that will improve/ maintain safe use. This MUST be developed/maintained by his superiors.
We have to be very careful of the presumption that every discharge of a firearm, other than at an authorized target or enemy, is a "negligent discharge", implying an overt disregard of duty. We might as well automatically charge and convict every driver of every vehicle involved in an accident. Major Peter Young, a hero of the Dieppe Raid (Yellow Beach/Berneval), noted in his biographical work, ‘Into the Storm‘ (if I recall the title correctly) that the only weapons fired on the first Commando raids of WWII were "NDs" BY THE OFFICERS. There is a legitimate case to realize that there may be an absolutely irreducable minimum number of accidental discharges with troops, regardless of their levels of training and experiece. I do not mean to say that "NDs" should not be investigated and prosecuted, but we do have to realize that ever-increasing punishments may only cause soldiers to overtly decrease their risk of being charged (by not chambering rounds) in order to protect themselves against what is seen to be a greater (or at least a more assured) threat, rather than chambering rounds to be better prepared to execute their mission.

Essentially, what it all boils down to is common sense. If one is to have blind respect for their weapon and what it is capable of. Then I believe that the ND‘s will decrease. I guess some people have forgotten to do the "small" things to ensure that accidents of this nature do not occur. Which is unfortunate.

-the patriot-
I think you have all touched most of the relevant points on this subject. I would like to think that ND‘s could be prevented but no matter what we do (trg/supervision/etc.) if we mix our weapons with live ammo it is inevitable that an ND will occur.Something I feel that increases the chances of ND‘s is the practice of using unloading bays at our bases in operational areas. The first problem I have with this is that the soldiers are continuosly conducting load,unload,and safety precautions on their wpns, this by itself increases the chances of an ND just by statiscally increasing the amount of times you are squeezing the trigger of your wpn. The other result of this practice is that after a couple of months of this repetition the soldier is likely to not instinctively know his wpns status (if it remains loaded at all times except when it is out of his hands he will always be inclined to treat it with respect). One thing that is sure is that the measures that are currently in place aren‘t very effective. With regards to the C-9 problem mentioned earlier,I have witnessed this as well and have found that rounds like to hide in the MAGAZINE WELL which, as you know we are not trained to clear as part of safety precautions.
This is getting time on CBC as well as Global....


Canadian soldiers convicted in accidental gun discharges

Monday, September 29, 2003

KABUL -- Two Canadian privates have been convicted of negligence in the accidental discharge of their weapons, bringing to a head concerns over the readiness of guns carried by troops patrolling the Afghan capital.

The commanding officer of the Canadian contingent here, Lt.-Col. Don Denne, conducted summary trials and fined the two 20-year-olds $850 and $1,250 respectively for the incidents, which occurred a week apart late last month. Denne said they were inexcusable errors for infantrymen.

No one was injured in either incident but, as far as the army is concerned, that is beside the point.

"An infantryman must be an expert with his weapon,‘‘ Denne, a native of Hantsport, N.S., declared in an interview Monday. "In a light battalion, that is our bread and butter.‘‘

The issue of weapons readiness is an important one for the Canadian peace-support mission in Afghanistan. There are 1,950 Canadians serving in Kabul and surrounding areas as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Troops patrolling crowded city streets, back alleys, markets and mountain passes are under general orders to load their weapons _ magazines attached _ but not to put bullets in the chamber unless confronted with a tangible threat.

Chambering bullets involves cocking the weapon, bringing a single bullet into the firing chamber. Firing it requires the safety lever to be off and the trigger to be depressed.

Those calls are made by the on-scene commander, usually a master-corporal, a sergeant, a lieutenant or a captain. But his guidance comes from rules set down by Denne and his superiors.

Tangible threats are deemed to be hostile action or shots fired, and hostile intent, or hostile weapons cocked or pointed, or a suicide bombing.

In both cases involving the privates _ one fired off three rounds in an urban street, the other a single round along a rural road _ there were no tangible threats, said Denne.

In one case, "the platoon commander gave the order to make weapons ready based upon what he considered to be a threat,‘‘ said Denne. "That was a perceived threat. That is like chasing shadows.‘‘

Soldiers argue that having to cock their weapons constitutes an unwarranted delay in their response to threats such as car bombers, grenade attacks or mountain ambushes.

But Denne and his superiors say that walking around with a bullet in the chamber cancels out a series of measures their soldiers are supposed to take before they ever consider firing a round.

"Normally, you are not walking around with a bullet in the chamber because that denies the soldier the opportunity to escalate if he has to,‘‘ said Canadian Brig.-Gen. Peter Devlin, commander of ISAF‘s operational element, the 32-nation Kabul Multi-National Brigade.

"There are stages, from verbal warnings to physical warnings to the chambering of a round to the firing of a warning shot to the use of deadly force. And all of those steps are vital to resolving a problem.‘‘

Chambering rounds, Devlin said Monday, "denies the soldier the freedom to respond‘‘ as the threat dictates.

Besides, said Denne, the first thing a soldier does when he comes under direct fire is to take cover. Chambering a round _ or cocking his weapon _ takes a fraction of a second, and the soldier still has to determine the source of the threat, he notes.

The sound of an entire platoon cocking their weapons is a deterrence in and of itself, he added.

In the case of a vehicle-borne attack, soldiers would not have time to fire anyway, he said.

"So why run the risk of loosing off a round negligently and hitting somebody and making life difficult for your whole bloody organization for the six-month period you‘re here?

"That‘s the risk that I‘ve got to bear and I‘m not prepared to accept that kind of risk.‘‘

Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, ISAF‘s deputy commander and the top Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, said the rules of engagement under which the Canadians operate aren‘t much different than those of other ISAF members.

Leslie said soldiers have the latitude to do everything they have to do; the product, he said, of healthy debate among senior officers.

"If you‘re patrolling in downtown Kabul at the height of a market day and you‘ve got a bullet up the spout, two things happen,‘‘ he said.

"One is your response time is lowered and the second thing is there is no going back because you only have a split second to decide. A high-velocity round can go through two or three people, including children.

"Then you‘ve got a whole other set of issues.‘‘

Leslie acknowledged that Canadians are taking a degree of risk by requiring foot soldiers to patrol with their weapons loaded but not cocked _ Coyote and LAV-3 armoured vehicles travel with a bullet in the chamber of their 25mm chain guns _ but the commanders suggested the trade-offs are worth it.

Denne has evoked what he calls the "smile-and-wave campaign,‘‘ whereby his troops are encouraged to acknowledge the generally warm reception they have been given by locals. He says it‘s a key element in winning the hearts and minds of the people they have been sent to protect.

"You can‘t very well, on the one hand, be smiling and waving at folks, trying to win them over while surreptitiously having a round up the spout of your rifle ready to mete out death and destruction,‘‘ said Denne.

"Every time we walk out that gate, all of Canada walks with us. And I don‘t think Canadians would be particularly impressed if we were going out in any other way than we are right now.‘‘

Both soldiers convicted for the incidents in Afghanistan _ one from November Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, and the other from Para Company _ are on their first overseas tours. Both pleaded guilty to the charge of neglect or conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

The soldier who fired off three rounds while exiting his Iltis vehicle in downtown Kabul also received seven days of extra work and drill on top of his fine, a hefty sum for a low-paid private.

"He‘s lucky,‘‘ said Denne. "He‘s extraordinarily lucky. Exceedingly lucky. He could have hurt or killed one of our soldiers but, worse, he could have hurt or killed an innocent civilian.‘‘

Note: The Article title gives the wrong terminology for the non-puposeful discharge of a soldiers weapon. These 2 cases are clearly negligent. The term "accidental" was changed because of soldiers getting charged for firing off weapons in clearing pits....not accidental, thats what clearing pits are for, right?

The guy from Para was no doubt a leg attached for ISAF. :sniper:

Thank God this was NOT one of those times you must bury your mistakes.....
Great article; I disagree with the last line where Denne says "or worse" he could have killed a civilian. I don‘t see that as being any worse, or better, than killing a Canadian soldier.

The troops got what they deserved, based on what was presented here. If true, then they clearly weren‘t in control of their weapons. I bet we won‘t hear of any other mistakes like this for the remainder of the tour.
"He‘s lucky,‘‘ said Denne. "He‘s extraordinarily lucky. Exceedingly lucky. He could have hurt or killed one of our soldiers but, worse, he could have hurt or killed an innocent civilian.‘‘
Ouch....bet you he regrets saying that.
No excuse for this.
"Gentleman, we have 2 volunteers for mine clearence duties."
You should go a whole career without a single AD.
Not to defend what he said... :eek:

I imagine he won‘t like the printed version either.

I believe he meant a civilian Afghan killed would enrage the locals and ruin any good rapore the Bg has gain so far, thereby making everyones jobs more difficult/dangerous.
What a bunch of BULL****. When you are on Active Service in a hostile enviroment you should always have one up the spout ready to go. It is fine for the officers to say this and that but most of the Senior Officers of today have never had to face the reality of action. They are too hidebound in the political correctness of todays army. All we have to do is look at the Congo were the Commanding General was not armed and witnessed the massacre of some of his troops and could do nothing about it. We need more Generals of the capacity of Lew McKenzie who can make descions based on the situation not a bunch of PC bag lickers.
Mr Johnson has a point. I believe Mounties always have a round in the spout. I don‘t remember them ever clearing their weapons with us in Kananaskis.

Shouldn‘t the function test tell a troop that his rifle can be safely loaded, readied, safetied and handled without concern of an ND?
I won‘t pretend to have any operational experience, but from what some of the boys in the unit have said - and what is presented in the article itself (and I believe they mentioned this to us when we were training in Aid to the Civil Power last year with the CP Police) - the cocking of weapons is in itself one of the steps that can be taken to warn off potential aggressors.

That would obviously not be a consideration in a high intensity conflict (read "f‘in war"), but I could see where having the option to cock weapons to defuse a situation might be useful...
I agree with being as ready as possible but the only AD you should ever have should be on Suzie Q‘s leg in high school. ;)
Agree with you on that one Warrant.

I remember a Rupert on my tour who had an ND on the 25mm. I never did get the final story on what happened with that.