Negligent firearms handling incident in Marlborough

An incident has occurred in Marlborough where a hunter had negligently discharged a firearm while loading it, shooting another.

What can we determine and learn from the event?

The man put three rounds in his magazine and placed it in the rifle, he then placed a round in the chamber and closed the bolt. 

The firearm discharged, the bullet passed through the case and struck the victim in the upper thigh, before becoming lodged in the rear passenger door.

It sounds like the person involved arrived at a hunting spot, then decided to load the firearm immediately upon taking it out of the case in the vehicle.

We can observe that the event is a result of breaking several of the seven rules of firearms safety.

  • Rule 1: Treat every firearm as loaded.
  • Rule 2: Always point firearms in a safe direction.
  • Rule 3: Load a firearm only when ready to fire.

There was no need to load the firearm in the carpark, and it would seem the user was not aware the other person was in front of the muzzle and potentially closed the bolt with the finger on the trigger, resulting in a negligent discharge.

Alternatively, if the firearm went off without the user depressing the trigger, it is possible the firearm was either in a poor state of maintenance or the trigger had been lightened to the point of causing a slamfire.

Regardless, it was a combination of events that should not have occurred.

  • Rule 7: Avoid both alcohol and drugs when handling firearms.

While it sounds like no drugs or alcohol was involved, we like to point out that this rule really encompasses anything that affects your state of mind and decision-making ability. If lack of sleep is an issue, then the operator should have acknowledged this and not been handling firearms.

The victim was in immediate pain and was bleeding profusely. The man carried him to the front passenger seat and drove until he reached cellphone reception and called 111.

The victim was flown to Wellington Hospital for surgery and his injuries included a shattered femur, severely damaged artery and broken pelvis.

We would be interested to know what first aid equipment was being carried at the time. Certainly – a shattered femur would result in massive blood loss and couple with arterial damage very life-threatening. We suggest all firearms handlers carry a minimum of a first aid kit, more specifically a trauma kit with them at all times.