No one likes to hear about accidental or negligent discharges (depending on your school of thought, those two are one in the same), particularly when they result in someone’s death. The case of a 24-year-old Detroit woman who was killed when she hugged an off-duty policeman at a party—the embrace discharging his IWB holstered .40 Smith & Wesson into the young woman’s chest—resonated very strongly with me. The policeman was a veteran on the force, a man who was not new to carrying a firearm and was not engaging in irresponsible behavior. He was simply doing what many of us do every day, and it ended in disaster. Though this tragic occurrence may have been one of the true accidental discharges, it serves as a reminder that we must be just as vigilant in the physical means by which we carry and secure our firearm as we are in maintaining its function and knowing when it’s appropriate to use it.
Choose the right holster.
It’s a bit of a catch-22: You need your weapon to be quickly accessible in order for it to be useful as a defensive tool. But you also need a holster that keeps it firmly adhered to your body and to prevent your weapon from coming loose or getting in the way during your daily routine. If it’s more secure, that often means it’s slower to access, too. A well-made holster should bridge those needs, keeping your firearm secure and held comfortably while still providing fast access when needed. With such a holster, accidental contact from an embrace, a fall, a collision, etc., should not be able to cause your handgun to discharge. Period. This is why finding a holster that fits your needs is never as simple as grabbing the first or the most inexpensive one you find. Spend the extra money on one that fits the necessary criteria and test it with an unloaded weapon before using it for everyday carry.
Secure your weapon at home, too.
After a long day of carrying your pistol, your first inclination upon reentering the safety of your home may be to take it off and toss it on the kitchen counter with your keys and sunglasses. Even for those who live alone, take the extra precaution of putting your gun away if you’re not actively carrying it—lock it up with a trigger lock or store it in a safe location such as a gun safe or cabinet. You don’t want to be left wondering where your sidearm is should you need it, and if it’s not on your person or locked away, it’s a liability. As a good compromise between safety and rapid access during the night—especially for those with kids at home—keep your gun secured in a quick-access handgun safe (right).
Don’t become complacent.
As is always the case with firearms, the most significant danger occurs when we become unconcerned—assuming that because we’ve done something long enough, nothing can go wrong or take us by surprise. Reminding ourselves to stay vigilant—exercising every safety precaution with the same attention and solemnity as the first time we handled a weapon—will help prevent tragedies like the one in Detroit from happening to us.