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January 26, 2009

Bottoms Up

On January 13, a 26 year-old Salt Lake City man was using the restroom of a local restaurant when his concealed handgun went off unintentionally. The gun, a .40-caliber Kahr P40, apparently fell out of the man’s pants as he was pulling them up, hit the tile floor, and fired. The bullet struck the toilet beneath him, sending sharp pieces of porcelain flying. Some of this shrapnel lodged in the man’s arm, causing minor injuries. While no one else was hurt, an employee of the restaurant in the next-door women’s restroom was treated for chest pains after hearing the gun shot and panicking.

The man, whose name is being withheld by authorities, holds a permit to carry a concealed handgun in the state of Utah. Utah is a “shall issue” state, meaning that concealed carry permits are issued to applicants who pass a background check and complete four hours of firearm safety training.

According to Centreville Police Lieutenant Paul Child, “the accident would have been prevented if the man had used a secure holster. A good quality firearm also should not fire if it is dropped.” Several visitors to the Deseret News website, however, questioned why an individual would need to have a loaded handgun in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant.

Police confiscated the man’s handgun at the scene, but have indicated that the firearm will soon be released back to him. No charges have been pressed against him nor is there any indication that authorities will seek to revoke his concealed carry permit. There is apparently little concern that the man could have killed an innocent bystander, or that he violated several of the National Rifle Association’s most basic gun safety rules, including “ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use” and “Remember, a gun's mechanical safety device is never foolproof. Nothing can ever replace safe gun handling.”

One Deseret News commenter mocked the gun lobby’s talking points in capturing the absurdity of the incident: “Guns don't kill people,” he/she said. “Toilets do.”


  1. It does no good to have a handgun that doesn't have a round in the chamber ready to go. It takes too much time to chamber a round and then fire when its needed, that's why CHL carriers and police carry this way. Don't forget that even police aren't immune from this type of situation happening. All it was was an accident and the good thing is no one got hurt. Unfortunately, some CHL holders don't get quality handguns because of the cost involved and prefer to go the "cheap" route. Hopefully this guy is looking at better quality firearms now and a better holster.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Rudy. We would disagree with your assessment that "it does no good to have a handgun that doesn't have a round in the chamber ready to go." It only takes a second to rack the slide and load a bullet in the chamber of your typical semiautomatic handgun. That is certainly not a significant time constraint, and keeping a handgun's chamber unloaded up until the time of use helps limit accidental shootings like the one described in this blog.

    We would also emphasize that concealed carry permit holders are not law enforcement officers, and are not required to have more than a single day-class in training in any state in the U.S. - CSGV

  3. You seem to misunderstand the NRA's safety points. A gun should be "ready to use" when it is holstered on your body and carried for self defense. It would be absurd to carry an unloaded gun for self defense, as there would be no time to load it for "use" (pointing it at an attacker and/or firing it) when the need arises. You don't expect the cops to carry unloaded guns do you? (on duty or off). Expecting CCW holders to do so is not any more reasonable.

    There is broad agreement among CCW holders and cops that guns carried for self defense should be carried with a round in the chamber. If someone is uncomfortable with doing so, they should get more training or get a revolver instead.

    Anyway, I'm not sure what the point of this article is. Licensed drivers get into accidents all the time, yet no one uses that as an excuse to demonize all motorists, or claim that public driving should be heavily restricted or prohibited.

    I must ask, what is the CSGV doing that will help reduce firearms accidents and ensure CCW holders are better trained? Are your members becoming certified firearms instructors so they can train others in gun safety? Are you sponsoring firearms training events? Are you posting the rules of gun safety on your website? (trying to scare people away from owning guns doesn't count).

    Lt. Paul Child has the right approach to this issue. Rather then make fun of the man or "question why an individual would need to have a loaded handgun in the bathroom of a fast food restaurant" (I bet Lt. Child has done so himself), he offered good sound firearms safety advice that will help the subject of this case and others avoid accidents like this in the future.

    You are wrong about the amount the amount of training CCW holders are required to receive. In some states, that training is more then one day, such as my state of Ohio. And of course, that's just the required training. You are not taking into account the training a CCW holder can receive on their own time.

  4. Thanks for your comment, thestaplegunkid9. To restate the NRA’s Gun Safety Rule cited in this blog, it reads, “ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition.” Your personal rule seems to be that a gun is always in use, regardless of the circumstances, when it is in the owner’s possession. The comments left at the Deseret News website would suggest that many Americans do not agree that a handgun in the waistband of a concealed carry permit holder who is on the toilet is “in use.” This accident would have been averted entirely had the man followed the NRA’s gun safety rules and kept the chamber of his firearm clear of ammunition.

    You also seem to again be conflating the role of a private citizen with that of a law enforcement officer. Law enforcement officers are accountable to the public and entrusted with upholding the law. Patrol officers are also routinely called to the scene of active crimes. One would understand (particularly given the extensive and repetitive nature of their training and their emphasis on discretion in use of force) if police officers kept a round chambered in their duty sidearm given the dangerous and volatile nature of their profession.

    Concealed carry permit holders, on the other hand, are not required to have more than a few hours of training to receive their permits. They have no accountability to the public. Assuming they are acting rationally, they should not be seeking out dangerous situations where confrontation could result.

    As for the state of Ohio, concealed carry permit holders there are required to have only 12 hours in training before receiving their permits. Here’s an example of a day-class in Ohio for CCW trainees.

    Finally, CSGV supports several policies that would enhance firearms safety and prevent accidents such as the ones described in our “Ordinary People” series. Those policies include Child Access Prevention laws (which impose criminal liability on adults who negligently leave firearms accessible to children), regulation of firearms by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (guns remain exempt from federal health and safety requirements, unlike virtually all other products), and the childproofing of handguns (so they can be fired only by authorized users). We have also cited the NRA’s Gun Safety Rules multiple times on our blogs, and will continue to do so in the future when appropriate. - CSGV

  5. A gun that is holstered on your body and carried for self defense is by definition "In Use". Therefore, it should be carried loaded with a round in the chamber. That is not simply "my personal rule". It is something that many people who carry a gun for self defense agree with, both cops and citizens. That explains why Lt. Child didn't say carrying a gun with a loaded chamber was a bad idea when he explained ways the accident could have been avoided. I challenge you to find an NRA certified CCW firearms instructor who opposes carrying a chamber-loaded gun for self defense.

    It's not just patrol officers responding to incidents who carry their guns with a round in the chamber. Virtually all cops do, including ones who are carrying their weapons while off duty. Off duty cops are not "seeking out dangerous situations where confrontation could result", yet they are wise enough to carry their guns with a round in the chamber because they know you can get into a dangerous situation without seeking it out.

    In fact, your statement that "Assuming they (CCW holders) are acting rationally, they should not be seeking out dangerous situations where confrontation could result" is rather offensive, as it implies that all violent crime victims are themselves at fault due to their own irrational behavior. I'm sure there are many cops and crime victims that can tell you that people can and do get into violent confrontations even if they do not intend to do so.

    Firearms instructor Massad Ayoob, who has a lifetime of experience with firearms as a citizen and a reserve police officer, explains why guns should be carried with a round in the chamber:


    "In the Southwest, a well-intentioned good guy who was apparently a little ambivalent about his choice, decided to carry a gun. He purchased a Glock 23 and kept it in a fanny pack, loaded with a magazine of .40 S&W training ammunition but with nothing in the chamber. The day came when he was faced with armed robbers. He grabbed the Glock out of the fanny pack and tried to chamber a round. but fumbled with the slide and jammed his pistol. The robbers shot him down."

    ...A man not confident enough in his ability to carry a chamber-loaded semiautomatic pistol is better served with a revolver. Operating the slide before firing is a complex psycho-motor skill of the kind that does not survive stress well, and it's normally a two-handed operation. The history of gunfighting shows us at least half the time, we will fire our handgun one-handed when attacked by surprise. The gun must be in a condition that allows one-handed operation."

    Looks like you are right about the amount of required CCW training in Ohio. I based my last comment about it on my own Ohio CCW training class, which involved more then one day of training. This re-enforces my original point that many CCW holders get more training then what is required by law, but still, I stand corrected.

    All the same, my original question to you remains unanswered. If you are so concerned about the amount of training that CCW holders receive, then why don't you provide or finance any firearms training yourselves? The other policies you advocate are highly controversial and are opposed by many gun owners. In contrast, proper firearms training is opposed by no one, at least not in the pro-gun community.