‘Accidental shooting’ often a misdemeanor

An array of handguns and shotguns are shown on a table. Ashland City Council will discuss a proposal to ban carrying a loaded weapon in public Tuesday, March 18. (KOIN_
An array of handguns and shotguns are shown on a table. Ashland City Council will discuss a proposal to ban carrying a loaded weapon in public Tuesday, March 18. (KOIN_

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The teenage girl who was wounded when a neighbor accidentally fired his rifle in a Portland apartment is recovering while the man who shot her has not yet been charged with a crime.

A man cleaning his rifle shot a teenage neighbor when the bullet discharged and went through a wall at this apartment in the 1200 block of SE 130th Avenue in Portland, May 29, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
A man cleaning his rifle shot a teenage neighbor when the bullet discharged and went through a wall at this apartment in the 1200 block of SE 130th Avenue in Portland, May 29, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Christopher Morris, 52, called police after he fired the shot. He said he was cleaning his lever-action rifle when it discharged and went through the wall of his apartment.

His 17-year-old neighbor was grazed in the leg and taken to the hospital for treatment.

The case will be referred to the Multnomah County District Attorney for review.

Multnomah County Chief Deputy Jason Gates — whose office has no involvement in this case — said gun owners must be responsible.

“Whether you have a semi-automatic pistol, a rifle, a cylinder-type revolver, you need to, if not triple check, quadruple check that that weapon is actually unloaded,” Gates told KOIN 6 News. “Have no distractions while you are engaged in that process.”

The rifle shooting is the fifth accidental shooting in the area in two months.

Shayla May Shonneker in an undated family photo. (KOIN 6 News)
Shayla May Shonneker in an undated family photo. (KOIN 6 News)

Shayla Shonneker died when she was shot in the head by her mother’s boyfriend in April. He was practicing holstering his gun for a security guard job test when the gun went off. She was 9. He has not yet been charged with any crime.

Cody Hall in an undated photo from Facebook. The 4-year-old died from a gunshot wound on April 20, 2013.
Cody Hall in an undated photo from Facebook. The 4-year-old died from a gunshot wound on April 20, 2013.

On April 20, Cody Hall died from a single gunshot wound to the abdomen. The circumstances of that gunshot are still not disclosed. The district attorney is reviewing the case to determine if anyone will face charges. Cody was 4.

In Salem, a 24-year-old man shot his sister in the leg May 9 when he pulled a gun from his waistband to unload it. The gun went off and his sister was wounded but will recover. Raymond Hernandez faces one count each of second-degree assault and reckless endangerment.

On April 3, a woman is nearly hit by a bullet when a gun accidentally goes off in an apartment next door in Troutdale. And on May 13 in Beaverton, Bryce Norton accidentally fired into a neighbor’s home.

Both incidents happened when owners were cleaning their guns, and both people face a misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person.

In many accidental shootings, that’s all the law allows.

Portland attorney Bruce McCain, May 30, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
Portland attorney Bruce McCain, May 30, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Someone involved in an accidental shooting does not automatically lose their right to have a gun. If the shooting is connected to a concealed handgun license, a sheriff can make the decision to take a license away. In other cases, a no-firearms rule can be added to probation, but it’s a case-by-case decision.

“Reckless is what’s at play in most of these so-called accidental shootings because cleaning a firearm with a loaded chamber is considered reckless under Oregon law,” attorney Bruce McCain told KOIN 6 News. “It is beyond most common understandings of how you should be handling a firearm.”

Some question whether enough is done in these accidental shootings.

“Unfortunately we’ve seemed to have a spate of these so-called accidental shootings in which the victims happen to be minor children and that’s going to probably get the legislature’s attention,” McCain said.

Chief Deputy Gates said gun owners should invest in quality locks and storage units to keep their firearms safe.

“The expense of having an appropriate gun lock and an appropriate gun box or safe is nothing compared to the cost of the tragedy that could happen

A gun safety lock (April 23, 2013)
A gun safety lock (April 23, 2013)

if that gun gets into the wrong hands or if there’s an unintentional discharge,” he said.

[lin_video src=http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/player.js?aspect_ratio=16x9&auto_next=1&auto_start=0&div_id=videoplayer-1369964582&height=354&page_count=5&pf_id=9621&show_title=1&va_id=4078687&width=630&windows=2 service=syndicaster width=630 height=354 div_id=videoplayer-1369964582 type=script]

blog comments powered by Disqus