Complacency, the culprit of many firearm accidents. (WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES)

Chances are, you have heard someone say ‘complacency kills!’
Not meant for us to take literally … right?
Well, sorry to break it to you, but complacency does kill or at a very minimum leave you with a few scars if you’re lucky.

It is something we should guard against in all aspects of our lives. When we have an inflated opinion of our skills or knowledge, we tend to either ignore or don’t see actual risks and danger.

As an avid outdoors enthusiast, I have been very active and involved all my life with various outdoor activities, scuba diving, hunting and firearms being at the top of my list. As a divemaster and instructor, I was always aware of how complacency has claimed so many divers, including two dive friends who lost their lives while diving using rebreathers. One such friend lost his life in just ten feet of water due to neglect and not replacing the $50 oxygen scrubbers in his rebreather, even though he knew it was overdue. “One more dive should be fine…”

Complacency has been a hot topic in many dive meetings and with many of my diving friends and classes. As a technical diver with over 3,000 dives and some great adventures to depths of over 250+ feet such as the great Andrea Doria wreck, I have always been able, perhaps because of having lost friends to it, to never allow myself to get complacent in scuba diving. Especially knowing very well that becoming complacent in scuba diving most likely would mean an agonizing death!

Find an incident where someone was inadvertently injured or killed with a firearm. You can bet, complacency was most likely a factor. Complacency affects us without our even knowing it, and plays on our sense of ego. Because of this, it is only in retrospect that we realize our error. For me, this became very true on Friday morning, September 8th 2017. I have been very involved with hunting and firearms since the early 90’s and have never had a problem, not even a close call… But on that fateful morning I became a victim of my own complacency!

While unloading my Ruger 1911 (.45) I made the “mistake” of ejecting the chambered round by pushing the slide from the front of the gun instead of pulling it from the back and although I was sure my finger was not on the trigger the gun discharged and my life was forever, horrifically, permanently changed… My professional life as a concert violinist, my 40+ years as a musician, all taken away due to complacency in a fraction of a second.

Most of us learn firearm safety rules upon our introduction to firearms.
For years, we staunchly follow this safety dogma.
Exposure after exposure without a single negative incident, allows us to gain confidence.

Enhanced confidence and competency are great attributes, and what we strive for. But this is where we can also open the door to complacency. When complacency creeps in, our brain attributes our lack of negative incidents to our experience, and skill. We don’t realize that skill and competency is only part of the equation. Only by applying our skills while following safety concepts, will we reduce the likelihood of incurring an injury. We take it for granted that people who use firearms as a tool in their daily work routine or hobbies are well aware of these, and most are, but it’s complacency that’s killing us.

Studies have shown that people who are around firearms all their life tend to lessen their vigilance for the basics. Ever seen someone shoot without safety glasses? I am guilty of sometimes not wearing safety glasses. When I first started shooting I wore glasses, but over time, I justified taking the risk of shooting without them. The thing is, I know I am safer with glasses, but I have become complacent in my actions. If I were to catch a piece of ricocheting lead in my eye, it is due 100% to my complacent behavior. What about when you clean your firearm? We know we should not have any ammunition in the area. This is obviously a safety mechanism to ensure we don’t have a live firearm while at the cleaning bench. Yet I am sure many violate this practice! The countless documented incidents of ‘accidental shootings’ while cleaning a gun reflect this.

Interestingly, various studies have shown that accidental injuries have become the number three cause of death in U.S. history. Injury statistics examined by experts confirm that preventable deaths rose 10% in 2016. Based on new injury statistics, an American is accidentally injured every second and killed every three minutes by a preventable event. A total of 14,803 more people died accidentally in 2016 than in 2015, the largest single-year percent rise since 1936. Injury statistics provided in Injury Facts, published since 1903, help people understand what their greatest risks are. Complacency has resulted in 442 deaths each day, every one of them preventable. Everyone knows that human factors like rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency can increase the risk of making a mistake, clouding a decision, or causing an injury. But not everyone recognizes the scale of these problems, nor do they realize they can be managed with personal safety skills.

Understand that no human is perfect. We can only try our best to do what is right. But just because we do something wrong without a negative outcome, doesn’t make it right. Take these ‘non-tragic’ mistakes and learn from them. Being safe doesn’t make you a newbie or less experienced. Being safe makes you … well, safe!

  • Treat all firearms as if they are always loaded
  • Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to see destroyed
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until the firearm is pointed at the target
  • Always be sure of your target and the area behind it before you fire
  • If you’re fatigued, rushing, irritated, stressed or something is clouding your decisions, don’t handle your guns!


Be safe out there and enjoy the outdoors!

Peter Ferreira


Articles of interest:

Gun Safety is No Accident | Am interesting article by Command Sgt. Maj. Leeford C. Cain, U. S. Army Combat Readiness Center

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Gun-related deaths from preventable, intentional and undetermined causes totaled 39,773 in 2017, a 2.9% increase from 38,658 deaths in… READ MORE