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Accidental Shooting Kills Oregon Teen: What Can We Learn?

by George Wehby   |  September 20th, 2011 46

Here’s the latest tragic headline that came across the wire: Community remembers Forest Grove teen killed in Saturday shooting.

Last Saturday Cory Ward, 18, and Trenton Joseph Lester (pictured at left), 15, were involved in the incident, which is being called an accidental shooting by Ward and Racheal Ensfield, 14, who was a witness.

From The Oregonian:

Both Ward and the girl have told police that the victim and Ward were horsing around with a shotgun that likely belonged to Ward’s father, said Forest Grove Capt. Mike Herb. They apparently stopped for a while, Herb said. But while Lester was sitting on the back patio near the girl, Ward walked up to Lester and shot him in the head “from fairly close range,” Herb said.


Photo Courtesy of Lester Family

This story is very tragic and serves as a grim and powerful reminder that firearm safety must be practiced at all costs and at all times. It is also a reminder that two things get people “accidentally” shot: complacency and ignorance. Both of these can be rectified with proper training and a little forethought. If these two teenagers were respectfully knowledgeable of the firearm and the proper procedure for safe weapons handling, this incident would never have happened. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and one teenager is dead and the other may be going to jail for a very long time.

I first heard the term Accidental Discharge (AD) when I was a Marine Corps Recruit at Parris Island, S.C.  Since that day it has been a constant source of fear and stress when I am dealing with firearms.  I never wanted to be one of “those guys” that has had an AD. Those guys were viewed as reckless, idiotic and a liability in a unit. It was a branding that would get you punished and ridiculed. It was later as a police officer that the term AD was being replaced with the term Negligent discharge (ND).  This term better defines the image and hazard associated with the act.

In what ways are you ensuring that those in your circle of influence (including yourself) handle firearms in a safe and appropriate manner?  Personally, I teach the four safety rules and use analogies such as the “laser rule” to drive it home. For those that have never heard of the laser rule, it is simply pretending that there is a laser pointing directing out of the barrel of the firearm at all times. This laser cuts and destroys anything it touches. The idea is to keep it from destroying things you wish to remain intact, figuratively speaking of course. Anyone else use the laser rule? Use any others?

  • Brian

    Good read, even though it's based on a horrible situation. I'll probably start using the laser rule myself. I've typical stuck with the basics and repetition of the basics.

  • GunRightsInAmerica

    This is certainly a tragic situation. Gun education is sadly lacking among the youth of our country, and probably among some adults. What a great reminder that responsible gun ownership and possession includes gun education and safety.

  • Darby Cole

    1. Assume all guns are always loaded, unless you deliberately empty it yourself, and then confirm it is empty.

    2. Never point a gun at anything you wouldn't want to destroy/shoot/kill. (regardless of #1).

    3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire at an appropriate target.

    4. Store guns not in use, unloaded, hidden out of sight, with the ammo in a separate location.

    • Dale Bailey

      Rule5. Firearms are NOT toys and must be supervised by an adult when children and IRRESPONSIBLE adults are around.

      Cory Ward is legally an adult at 18 and is legally responsible,and will most likely be charged .

  • Tory II

    Always "pretend" a gun is loaded and then handle it as if it is loaded. The laser rule is ok, but can fail in apartments or in homes with more than one level.

    When I carry a gun inside, I never point it downward at the floor (almost never). I usually point my gun straight up UNLESS someone is above me at another level in the house.

    When we think in a sort of rediculous manner about handling an empty gun, we are safe. It's like keeping a gun pointed downrange. I do it in an almost robotic fashion, unhuman like. I look silly keeping an empty firearm pointed downrange at all times, but if I have an AD, no one gets hurt.

    It's only human to error…

  • mythaeus

    Education. It's that simple. I wonder if the father taught and stressed the basic of gun safety to these kid or did he spend most of the time forbidding the kid from touching guns.

    • James

      That sort of attitude got my buddy shot. Thankfully he's alright, but since his parents forbade him from ever even seeing a firearm, what did he do when he turned 18? He bought a rifle. His friend was holding it, and pointed it at him and pulled the trigger, not knowing that it was apparently loaded, not knowing to never point a gun at anyone or anything you don't want to destroy. This happened a year or so ago, and he's still recovering. The bullet ruptured his intestines and caused a hell of a mess, and it was only a .22! I'll never doubt that round again. Of course, if he'd learned how to handle a firearm from an early age…………….

  • John

    Ever since I was a kid, I used a takeoff on the "laser" rule. I always thought of my rifle constantly firing by itself regardless of its loaded, or safety condition. I agree with the readers above, education is the key. My father was a Game Warden for 20 years and put on many hunter safety courses, and he always decried the fact that these courses should be taught in public schools at an early age. There are many more gun owners than hunters, so it would make sense to introduce this as across the board training instead of hunting specific.




  • A. Pardy

    Here in Canada to obtain a firearm you must first obtain firearm safety, write a test and do a practical exam to show you comprehend safety and handling.

    All guns stored – locked up and with locks to prevent actions from working.

    And the rule is – "ALL GUNS ARE LOADED TIL YOU PROVE THEM SAFE"….so if you check a gun and know its empty – then pass it to your friend – the rule is – he checks it too…

    And you never point a gun at anyone – even knowing fully if it is empty.

    Too many people lose their life over lack of common sense and simple gun rules all should follow. Such a shame

  • Michael Jecks

    As a Brit, I felt privileged to be allowed to own a pistol until the last damn stupid changes. Over here, our military long ago apparently gave up the idea of accidental discharges, and referred to them as "Negligent Discharges". If someone was shot, it was not an accident, but simple negligence on the part of the guy with the firearm.

    I have never in all my years of shooting seen anyone trained in pistols who injured himself or anyone else. All the British pistol shooters were carefully trained at their clubs in weapons handling and safety. The idea that "guns grow bullets" was drummed into me at an early age. I really like the laser in the barrel concept, though. Since I'm teaching my son the basics of gun safety already (you cannot begin too early in my view), that is a line I'll be using. A very sad occurrence, with tragic consequences, but if it helps save a couple of other lives, at least some good may come from it.

  • http://centurylink Jim

    too many people pick up a semi-auto, remove the magazine,and then will point the weapon at someone (usually a friend or relative) and pull the trigger, and then will swear they thought it was unloaded, forgetting about the shell in the chamber….how sad, such STUPID people.

  • Steve

    Muzzle control. Taught Hunter Education,and was in USMC.IT is what it is;MUZZLE Control. Kill someone from lack of it,you're gonna get what the law in your area deem's appropriate. Muzzle control.

  • Mitch

    from what im reading something stinks….they were horsing around and then "later" he walkied up behind him and pointed and shot?…. I think it was murder in the first degree. my .02

  • Robert

    There have been at least two such "accidental" killings in my area within the past five months. In one, a 13-YO shot and killed his 12-YO friend with his (13-YO) father's loaded handgun. These were juveniles. After months of investigation and hemming and hawing, the kid was charged with juvenile delinquency, pleaded guilty to it and will probably be sentenced to one year of probation. The gun was left loaded with no safety or locking device on it; the father wasn't charged with anything.

    In the other incident, a boyfriend/girlfriend situation, in their 20s. Fooling around with the boyfriend's .22 rifle, the woman was handling the gun and it discharged and killed her boyfriend. She freaked out and from police and other news reports this appears in every way to be another tragic "accident." However, the woman has been charged with manslaughter (this is NY so any explanation is meaningless). That trial will presumably be coming up in the next few months. Apparently the woman had no experience or exposure to firearms whatsoever. Obviously she never should have been handling it. In fact, neither one of them should have been handling the rifle in the situation, fooling around inside a house with it. The law being what it is here, and juries being what they are, she will likely be convicted and do time in prison even though she is devastated by the whole thing.

    I was going to point out the rule I follow and while I was posting I noticed others' that are essentially the same as mine – Pardy, Jonathon, Darby: "the gun is loaded." The rule should not be "treat every gun as if it is loaded" because that implies that well, it really may not be loaded.

    I was having a conversation just today with a fellow shooter and we were discussing range safety at one of our clubs, and the need for better vigilence and improvement. I have witnessed far too many – and one is far too many – instances where people are just plain sloppy and dangerous in the way they handle firearms. They seem to think if they've checked the firearm, it's somehow empty and as innocent as a rotten tomato, and turn around and spray their fellow shooters, myself included. I hate to say it but this seems to be the new breed of firearms owner. On more than one occasion I have found myself staring down the barrel of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun and, worse yet, I know for a fact that more than once the gun was a loaded semi-auto rifle. I fear one of these days I'm going to be a witness to a tragedy, and I am most concerned about my own.

    THE GUN *IS* LOADED! Whatever the action type, keep it open; keep the magazine empty; and keep the firearm pointed at the ground or in the air; or down range aiming only at your intended target.

    Unfortunately, we are only preaching to the choir here. People who need to hear this aren't reading this. Ironically enough, we in the shooting community need to confront the fact that the enemy is "us." The vast majority of firearms owners, it seems to me, make the assumption that if a person owns firearms, he must be lawabiding and okay, and safety conscious. The longer I am affiliated with firearms owners and various ranges, the more leery I have become, to the point that I believe that before anyone can acquire a firearm, he/she should be required to pass some basic safety course, much like a hunter safety course, and be able to prove that he/she at least understands the rudiments of firearms safety. The real irony? The NRA would violently oppose such a notion.

    • AC

      I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have seen too many times where someone at the indoor range i go to is very obviously a new handgun owner, and very obviously has never had any instruction on gun safety. The worst are the young guys who are bringing their girlfriends. One time, I turned to get some more ammo from my bag behind me, and the guy in the next lane was firing. His girlfriend, who thought she was "helping him", was behind him, and loading one of his other pistols with the muzzle of the gun pointing directly at me. I have no problem with requiring people to go through at least a very basic safety course before they are allowed to buy their first firearm. it's just common sense. You are correct however in assuming that the NRA woulkd fight this idea tooth and nail, due to the fear of the "slippery slope" principal.

    • Gary R. Martin

      Most intelligent answer/reply i have read on here thus far…you got it right, ALL GUNS ARE ALWAYS LOADED, ALWAYS…period. And will be treated thus so, no exceptions ever.

      I taught basic firearms for over 7 yrs, at a federal DOE site, been a reserve deputy, and some of the worst offenders are the veteran officers, they become complacent over the years, and become very unsafe in firearms handling. Not all, but most I observed, sadly.

  • bigjohn

    All the gun safety rules mean nothing if the first rule of thumb is not understood. No gun is a toy to be "horsing around with" period. Any adult who legally owns a gun should use every security measure to keep it out of the hands of kids and those who have not passed a gun safety course of intruction of some kind. People have to take a hunting course but yet others bring gun into their homes and never teach gun safety to other family members or take a course themselves. I hardly call playing around and pointing a gun at anyone loaded or unloaded an accident. Has we gun people know a gun is just a tool. If left alone it is a very safe tool. If used as a toy or something to play with it has deadly results and consequences. People are find themselves in the presents of any idiot playing around with any kind of gun should exercise their free will and common sense to leave the area immediately. Leaving a loaded gun which is accessable to anyone while the owner is away is fool hardy at best. The owner would feel very stupid if he or she came home and got shot with their own gun by an intruder. If the kids found it to play with certainly an experienced burglary could find it and make the owner do whatever he wanted when the owner returned home. Not thing would up set me more or piss me off then getting shot by my own gun which I was to lazy, careless and stupid to secure with all effort before leaving home. There are numerous ways to secure a firearm in the home and still ralative easy access to it when needed. Perhaps the best way is a excellent quality safe. There are very high quality gun locks, pad locks, magazine actions plugs, covered case harden chains at any home good store. Gun security is defeated by the owners lack of imagination, laziness and taking action. Pointing a gun at anything or anyone you do not attend to shoot legally is never an accident. The accident part is allowing a idiot to the availability to your guns. Lock them up and take the keys with you at all times.

  • Garry Owen

    Dad was an armorer and arms instructor with the Eighth Army Air Corp in England during WWII. I learned firearms safety at an early age. (1) There is no such thing as an unloaded gun until you check for youself. (2) Never point a gun at anything (or anyone) you do not intend to shoot. Good advice then, goood advice today.

    • Rice paddy daddy

      Even after you check it it is still loaded!

      • andy

        correct! you check the gun to see if it is loaded than you do it again. and you still treat it as loaded because you could have missed something.

  • http://roadrunner Old Sarge USMC

    I call it a DSM ( dumb stupid mistake). Somebody had to put their finger on the trigger, we all know the gun didn't fire by it's self. In Florida, the owner of the gun goes to jail for 5 yrs. and $5,000 fine when someone under 16 gets shot by the gun that has not been secured.

    • Dale Bailey

      Cory Ward is legally an adult and should be treated as one.

      He did it ,not his father,not the gun ,not the cartridge, …HIM.

      What was he doing playing with 14 and 15 anyway?

      • Mike

        I agree totally. he is responsible for his actions. He needs to face the conciquences!

  • Frank

    We teach our youth about math so that they can use it. We teach our youth how to drive so they can safely do that. Why aren't the schools teaching kids about firearms safety?

    RIP Trenton. Convalescences to the family and friends.

    • Rice paddy daddy

      it is not politically correct!

  • Tracy Thorleifson

    "Rule 1: All guns are always loaded." – Jeff Cooper

  • http://windstream Dan

    I taught school for 37 years in a rural community of about 20,000 people. I helped with the hunter safety program until it was chucked out the window precipitated by the shooting at Columbine. A big mouth no mind parent complained to the school board that there was a gun in our school. She did not want another school shooting like that in her community. It was used in hunter safety and even though her child was not taking hunter safety she wanted that shotgun out of the school. Instead of holding thier ground and letting the parent know that it was better for their child to learn about guns in school rather than on the street, the school board caved in to her wishes. It shows what can happen when good people (those who sided with the hunter safety program) do nothing.

  • John

    Laser Rule My A#$! Why were these kids horsing around with (most likely Dad's) shotgun. The 18 year old according to FED law is grown up enough to own this shotgun. I'm not familiar with Oregon State law but he should be educated enough to know not to horse around with guns!. Strike Two – he's dating a 14 yr. old girl! Send him to jail for about 10 so he can get a proper education. Send Dad too if it was his and has an illegal short barrel. The article mentions it also was likely dad's gun. DON'T THEY KNOW BY NOW?????

  • Craig Kinard

    Another variant: Imagine everyone you point a gun at, DEAD. If you can't imagine that, you should never be allowed near a firearm.

  • Robert

    I am 61 and have 4 kids (they were kids ,the youngest is 21) grew up with guns . The plain truth is that Gun safety SHOULD be taught in School starting in First Grade.

  • Wabbithunter

    I agree with “Robert” “Accident my ASS”. Anyone pointing a firearm at another, other than for the “Safety of themselves or others” is NOT an “Accident” The young man is so far being charge for “manslaughter” and in “Possession of a “Short barrel” shotgun”… mmm “Short barrel” just think on that for a second. My two cents… And yes I teach and thought my kids and grandkids “Firearm” safety starting at “5 years old”

  • M.J.Williams, M.D.

    When I was in high school in Dallas,Texas in the early 1940's our school had an indoor shooting range in the basement.All students were taught gun safety, gun function, and we shot regularly in the range. I started to high school when I was 12, so I had the benefit of the training from an early age. Thus, it has been natural for my entire life for me to treat guns with the highest respect and NEVER play or"horse around" with them.

    It's tragic that people with gun phobia don't realize that if training and education about guns were universal, the incidence of unintended shootings would drop dramatically–just as school massacres would drop if armed guards and teachers were present in schools.The maniacs who commit such crimes always choose to perform their murders in places where there are no defensive weapons. This was discussed intelligently in the August-September issue of Guns & Ammo "HANDGUNS' magazine.

  • Sohail

    Weapons should not have been laying around for kids to play with. This is very sad incident. Start early teaching your loved ones about gun safety. I started when my kids were 5 years old. Make sure all ammo for all type of guns kept in the safe. I beats me how a father will leave a gun loaded with kids around???? Anyway, sad incident never the less.

    • Robert


      I don't know if the father had the gun loaded or not . In reality that should not be the first question . The First question is why one of the kids pointed a gun at an other person . The Father should have educated his kid in gun safety to start with .

      If I read it right there were three kids there . Two boys and one girl and they were" fooling around ". None of these kids knew anything about safety ? That sounds so stupid that I find it hard to believe . If they are that stupid some one dropped the ball on BASIC Common Sense Training .

      I question if it was an accident ?

      My heart goes out to the families but who will get the blame for this ? THE GUN and it did not do a thing ,it was the moron who pulled the trigger .

  • http://Kivaari Don

    We had an action shooting match this last weekend. I was a bit startled to see how poorly other competators used their pistols. Many shoters are not skilled with their guns. We had a negligent discharge where both the shooter and the RSO (hate that term- registered sex offender or range safety officer) "inspected the empty pistol" only to have it go bang when the hammer was dropped. Both are part of the action shooting sports. Now when these assumed skilled shooters screw up, how do we expect un-educated kids doing better. The schools as a whole will not do anything to support gun safety-beyond wanting to ban all of them.

  • Dave

    There is nothing accidental about walking up to someone and shooting them at close range.

  • Quick Draw

    Gun safety must be a priority and a main stay of purchasing a gun of any kind. Make it a law that you MUST take a "GUN SAFETY COURSE" and you must pass it with a score of 90% or more. Turn to the NRA to set-up and run the program. In the 50's the boys club's of America ran a program using BB guns and after class room training you shot BB guns at 15' (?)

    You had to qualify at both class and Shooting. I WAS TAUGHT YOU NEVER POINT A GUN AT ANYTHING YOU DID NOT WANT TO DESTROY!

  • Reggie

    I agree with all of the comments, however some people are just dumb. No matter how hard we try they just will never get it. In my state the person who owns the gun and left it loaded and not secured would have been charged with a crime. I carry a concealed weapon and have several guns, some loaded some not but I always treat all of them as being loaded.

  • porkchop6209

    Several years ago we had a similar incident where a group of 14-15yo's went camping together, one snuck a shotgun out without his parents knowing it. Sitting around the campfire playing with it, one boy points it at the head of the kid that owned it, pulled the trigger and killed him. Grandmother blamed everyone- NRA, hunters, all gun owners, etc; everyone but those actually responsible for it happening. Senseless, tragic and completely unnecessary. We need mandatory Hunter Safety/Gun Safety courses in our schools, not the junk the kids learn/see on TV.

  • Gary K

    I learned about firearms from my father at a VERY early age, maybe 5 or 6.All the guns in dads house always were loaded, all the time. When I showed an interest in shooting we went out to the local gravel pit with several and brought some old fruit and setup maybe 15-20 feet away. I still remember clearly what that cantalope looked like when hit with a 38 sp. made a very lasting impression on me. My 2 kids were brought up the same way, all loaded all the time-even in my safe. Took both to the same gravel pit and had the same effect on both. both were pre school at the time. Son had enough of recoil and effect on the fruit. Daughter showed a little interest, but not much. They are now in their 50s and have never had a problem with firearms. All kids are different and this may or may not work- on most, nothing works without education. If you are unable to be the teacher find someone who can.

  • Steve

    Geez, seems like beating a dead horse. I find the whole story told by the shooter and the girl just too fantasticly stupid to take at face value.

    Maybe the shooter might be dumb enough to think he'll get away with offing a rival with the "accident" story? Maybe he was the jealous type and his IQ and hat size are the same….just saying. Sad on so many levels. Can we act locally to get change in the smallest districts to restore Gun Safety to the curriculum? Gotta start somewhere!

  • 3rd ccw

    Its sad to here storys like this and there are tragic. But what the hell you expect when you play with a LOADED fire arm duhhh!!!!. My 4 year old knows enuff not to tuch my guns if she see them. Godame time to bring back eddie the eagle

  • Jeffish

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FIREARM ACCIDENT! Period. Guns are loaded, triggers are pulled, results are predictable. The stupidity and ignorance of the masses makes our fight to keep our 2nd amendemnt rights that much more difficut. Education, ie, US History, our Constitution, firearm and hunter safety is our only real recource.

  • Uglygun

    15 years ago when I lived in Houston, Houston passed a law that if a child was able to get your firearm and discharge it, it was your responsibility and your A$$ in court.
    When I was in the Netherlands you could own anything that went bang or bangbangbangbang. (Full Auto) BUT you had to keep it in a container/safe of a certain configuration and locked. if someone used your firearm to do bad things, it was your responsibility and you want to jail. the only way it wasn't your fault was if the firearm container was broken into with substantial damage and the firearms reviewed.
    For us that own firearms, we have a responsibility to keep them out of the hands of irresponsible children or grown ups.
    Failing to do this is who's fault? If you don't protect, maintain, secure your firearm and it is used with tragic results, who's fault is it. Not the firearms, not your neighbor, not the police, your responsibility. No one else You failed to secure your firearm. You done bad!

  • andy

    to bad that young people have to be the victims of their parents and others ignorance because they didn't teach the children proper guns safety

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