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Gun ownership is common in America and as controversial as it is common. Regardless of what side you align with in the ongoing national debate regarding gun regulations, a simple truth remains a source of common ground: mishandled firearms are extremely dangerous. To many, tragic headlines reporting accidental shootings may seem like one-off occurrences. Yet, these kinds of accidents should never happen. When they do, victims’ families are caught off guard and burdened in more ways than one. Our accidental shooting injury lawyers in Albuquerque can help.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe no personal injury victim should face the aftermath of an accidental shooting alone. Nor should they lack excellent legal representation.
If you or a loved one were injured in an accidental shooting, do not hesitate to speak with one of our accidental shooting injury lawyers in Albuquerque. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free consultation with an experienced injury lawyer near you.
Accidental Shootings in New Mexico
Whether they are individual murders or mass shootings, media attention often focuses on intentional shootings. Accidental shootings get comparatively less attention. This section will explore two recent accidental shootings in New Mexico—one high profile and one low profile.
Case Illustration No. 1 – Bonanza City
One of the most high-profile accidental shootings in recent years took place in an abandoned mining town. Unlike most accidental shooting cases, this accident made recurrent national headlines for months.
On October 6, 2021, filming began for the now-suspended Western film Rust. The film starred 63-year-old actor, producer, and comedian Alec Baldwin. At the time of the accident, filming was taking place in Bonanza City, a ghost town about 13 miles outside of Santa Fe.
By October 21, filming had been going on for twelve days. The team was rehearsing a gunfight when Baldwin discharged a live round from a revolver he had been using as a prop.
The round hit one of the cinematographers working on the set. The 42-year old received a fatal gun wound to the chest. After being airlifted to an Albuquerque hospital 50 miles away, she was pronounced dead.
Prior to the accident, there had been numerous complaints regarding the production’s gun-safety protocols. Neal Zoromski, a veteran prop master with three decades of experience in Hollywood productions, later reported to the Los Angeles Times that he was originally enthusiastic when approached to work on the film.
However, because of “massive red flags” regarding the production’s focus on cutting costs, Zoromski ultimately turned down the offer. He later explained, “After I pressed ‘send’ on that last email, I felt, in the pit of my stomach: ‘That is an accident waiting to happen . . .’”
Read more: James, Meg. “Veteran prop master turned down ‘Rust’ film: ‘An accident waiting to happen.’” The Los Angeles Times, 25 Oct. 2021; Gray, Maryann. “The Burden of Causing an Accidental Death.” The Wallstreet Journal, 20 Nov. 2021; Bowley, Graham, and Julia Jacobs. “Alec Baldwin Seeks to Avoid Liability in Fatal ‘Rust’ Shooting.” The New York Times, 11 March 2022.
Case Illustration No. 2 – Lincoln National Forest
Hunting accidents are common scenarios for accidental shootings. Though these accidents often receive only limited coverage in local news, their consequences can be tragic.
For example, on April 25, 2021, a boyfriend, his fiancé, and a friend were hunting in the Lincoln National Forest outside of Las Cruces. The three had been on a mountain in the park, hunting for turkeys.
Eventually, the couple returned to their truck, leaving the friend behind to continue hunting. Later, the couple split up again when the boyfriend started making his way back up the mountain. The girlfriend followed him when she thought she heard the sound of a turkey followed shortly after by the sound of a gunshot.
When she finally reached her fiancé, she found him on the ground receiving chest compressions from the friend. Her fiancé had been shot by the friend when he mistook him for a turkey. In addition to his fiancé, the 45-year-old victim who was declared dead on the scene is survived by a 7-year-old son.
Read more: Romero, Leah. “Las Cruces man killed in accidental shooting while hunting.” Las Cruces Sun News, 26 June 2021; New Mexico Hunting Accident Lawyer.
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Accidental Shootings Statistics
According to the Small Arms Survey, there were approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms in the world at the end of 2017. Of these, 393.3 million were located in the United States—more than in any other country. Expressed differently, though the United States accounts for only 4% of the world population, it also accounts for 46% of the entire global stock of civilian-held firearms (120.5 civilian-held firearms per 100 residents).
The Pew Research Center reports similarly large numbers. In a 2019 survey, for example, 40% of Americans reported living in a household with at least one gun. Another 30% reported personally owning a gun.
At the end of the day, numbers like these go a long way in explaining the high gun-related death rate in the United States. In 2020 alone, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported 45,222 firearm deaths in the United States, an increase of 13.9% from 39,707 in the previous year.
Similarly, it is perhaps unsurprising that Americans are statistically more likely to die from injuries sustained from someone shooting accidentally. Specifically, a 2019 study published in Injury Epidemiology reported that 9% of firearm deaths around the world are unintentional. Yet, the same study concluded Americans are four times more likely to die from unintentional shootings than people in other high-income nations.
Sadly, New Mexico is among the more afflicted states when it comes to firearm mortalities. In 2019, the state’s 471 firearm-related deaths represented the fourth highest firearm mortality rate in the country. The death rate in the top five states broke down as follows:
1. Alaska (24.4 per 100,000 people)
2. Mississippi (24.2 per 100,000 people)
3. Wyoming (22.3 per 100,000 people)
4. New Mexico (22.3 per 100,000 people)
5. Alabama (22.2 per 100,000 people)
Notably, gun-related fatalities correlate strongly with gender. According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV), approximately 90% of unintentional shooting victims in 2019 were male.
It is also strongly correlated with age. According to the same organization, over half of unintentional firearm fatalities occur to people under the age of 35, a quarter between the ages of 0–19, and another quarter between the ages of 20–34.
Alcohol also plays a frequent role. Of those victims who died between ages of 20–29, nearly half had consumed alcohol near the time of their accident. Other common circumstances leading to unintentional gun-related deaths include:
- playing with the gun (28.3% of accidents),
- thinking the gun was unloaded (17.2%), and
- hunting (13.8%).
Regardless of the circumstances of your accident, if you or someone in your family were injured in an accidental shooting, you are highly advised to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. The sooner you consult with an injury attorney about your injuries from another person shooting accidentally, the greater the odds of recovering maximum compensation. Call the accidental shooting lawyers at Zinda Law Group for a free consultation today.
Read more: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Firearm Mortality by State; Gun Violence Archive (GVA), Interactive Map of Unintentional Shootings (2022).
How to Prevent Accidental Shootings
Most accidental shootings are the result of inexperience, mishandling, improper gun storage, or a combination of similar factors. To prevent deadly gun accidents, the Firearm Industry Trade Association (NSSF) recommends following the Ten Rules of Safe Gun Handling. They are as follows:
1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
2. Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use.
3. Don’t rely on your gun’s “safety.”
4. Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it.
5. Use correct ammunition.
6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care!
7. Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting.
8. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.
9. Don’t alter or modify your gun, and have guns serviced regularly.
10. Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using.
Additionally, always be sure to store your guns in a safe location, preferably behind lock and key. Stored guns should always be unloaded. In particular, always be sure that your firearms are stored beyond the reach of children.
New Mexico gun Laws
In addition to federal regulations, each state sets its own laws and regulations governing guns. These laws and regulations vary widely across jurisdictions. This section will explore some of the laws in place in New Mexico.
Negligent Use of a Deadly Weapon
N.M. Stat. § 30-7-4, illegalizes “negligent use of a deadly weapon.” Of the New Mexico laws surveyed in this article, this law is the broadest and most flexible. Specifically, the law prohibits:
- discharging a firearm into any building or vehicle “so as to knowingly endanger a person or his property,”
- carrying a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs,
- discharging a firearm within one hundred fifty yards of a building without the permission of the owner, or
- endangering the safety of another by handling a firearm in “a negligent manner.”
The open-ended nature of the last bullet point (no pun intended) means that the law acts as a catchall for all manner of irresponsible behavior involving guns.
Unlawful Carrying of a Loaded Firearm
N.M. Stat. § 30-7-2 makes it illegal to carry a loaded firearm “anywhere.” However, the law carves out a number of exceptions.
For example, it is not unlawful for a person to carry a loaded firearm in their residence or on other real property that they own or rent. Similarly, it is not illegal to carry a loaded firearm in a private automobile or “other private means of conveyance” for personal protection. Notably, the law makes very clear that it does not apply to unloaded weapons.
Unlawful Possession of Handguns
Unlike the foregoing law, which applies to all loaded firearms, N.M. Stat. § 30-7-2.2 is more specific. It makes it illegal to possess or knowingly transport handguns. Though handguns are a narrower class of weapons, the law makes clear that it applies to both loaded and unloaded handguns.
Like the foregoing law governing loaded firearms, this law also carves out a handful of exceptions. For example, it is not illegal to carry a handgun when engaged in:
- a hunting safety course,
- a handgun safety course,
- target shooting at an authorized range,
- legal hunting or trapping,
- an organized competition “involving the use of handguns,” or
- travel to or from any of these locations (but only with an unloaded handgun).
Unlawful Carrying of a Deadly Weapon on School (and University) Premises
N.M. Stat. § 30-7-2.1 makes it illegal to carry guns on “school premises,” which is defined very broadly. It includes obvious areas like buildings, athletic fields, and playgrounds owned by the school. It also includes school buses and “any buildings or grounds . . .on which public school-related and sanctioned activities are being performed,” even if not owned by the school.
N.M. Stat. § 30-7-2.4 establishes similar rules for university settings. However, unlike other educational institutions, universities must “conspicuously post notices on university premises that state that it is unlawful to carry a firearm on university premises.”
Unlawful Carrying of a Firearm in Liquor Establishments
N.M. Stat. § 30-7-3 makes it illegal to carry a firearm of any sort, whether loaded or unloaded, in establishments selling alcoholic beverages. The exceptions included in this law are more limited. They generally apply only to law enforcement, owners of liquor establishments, and persons carrying valid concealed handgun licenses.
Statute of limitations
The foregoing provisions are just a handful of laws that may come into play in your case, and their impact on your case will vary depending on the facts. However, one law that is sure to come into play in any personal injury case is the governing statute of limitations. If this law is not complied with, it is guaranteed to have a high impact on your case.
What is a statute of limitations? This simply refers to a legal deadline after which you may no longer bring your case seeking compensation. Many states set their statute of limitations at two years after the date of the accident.
New Mexico is more generous. Whether you are bringing a personal injury suit seeking compensation for your own injuries or a wrongful death suit seeking compensation for the loss of a loved one, the statute of limitations in New Mexico is set at three years. This means that once three years have elapsed after the date of the accident, you may no longer bring a case seeking compensation.
In other words, time is of the essence. Again, the sooner you speak with an injury attorney, the more likely you are to secure satisfactory compensation. Call Zinda Law Group for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer near you.
Read more: N.M. Stat. § 37-1-8, Statute of Limitations.
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Our accidental shooting injury lawyers in Albuquerque CAN HELP
Accidental shootings may seem like uncommon occurrences. However, notwithstanding the precise statistical probability (or improbability) of accidental shootings, the high concentration of guns in the United States means that accidents almost certainly will happen. If you or someone in your family are a victim of one of these accidental shootings, you are likely entitled to compensation.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe every personal injury victim deserves excellent legal representation that is affordable. Our injury attorneys are proud to provide that representation.
If you or a loved one was injured in an accidental shooting in or near Albuquerque, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with one of our Albuquerque injury lawyers. Our clients pay nothing unless we win their case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.
AWARDED TO JOHN C. (JACK) ZINDA BY THE NATIONAL TRIAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION (2016-2020)
AWARDED TO JOHN C. (JACK) ZINDA (2009, 2011-2012, 2014-2021), JOE CAPUTO (2019-2021), BURGESS WILLIAMS (2019-2020), & NEIL SOLOMON (2020-2021)
AWARDED TO JACK ZINDA (2016-2020), JOE CAPUTO (2016 – 2020) & BURGESS WILLIAMS (2016-2017)
LIFETIME MEMBERS JOHN C. (JACK) ZINDA & JOE CAPUTO