When a Maine State Police lieutenant's gun accidentally discharged during a computer training session, we wondered how often that happens to police officers.
And what we learned surprised us.
The recent incident in Augusta occurred as the officer was adjusting his holster.
"He had an ache or a pain," explained Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police. "He put his hand on his weapon to push it away from his body" and it fired, Williams told the Portland Press Herald.
The gun was a late-model .45-caliber with, Williams explained, an extra safety mechanism, and the trigger was not exposed in the holster.
Fortunately, no one was injured.
We could find no national statistics on how often police officers accidentally discharge their weapons, but a cursory search of the Web finds regular examples.
Perhaps most notorious is the remarkable 2004 video showing a DEA agent talking to about 50 schoolchildren and adults about gun safety.
Just as he was telling the children that a gun can go off at any time, the gun he was holding fired, shooting him in the upper thigh in front of the children. Lesson learned.
But less spectacular incidents occur almost daily.
On March 5, a school resource officer's handgun rang out in the hallway of a high school in Highland, N.Y. No one was hurt.
On March 4, a reserve officer in Polk County Iowa had her gun fire as she was handing it to another officer for a safety inspection. Her hand was injured.
On March 2, a police dog in Lawrence, Mass., accidentally fired a handgun while digging for it in a snow drift. The shot hit a nearby house.
We could go on, but you get the idea. This happens all the time.
A study in 2006 of the Los Angeles Police Department found that between 1985 and 2005, 161 officers were injured or killed by gunfire, 90 were shot by suspects and 68 shot themselves or were shot by others.
Perhaps the saddest incident occurred last July when a young Detroit woman was killed when she hugged an off-duty police officer and his gun fired.
The point here isn't that police are reckless, rather it is that even well-trained and supervised professionals have mishaps when they carry guns.
So, just imagine how often untrained people screw up. At least three or four people a day make the national news for accidentally shooting themselves or others.
And that just counts the incidents that make headlines. No one knows how many accidental gun discharges go unreported.
As Americans seek concealed weapon permits in greater numbers every day, as everyone from grannies to college students seek to arm themselves, the rest of us should clearly worry about our own safety.
An estimated 2 percent of the population now has a concealed weapon permit. What happens when it's 5 percent or 15 percent?
Will we be standing in line at Walmart when the guy in front of us pulls out his wallet and his gun goes off?
Well, that actually happened in Dallas last summer when a young man — with a concealed weapon permit — dropped his gun and it went off, grazing him and wounding a woman and three children with ricochet fragments.
On Jan. 8, a man in Lenexa, Kansas, accidentally shot his wife in a Longhorn Steakhouse when his concealed weapon discharged.
In July, a man was adjusting his pants when his gun accidentally fired inside a McDonald's in Flagstaff, Ariz.
On March 15, a 17-year-old man in New Haven, Conn., shot himself in, well, his man parts, when the gun in his pants accidentally went off. “We see that the vast majority of groin shots are accidental discharges,” an officer said matter-of-factly.
Also on March 15, a gun went off when it fell out of man's pocket in a restaurant. By the way, that was in Surprise, Ariz.
Also on March 15, a 42-year-old woman was shot in Crete, Ill., as she put her gun away after an eight-hour gun safety class. The bullet entered her upper thigh and lodged in her knee.
On March 12, a man shot himself in the knee as parishioners rose for the benediction at the Tate Creek Baptist Church in Georgia. The gun had been in his pocket. No one will forget that service.
If someone close to you carries a firearm, or is thinking about carrying a firearm, you owe it to yourself to study a Web page titled "Today's Accidental Shootings."
And ask yourself one question: Does this person ever make mistakes?
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.