When I was a teenager I lived in a state that had very lax gun laws. I thought guns were cool and my parents thought I was a responsible person so they bought me a rifle and 2 handguns. I was generally responsible with them: always carried them unloaded, cleaned them, only shot them in the target range my father built, always kept them and the ammunition locked up. I had them for 2 years and these safety precautions were drilled into me by my father to the point where they were ingrained habits that I never skipped.
One night a friend of mine was staying over and we were in my room just hanging out. Sometimes we would take out the revolver and practice twirling it on our fingers, quick drawing, stuff like that. This night my friend wanted to do that but instead of taking it out myself, I gave them the key. They took it out and were twirling it around. Then I took my turn. While I was fiddling with it, it went off and hit my friend. I ran out of the room screaming. The police were called and my friend was taken to the hospital where they were pronounced dead.
To this day I have no idea how a live round was in that gun. I was sitting three feet away from my when they took it out of the lockbox it was in, so I’m certain they didn’t put one in. I always checked the gun when I took it out and before I put it away. My friend didn’t check when they took it out that night and I didn’t want to yell at them. We both had just went shooting the day before and I remember checking the gun before putting it back because I was explaining to my friend what the safety procedures were and we went over checking when putting it away. The only other person who had a key to the box was my father and he said that he hadn’t touched the guns.
After that I was a complete emotional wreck. I was basically catatonic for months. It was near the end of the school year and I don’t remember taking finals, or if I had to make them up, or just got excused, its a total blank. I was prosecuted and represented by the PD. I went to the court dates and sentencing but I remember exactly zero of this. I don’t remember what the ultimate charge/plea deal was but I was sentenced to 1000 hours of community service so I suspect it was a firearm charge of some kind. My parents lost the paperwork in a move a while back and have since passed away. The court doesn’t have records going that far back so I have no way to see what my charge was or what the testimony or evidence consisted of.
I wasn’t a super popular person to begin with in school and after this I was less so. There were some people that became my friends after this, but most of the people I was friends shunned me. It was a small town and everyone knew everything about everyone else. The parents of one of my closest friends even forbade me to go over their house or for them to come over mine. I thought that was harsh at the time, but now that I’m a parent myself, I totally understand.
After high school I developed a bit of a drinking problem and would always get emotional and incoherently sob about this event in my life to the people I was around. But I stopped drinking shortly thereafter. I’ve had a few SO’s that I’ve told when things got a bit serious and they broke up with me shortly afterwards (never outright telling me this was the reason, but the timing was too coincidental). So I stopped telling anyone. I stopped thinking about it. Eventually I made my piece with it I guess. This was decades ago and I only think about it ocassionally now. I have a spouse, and kids and have mostly moved on with my life. But I do not like guns. I have never owned nor touched a firearm since. I did not allow my children to have or use guns while they were young. I always asked if the parents of my children’s friends owned guns and how they were stored before allowing them over.
All of this was over three decades ago and I will always blame myself because I didn’t check the gun when my friend got it out. I will always blame myself (and my parents a bit) for being so cavalier with firearms and ammunition and acting so recklessly with them. I will always wonder how that round got in the gun and whether my father took it out and forgot his own rules (despite his denials), if my friend put it in slyly (for some unfathomable reason), or if I overlooked it (even though I clearly remember checking). I will never know how this happened but will carry the guilt for the rest of my life.