In Pennsylvania over the weekend, a gun dealer accidentally shot a woman in the leg while demonstrating a concealed carry holster at a gun show. Geoffrey Hawk was showing 25-year-old Krista Gearhart how to use his product, appropriately called “In Case of Emergency,” when the semi-automatic .380 he was holding fired unexpectedly, unloading a round into Gearheart’s thigh and sending her to the hospital. Police are recommending criminal charges against Hawk, although the decision of whether or not to charge him is ultimately in the hands of the district attorney.
“Everybody paused for a second and I guess their initial reaction was making sure there wasn’t more [gunfire], and then they rushed to her aid,” witness Eric Bower told WNEP. “I think some of the dealers were upset because it makes them look bad.”
Well, yes, it does indeed make them look bad, because it is bad. Loaded weapons were explicitly prohibited at the show, and while Hawk had made sure that there wasn’t a magazine attached to his demo gun, he apparently hadn’t checked the chamber for that one last, elusive round. Even opting to use a real gun was an unorthodox choice, according to police; normally, a plastic replica would be utilized for demonstration purposes.
Bloomsburg police officer Brad Sharrow says that he intends to file a reckless endangerment charge against the dealer, whom he accused of “gross negligence.” However, that charge would have to be approved by the Columbia County district attorney in order to move forward. If convicted, he’d face a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Hawk, for his part, claims that he’d conducted the demonstration 20 times prior without incident, “racking” the gun’s slide each time to clear the chamber of bullets. He mentioned that he’d been conducting periodic background checks on certain customers, and speculated that somebody might have covertly loaded the .380 with a bullet while he was distracted with the background checks. Those pesky background checks!
"He admitted it was his fault and certainly feels bad about what took place,” Sharrow told AP. “But the guy's a firearms instructor so he should've known better than to pull the trigger on a weapon.”
Gearheart was treated at the hospital and released. She was lucky, as the bullet missed her arteries and bone and passed right through. She told AP that “God was clearly standing there with me,” and added that she never got a chance to finish purchasing the Ruger she’d been admiring prior to the accident.
The organizer of the gun show tells WNEP that he feels “very, very bad about what happened.”