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Accidental Firearm Discharges Doubled for LA Sheriff’s Department

© Flickr / Tony FaiolaSmith & Wesson M&P
Smith & Wesson M&P - Sputnik International
Accidental gun fire has more than doubled among the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as deputies adjust to a new firearm that lacks a safety lever and requires less pressure to fire.

Misfires hiked from 12 in 2012 to 30 among LA Country Sheriff's deputies last year. Seven accidental discharges have been reported this year. Five of them involve the Smith & Wesson M&P9.

Of 30 reported accidental discharges in 2014, 22 involved the M&P.

The spike has initiated an investigation by the new inspector general and deputies are now being forced to complete four marksmanship tests a year instead of three. They are also undergoing training designed to groom officers into not resting their fingers on the trigger, as was common practice when Berettas were more commonly used by the department.

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Although the M&P9 is easier to accurately shoot than the Beretta, critics argue the gun is too easy to fire opening up the possibility of accidental shots. It only takes six to eight pounds of pressure to fire an M&P as opposed to the 12 to 15 pounds of pressure required to fire the initial shot from a Beretta.

"I don't think, with the amount of training most agencies have, that a gun that has so few tolerances for mistakes is the best choice," said BearingArms.com editor Bob Owens.

Academy trainees started using the M&P in 2011 and its use has been gradually increasing since.

Many of the incidents in 2014 occurred while deputies were on duty.

According to prosecutors, Officer Peter Liang was resting his finger on his Glock while patrolling a Brooklyn housing project on Nov. 20, where he accidentally shot Akai Gurley, 28, to death as she was walking down the stairwell.

During a December 2014 incident in Compton, a deputy drew his firearm and approached a car he suspected was stolen. He then accidentally fired the M&P. The vehicle’s occupants had fled and the bullet hit the driver’s side door. No one was injured.

A month earlier in Lancaster, a deputy was following a suspect he thought was armed. As the officer was removing his seatbelt, he produced his weapon and accidentally fired into his thigh.

"It seems as if the sheriffs are having a problem with training," Berns said. "What you do subconsciously is a matter of training."

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