The New York Times never misses a chance to wave the bloody shirt to champion gun control, and they were happy to give some novelist name Bruce Holbert a chance to lament a gun accident in which he shot and killed his friend. Quite frankly, it looks a lot like manslaughter:
…I never had much interest in guns. Yet it is I who killed a man.
It was the second week in August, a Friday the 13th, in fact, in 1982. I was with a group of college roommates who were getting ready to go to the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race. Three of us piled into a red Vega parked outside a friend’s house in Okanogan, Wash., me in the back seat. The driver, who worked with the county sheriff’s department, offered me his service revolver to examine. I turned the weapon onto its side, pointed it toward the door. The barrel, however, slipped when I shifted my grip to pull the hammer back, to make certain the chamber was empty, and turned the gun toward the driver’s seat. When I let the hammer fall, the cylinder must have rotated without my knowing. When I pulled the hammer back a second time it fired a live round.
My friend, Doug, slumped in the driver’s seat, dying, and another friend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, raced into the house for the phone.
There is no double-action service revolver of the 20th century that requires the hammer to be thumbed back to open the cylinder to check for the presence of cartridges. Not one.
Nor are there are there any properly functioning revolvers that can fire when their hammers are being pulled back. It is a physical impossibility, as the hammer has to fall forward for the gun to fire, and physics precludes the hammer moving in opposite directions at once.
Bruce Holbert is manufacturing what occurred. The firearm in his story cannot be discharged in the manner as described. The service revolver was pointed at victim Doug, and either Bruce Holbert pulled the trigger, causing the weapon to discharge, or he released the hammer with the trigger already pulled, allowing it to slam forward, firing the shot while pointing at the victim.
Whether the investigators decided to charge Holbert with manslaughter or murder or drop charges entirely is their affair, but the homicide described by Bruce Holbert could not have happened the way he described.