Gun owners, critics hammer Combs after gun accident


by Joe Arnold

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 8:34 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 11 at 10:33 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The buzz after a Kentucky state representative accidentally fired her handgun in her Capitol office on Tuesday continues to ricochet among fellow politicians, gun owners and gun critics.

On firearms blogs and on Rep. Leslie Combs' (D-Pikeville) facebook page, thousands of people are commenting on the mishap.  After WHAS11 first reported the incident Wednesday morning, it has spread to media outlets across and beyond the United States.

The Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots group formed after the December, 2012 Connecticut school shooting, is calling for Combs' resignation.

"Our lawmakers should be held to the highest of standards, and should never put others in harms way," said Tracey Goodlett, Kentucky Chapter Leader in a news release.  "As a concealed-carry permit holder, Rep. Combs should understand the risks of handling a loaded gun within close proximity of others."

Rep. Jeff Greer (D-Brandenburg) was meeting with Combs in her office when the gun fired.  No injuries were reported.

"He was having a conversation with me," Combs explained to WHAS11 on Wednesday.  "That's why I was being particularly careful about where we were talking as I was doing it.  I was being particularly careful about where.. like I said, I did it according to the way Ive been trained."

"Rep. Combs’ actions set a poor example for those who hold her in high regard, including Kentucky’s children," Goodlett said.

Gun owners and Second Amendment advocates are also upset with Combs, who has been mentioned by Democratic insiders as a potential running mate in the 2015 gubernatorial election.

"You followed standard safety procedures by firing the gun to see if it was unloaded?!" wrote Thomas Byun on Combs' Facebook page.  "It wasn't an accident. You were negligent by not checking the chamber. You aren't doing gun owners any favors when incidents like this happen and get reported all over the world."

"As a firearm instructor, I've learned that familiarity coupled with complacency contributes to an inadvertent discharge of a firearm like this," added Ed Mejias of the Bronx, NY.

"Resign," posted Lynn Harris of Montclair, Virginia.  "Your gross negligence nearly killed or wounded a colleague. Your right to bear arms stops when you endanger someone's life. Authorities should revoke your permit and charge you with a crime."

A Kentucky State Police investigation concluded the shooting was an "accidental discharge" and Combs would not be charged with any crime.

"I was going through the process as I have been trained to do, had it pointed in the proper direction like I've been trained, was disarming it like Ive been trained to do," Combs explained.  "Like I said, I am a gun owner... it happens."

The "it happens" comment infuriated gun owners.

"Making statements to the fact that you are a gun owner and it just happens, is absolutely absurd!" posted Karol McCabe of Glendale, Arizona.  "Guns just don't "go off!" Taking ownership of what you have done is much more commendable than making lame ass excuses!"

Combs declined to show WHAS11 her office or the Ruger LCP semi-automatic handgun she says she accidentally fired.

Louisville firearms instructor Jim Sherrard agreed to show WHAS11 the same model gun and demonstrate the proper method to disengage it.

Sherrard first removed the magazine from the gun's handle, yet cautioned "we don't know if there is a bullet in the chamber."

"One of the functions with the Ruger LCP is, there's not a safety faction in there," Sherrard explained.  "If the magazine is out, it could still fire."

Told of Combs' plan to "stick to revolvers" from now on, Sherrard agreed that revolvers may be a simpler option.

Meanwhile, Combs is also receiving support from her constituents.

"I am a gun totin' Eastern Ky redneck Bible thumpin Republican and I support Mrs. Combs!" wrote Mike Spears of Pikeville.  "The true colors are coming out and you are making fools of yourselves by revealing your hidden agenda. Thanks (Arizona) you are our first visitor from their (sic). You are not gonna get our guns! She made a mistake and I think you guys need to troll elsewhere."

"I am a gun owner," Combs said Monday.  "I support the right to bear arms.  As a female - particularly for protection rights - I feel the need to carry a firearm, not only because I travel here a lot of times but a lot of times at night to Lexington."

"But in the eastern Kentucky region, it is normal to have that," Combs continued.  "I go into a lot of areas where I'd feel I need the protection, and I usually always have a firearm on me."

"But obviously there's a need for, I will be the first proponent for gun safety at the same time I am also a proponent and support people to be able to carry weapons properly and with a concealed carry permit," Combs said.

Moms Demand Action is urging members to contact their lawmakers and insist firearms be prohibited in city- and state-owned and operated properties.