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Man Accidentally Shoots Self, Wife in Gun Class

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on April 26, 2012 7:05 AM

A gun-safety class in Virginia backfired when a student accidentally shot himself and his wife, sheriff's deputies said. The instructor may soon be the target of a possible lawsuit.

Michael Deel, 54, of Roanoke, Va., shot himself in the hand with a .45-caliber handgun, The Roanoke Times reports. The bullet also struck his wife Michelle, 49, in the leg.

The shooting was a "stupid accident," Michael Deel told the Associated Press. But if news reports are correct, the gun instructor may need a refresher in gun-safety rules himself.

The Deels were attending a gun-safety class taught by Thomas F. Starke, 57, of Bedford County, Va., sheriff's deputies told the Times. Starke also "hosted" the event, but reports do not indicate if it was at a private residence or a gun range.

Reports also do not mention Starke's credentials as a gun instructor.

Starke had apparently left the room with his students and a loaded gun, the Times reports. That's when the accidental shooting occurred.

From those facts alone, it seems instructor Thomas F. Starke failed to follow the NRA's classroom safety precautions, which state:

No live ammunition is permitted in the classroom at any time an NRA firearm course is being taught. This applies to everyone including students, instructors, and visitors to the room. There are no exceptions. ...

All firearms carried into the classroom must be immediately inspected to assure they are unloaded. ...

Failure to safely conduct a gun-safety class could be grounds for a personal-injury lawsuit alleging negligence. Such a suit could assert that Starke, an instructor, breached a duty to his students by leaving them alone with a loaded gun.

If Starke is an NRA-certified instructor, he could also face a suspension or revocation of his credentials for the accidental gun-class shooting, according to the NRA Trainer's Guide.

The Deels were treated for gunshot wounds and are recovering. The accidental gun class shooting remains under investigation, the Times reports.

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