Two of the common gun terms that you may encounter are “Accidental Discharge” and “Negligent Discharge”, which refer to the action of firing a weapon when you did not intend to. For some reason, I have seen these terms used interchangeably, and that is something that should not be.
A Negligent Discharge is when your firearm goes off because you were breaking one of the rules of safe firearms handling. An example from own personal life goes as follows: as a cadet at the Academy, I competed in Free Pistol. During a practice, I had loaded my single shot pistol, and while raising it to the target I sneezed. Because my finger was in the trigger guard and on the very light trigger, the gun went bang. This was a classic ND, because my finger was on the trigger even though I was not ready to fire. If had exercised proper trigger safety, the results of my sneeze would have not ended with a gunshot.
An Accidental Discharge is when a firearm goes off due to mechanical failure or defect, not operator error. For example, a slamfire in a CZ-52 would classify as an accidental discharge. Because the firearm itself experienced a mechanical failure, the fault for the gun “going off” does not rest on the operator.
Accidental Discharges are extremely rare; modern guns are generally well made and durable, and in most cases are designed specifically to not experience an AD. Don’t take that to mean that the possibility of an AD should be ignored; indeed the mere possibility that an AD might even happen is why we have rules for safe gun handling, especially the rule about not pointing guns at things you don’t want to see full of bullets.
Most of what are termed Accidental Shootings are in fact Negligent Shootings; operator error. So the next time someone is complaining that guns “just go off” explain that they actually don’t, and that the bulk of “accidental shootings” would have been prevented if proper safety precautions were observed.