Gun Owner Accidentally Shoots Himself While Attending Easter Vigil Mass in Altoona, Pennsylvania

cathedral2 - CopyBy Elaine Magliaro

Courtney Fischer of WTAE reported that a gun accidentally went off about 11 p.m. on Saturday during an Easter Vigil Mass at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Altoona police said that the gun owner was grazed by the bullet when the weapon snagged on his pants.

Jason Wagler was attending the Mass with his fiancée when he heard the gunshot. Wagler said, “We were standing for a few minutes and just before the final procession started, the gunshot went off.” He added that no one seemed to know what happened at first. Then he saw smoke. According to Fischer, Wagler took a number of photos with his phone shortly after the incident happened.

A “critical piece of the handgun” reportedly got caught on the gun owner’s pants as he stood up. Christy Heck, an Altoona police officer, said that the gun’s safety “apparently was not engaged. The man who accidentally fired his gun reportedly had a permit to carry it.

Wagler said, “I immediately took a step back and was about to take cover. You never know if you’re safe anymore in this world. It’s a shame to know you can’t go into church without having something like this happen.”

Asher Carr—who also attended the Easter Vigil Mass—told WTAJ that he hadn’t realized that a gun had gone off. Carr said, “I didn’t really know what that was.  I thought it was coming from outside.”

Parishioner Sue Talasky told WTAJ that having a permit doesn’t mean you should bring a gun to church. She said, “You have to consider that easter vigil there’s a lot of families there with little kids and anything could have happened.”

Wagler said that following the church service, “he went over to see what exactly happened.” He said he saw “the man with the gun hand it off to another man, who then placed it in his program.” Wagler added, “It was like he was hiding the gun, yes he didn’t want it obvious didn’t want it out there.”

Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown diocese said he was grateful that no one who attended the service was seriously injured. He added that “guns have no place in our cathedral or any of the other parishes in our diocese” because churches “must be an environment in which all feel safe.”

David Edwards of Raw Story said that there “were no indications that charges would be filed against the shooter.”

It seems like people bringing guns into churches are accidents waiting to happen. What if someone other than the gun owner had been injured or killed during the Easter Vigil Mass? Do you suppose the gun owner would then have charges filed against him?


Legal gun owner shoots self kneeling at Easter Mass and hides weapon — but no charges filed (Raw Story)

Gun goes off in Altoona church during Easter Vigil mass (WTAE)

Gun fired during Mass (Altoona Mirror)

Parishioners React to Gun in Church (WTAJ)

Legally Carried Gun Accidentally Fires at Easter Vigil Mass (ABC News/AP)

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33 Responses to Gun Owner Accidentally Shoots Himself While Attending Easter Vigil Mass in Altoona, Pennsylvania

  1. Bob Kauten says:

    Obviously, we should not permit the mentally ill to carry loaded, concealed guns.
    Problem is, if you’re a civilian, and you feel the need to carry a loaded, concealed firearm, you’re already mentally ill.

  2. Julie says:

    “a critical piece of the handgun”….he’s darn lucky a critical piece of his anatomy wasn’t shot.

    OT: haven’t had FFs access for several days…major withdrawal symptoms! I’m glad it’s up and running again.

  3. Julie,

    What do you mean you haven’t had access?

    • Julie says:

      For a couple of days, I’ve been getting a black page that says “oh snap” and something about the site not being available. The problem could have been my browser (Chrome). I sent an email to about it but never got a reply. Everything is fine now.

  4. Thanks, Julie.

    Sorry for not checking the mail yesterday. 😀

    I’ll submit a ticket with WP describing your issue.

  5. DavidMS says:

    I have a fairly good guess of what happened. The Idiot didn’t have the firearm in a quality holster that both provided some retention (the gun won’t fall out) and nothing can get inside the trigger guard. I think there is a place for lawful civilian concealed carry. I don’t think it includes people who demonstrate they cannot safely and prudently carry a concealed firearm.

  6. pete says:

    I’ve been getting the “oh snap” too, only on chrome though, torch was okay.

    When clinging to guns and religion, make sure the safety is on.

  7. David is right.

    As I told a sheriff the other day about a job applicant for a deputy position.
    “This guy should not be allowed to have a gun, much less a bullet to put in it.”

    Barney Fife was supposed to be a fictional comic character, but sometimes you run into him in real life.

  8. Elaine M. says:

    David & Chuck,

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of idiots who own guns. Sometimes, we find out too late that
    an individual who couldn’t safely and prudently carry a concealed firearm was carrying a concealed firearm.

    I question why people feel the need to carry concealed weapons into a church/house of worship.

  9. Bob Kauten says:

    I been getting the same “oh snap” result. I been working around it by google searching flowersforsocrates, and picking a sub-classification, like Mike Spindell’s articles.

  10. Bob Kauten says:

    If you’re carrying a loaded, concealed firearm, you’re at war.
    Probably in your head.
    If you’re deathly afraid of walking around, to the point where you’re endangering others, stay home and hide under the bed.

  11. Bob Kauten says:

    Yes, is reachable, now.

  12. bigfatmike says:

    “Aw, Snap!”

    This is an interesting story about guns and bibles. But the ‘Aw Snap!” browser error message is even more fascinating.

    If you google ‘Aw Snap!” browser error message google offers several suggestions including check your fire wall and anti-virus software.

    I usually use Firefox but I may change if Chrome is dropping boring messages like ‘404 page not found’ and switching to trendy phrases like ‘Aw Snap’.

  13. There are also two other things to try if you are having access issues with Chrome.

    Clear out your browsers cache or (Windows users only) try running the Software Removal Tool which scans your computer for programs known to cause problems with Chrome, and then offers to remove them for you.

  14. Joy of Fishes says:

    Chuck, would the issues that failed your applicant be revealed in a standard background check for license to carry?

    And a general comment: Instead of AGAWAT – any gun any where any time – let’s mandate universal application of NRA rules! So simple! From the Tennessean about the NRA convention in Nashville:

    A multilevel security plan went into works not long after Nashville was chosen as the convention destination. All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational, with the firing pins removed, and any guns purchased during the NRA convention will have to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, near where the purchaser lives, and will require a legal identification.

    via 6 things to know about NRA convention. H/t dkos

  15. rafflaw says:

    How nice that the NRA wants to be safe from idiots with guns, but the safety concerns for the rest of us don’t seem to matter.

  16. blouise says:

    ‘Wagler said that following the church service, “he went over to see what exactly happened.” He said he saw “the man with the gun hand it off to another man, who then placed it in his program.” Wagler added, “It was like he was hiding the gun, yes he didn’t want it obvious didn’t want it out there.”’

    You brought it to church, you shot yourself, you idiot. Walk proudly out the door with the gun in your hand so that all may stand in awe of your manly self … and laugh.

  17. JoF,
    Under EEOC guidelines, a medical and psychological exam can only be done post-offer. That means the applicant has taken the civil service test, been interviewed by HR, and passed an official background check. It is only after the job offer is made can the applicant be sent to the occupational medicine physician for a physical, and to somebody like me for the mental health screening.

    The background screen only shows prior arrests and conviction in the national database. Minor traffic violations do not apply. Regarding minor traffic violations; collect too many tickets and the offender may be cited under habitual motor offender laws. In that case, they are identified as a scofflaw, and would be SOL.

  18. Harvey,
    I saw that. It is the lead story on HuffPo at the moment. When I interview new officer candidates, I always bring up the subject of video. It is ubiquitous, and they need to remember that. In this information age, it is impossible to get away from being recorded. Most of them have smartphones. I ask them if they know how to take video and upload to the Cloud. Some do, some don’t. For those that don’t know, I show them how easy it is to stream offsite in real time. I tell them that is why officers who try to confiscate or erase citizen video only end up looking like stupid criminals themselves on viral YouTube or LiveLeak videos. To make the point, I have a half dozen or so videos bookmarked to pull up and show them.

    Citizen dashcams are becoming popular. I saw an ad that said Walmart had dashcam video cameras on sale for $39. Those Russian dashcam videos are increasingly popular, catching both good and bad. As a result, more Americans, especially young ones, are installing them in their cars.

    The discussion always gets around to officers lying on reports, only to find their lies revealed by some previously unknown video camera.

    As for that SC case. I saw the officer’s first lawyer has already taken himself off the case. I can’t blame him. Everyone deserves competent representation, but I can see how lawyers would worry about the stink of this case rubbing off on them.

  19. Bob Kauten says:

    Obviously, a member the mob took that video. The officer was obviously in fear for his life, from an unarmed black man running away from him. His running away makes the black man a lethal weapon.
    Same as last time.
    Don’t judge what happened from what you saw on this video. Wait for the grand jury transcript.

  20. pete says:

    Quick, call witness #40. Officer needs an alibi.

  21. In Texas, they have a “Concealed Handgun Law” (CHL).
    Our Texas friend Jim Foreman is an occasional commenter here. Jim has his own version of a CHL.

    Don’t know where he got his statistic about hammer fatalities, but he is an aviator, and pilots never exaggerate (snort, cough, giggle).

  22. Mike Spindell says:

    In re: Harvey’s link to video. The excuse will no doubt be that the officer feared for his life and anyway the man was illegally fleeing and the way things are going it will possibly work. The “officer’s fear for their lives” has become a catch-all excuse, made more important today by the proliferation of TV cop shows, which convey the impression that police work is far more dangerous than it really is. Realistically, the “fear for life” excuse has been a police standard almost since our country began, used to justify the killing of people. How long have we had the cliche of an officer keeping a spare gun handy to plant on the victim of their shooting? My guess is that under the thrall of this pro-police propaganda the majority of Americans would side with the police in most instances. How this attitude gets equated somehow with our “freedom” is a logical mystery.

  23. Mike Spindell says:

    Getting back to the original topic though, while I’m not a gun owner, I have handled loaded guns and rifles at various points in my life. The sense I always had was that I was holding something of great destructive power and so I was very, very careful in my use. Apparently some who are into firearms either never develop that sense of care, or after awhile begin to treat them casually, Just like driving a car, or flying a plane, the casual treatment of these potentially destructive mechanisms are in and of themselves signs of a lack of competence. That this is not recognized by the gun lobby is a sign of their own lack of insight into the danger of these weapons. To be sure training in the use of firearms can be effective in providing this awareness to potential users, but just like any form of education, what the person being trained takes away from it depends on their own sense of responsibility. In this instance the gun owner was an idiot and how do you control for that?

  24. blouise says:

    It’s idiots like him that ruin it for all the gun loving, cowboy wannabes, kindergarten killing, hate the government, NRA dues paying folk out there. Get ready for another run on gun hoarding and ammunition stockpiling as Second Amendment supporters rush to contact their favorite gun pimps.

  25. swarthmoremom says:
    The National Rifle Association wants guns at schools, but not its own annual convention.

    NRA boss Wayne LaPierre has called repeatedly for allowing guns in schools, and other facilities. LaPierre says arming teachers and guards will help prevent gun violence. At least, outside the NRA’s own events.

    Of course, there’s also a political angle to keep in mind as the far-right group gathers in Tennessee.

    As the local report noted, at least eight likely Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum: Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker.

    Donald Trump and Sarah Palin are also expected to appear.”

  26. bron98 says:


    I have seen stupid people do stupid things with loaded weapons, but then I know a family which had their 2 year old son fall into a hole they dug for a deck post. The hole had water in it and the little boy drowned. They were smart, loving parents. Accidents happen even to the best people.

    You cannot control the mind and expect to have a functioning society.

  27. I half expected Jim to post a comment, but he sent me a link to one of his stories instead. The story of how Frank came to shoot himself in the leg is too good not to share.

  28. bigfatmike says:

    I bet I am one of the few here that believes the 2nd amendment was intended to protect the individual right to fire arms.

    Nevertheless, Wonkblog at the WAPO has an interesting article this morning that tells us as many as 10% of Americans have both anger issues and access to fire arms:

    “Roughly 22 million Americans — 8.9 percent of the adult population– have impulsive anger issues and easy access to guns. 3.7 million of these angry gun owners routinely carry their guns in public. And very few of them are subject to current mental health-based gun ownership restrictions.”

    The article points out that people with serious mental illness are not a major source of gun violence and poses the question ‘what additional kinds of behavior should reasonably restrict access to guns’.

    So far as I know that question has not often been raised or discussed.

  29. Chuck, let’s make sure I am following …. in a hiring decision for LE, there’s a background check, etc. prior to making an offer, then post-offer there is a medical/psycological check. Someone who passes the inital background check could be found in the psych test to be someone who should not have a gun. If I have that right so far, which procedure is more like the standard background check* for guns — that initial background check that the person must pass prior to offer or the post-offer psych reveiw?

    *I don’t know the nomenclature — I mean the one that involves NICS

  30. JoF,
    The background check for making a firearm purchase, or for getting a permit, requires an NCIS check. When hiring a new officer, they may or may not get additional scrutiny beyond that, same as with almost any job. Many of the prospective law enforcement officers I screen have also had both military and civilian security checks. One guy I saw recently had been assigned to White House duty, so had clearances at the highest level of Government. We are close to Oak Ridge, Nuclear Fuels, BAE Systems, and TVA. Folks who have worked at those places and left under good conditions never have any trouble.

    But, to get a permit or make a purchase, they do a simple computer check to see what comes out. Felony convictions, outstanding warrants, or certain other items in the national database may kill the purchase or permit.

    One of the major headaches for law enforcement and public safety in general is the number of convicted felons who get firearms. In this area, firearms are often passed around among family members. Hunting for food is a way of life in most rural areas, so most families own several guns. Most owners act responsibly, but some don’t. Laws don’t do any good, because if they could/would obey the law, they wouldn’t have criminal records in the first place.

    There was one guy some time back I saw for the Disability Determination Service of Social Security. In taking his history, he mentioned the Sheriff had his guns. Of course, that got my undivided attention. Asked to explain why the sheriff had his guns, he said they came to his house and took all his guns. He went on to say, “When I get my guns back I am gonna use one to shoot that SOB Sheriff.”

    That statement blew any confidentiality privilege he had under HIPAA right out the window. I finished the interview. As soon as he was out of sight I called the Sheriff. He just laughed, saying, “I know who that is. Yeah, we have his guns locked up, but he will never get them back.”

  31. Chuck – quoting you from above: “The background screen only shows prior arrests and conviction in the national database. Minor traffic violations do not apply. Regarding minor traffic violations; collect too many tickets and the offender may be cited under habitual motor offender laws. In that case, they are identified as a scofflaw, and would be SOL.” SOL for employment as LE. I think, from the context. But should this also be SOL for having guns?

    After commenting here, I came across a post at dkos that is along these lines – , and here is my comment there –

    “History of misdemeanor convictions, including violent offenses and multiple convictions for impaired driving” seem to be things that local records have, not NICS. Should (do) background checks include checking local records? Or looking at it from another angle, does NICS have the right info?

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