RALEIGH, NC - A 12-gauge shotgun loaded with bird shot accidentally discharged Saturday when the owner opened its case at a gun show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, injuring a retired sheriff's deputy and two other persons, police said.
The gun owner, a 36-year-old man from Wilmington, North Carolina, was carrying the weapon through security at the show entrance and was unfastening the case on a table, authorities said. The owner planned to sell the shotgun at the show.
The deputy suffered a slight injury to his hand and was treated and released at a local hospital, said Joel Keith, chief of police of the North Carolina State Fair.
A 54-year-old woman from Benson, North Carolina, was being treated a wound to her right torso at a local hospital, and a 50-year-old man from Durham, North Carolina, was treated for an injured left hand, Keith told reporters.
"I want to emphasize that this is an accident," Keith said.
Wake County sheriff's investigators and the local prosecutor will determine whether to file charges against the shotgun owner, authorities said.
Detectives began interviewing the owner shortly after the 1 p.m. shooting, authorities said.
Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he was unsure whether it was legal to bring a loaded gun on state fairgrounds.
However, when the state fair is held in October, it is illegal to bring a loaded gun to the fairground because of the large crowds, authorities said.
Investigators will consult with the Wake County district attorney's office about Saturday's incident, the sheriff said.
"This is state property. That's something we're looking into," Harrison told reporters. "It's early right now."
Police are now banning any private gun sales -- in which visitors bring their firearms to sell at the gun show -- for the remainder of the two-day Dixie Gun & Knife Show, which concludes Sunday, Keith said. The gun show was closed after the shooting and will reopen Sunday.
Show vendors, however, can continue to sell firearms, which are already secured inside the show, Keith said.
"If we thought if it was a problem or a hazard, we wouldn't have this show," Keith said about private gun sales at the show. "I'm sure there isn't anybody who hates this more than the guy who owned this weapon."
At one point during Saturday's press conference, Keith added there wouldn't be any private gun sales on fairgrounds for the indefinite future.
Reforming private gun sales -- at shows or anywhere else -- is among the changes that President Barack Obama is now seeking by requiring background checks.
Currently, federal law requires background checks on gun sales by federally licensed firearms dealers, who are often among the vendors at gun shows.
On Saturday, authorities didn't address at a press conference whether they had conducted any background check on the shotgun owner.
Keith witnessed the aftermath of the accidental shooting, he said.
"People didn't panic and people acted very responsibly," Keith said. "I couldn't have asked any officer to respond any better."
The retired sheriff's deputy was back in the office immediately after being released from the hospital, Keith said.