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Documents: Colonel relieved for negligent discharge didn't know gun was loaded

Nov. 11, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Col. Daren Margolin was relieved as head of Security Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Col. Daren Margolin was relieved as head of Security Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. (Marine Corps)
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A Marine colonel who was removed from his post last month after accidentally firing his handgun into the floor of his office was testing the weapon’s trigger, not realizing the gun was loaded, a command investigation revealed.

Col. Daren Margolin, then commanding officer of Security Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., was relieved Oct. 18 by Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, head of Marine Corps Installations Command, following what officials described as an incident involving a personal weapon. Sources would later confirm that Margolin, a 24-year-officer, had taken his Beretta M9 handgun into his office on base — against installation regulations — and had negligently discharged the weapon into the floor.

The Oct. 10 command investigation into the incident, obtained by Marine Corps Times, revealed that Margolin had taken the gun into his office Oct. 7 to clean it. According to the investigation, which was completed by Col. Christopher Edwards, head of logistics for Quantico, Margolin was dissatisfied with the trigger pull of his handgun. So, he took off the safety, aimed his weapon at the floor and pulled the trigger, not realizing the gun was loaded. The gun discharged a round that damaged a floor tile in front of his office safe, according to the documents, and did no further damage.

Margolin quickly took corrective action, the investigation found, informing his office staff of the discharge and leaving for base headquarters to report to the commander, Col. David Maxwell.

In an Oct. 11 endorsement of the investigation’s findings, Maxwell agreed that Margolin’s decision to bring a personal weapon into his office and pull the trigger was dangerous and in violation of base orders, but praised his record of service and his actions following the negligent discharge.

“Immediately after the incident, Colonel Margolin demonstrated awarenesss of that sense of accountability, both in informing his staff of what had occurred and in reporting immediately, in person, to me to indicate what had transpired,” Maxwell wrote. “There was never any indication of anything except immediate and total personal accountability for his actions.”

Maxwell also noted that Margolin had done well during his three months in command of the security battalion, demonstrating integrity, initiative and accountability.

“Unfortunately, this incident has reflected a lapse in judgment and discipline which directly affects his position as the commander and his ability to command within the battalion,” Maxwell wrote. “I regret that I must recommend the commanding general consider (non-judicial punishment) for Colonel Margolin ... in his position and the leadership responsibilities that it entails, the commanding general must also consider relief due to loss of confidence.”

A spokesman for Installations Command, Rex Runyon, said the NJP process for Margolin has been completed and no further charges are pending. He said Margolin is still pending reassignment to another position.

Quantico’s base regulations require all personnel to register personal firearms and store them at the base armory, off-base or in non-barracks family housing under high-security conditions. Security Battalion oversees personal weapons registration and enforcement of the weapons order for Quantico.

Following Margolin’s negligent discharge and a series of other deadly events involving firearms at bases in the National Capital Region — most notably a double murder-suicide at Quantico’s Officer Candidates School in March and a civilian contractor’s shooting rampage with a shotgun at the Washington Navy Yard in October — Installations Command is reviewing weapons policies for these bases to ensure effective enforcement, said a Marine Corps spokeswoman, Capt. Maureen Krebs.

Runyon said new guidelines regarding firearms policy for military personnel are pending and would be announced later this year.

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