The talk turned to church shootings on Thursday as older members of First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains, Tenn. cleaned up after a pre-Thanksgiving luncheon.
As they talked about the Nov. 5 massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, someone reportedly asked if anyone in the group brings a gun to church.
An 81-year-old man pulled out his .380 caliber Ruger handgun, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel, and ended up accidentally shooting himself and his wife.
Authorities have not identified the couple.
Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks described the scene to the media.
“I carry my handgun everywhere,” the man said as he pulled his gun out, according to Parks.
He removed the gun’s magazine, emptied the chamber and started passing it around, according to WATE in Knoxville.
When he got it back he put the magazine back in, apparently loaded a round in the chamber, and put the gun back in its holster.
“Somebody else walked up and said, ‘Can I see it?'” Parks said. “He pulled it back out and said, ‘With this loaded indicator, I can tell that it’s not loaded.’”
He accidentally pulled the trigger, firing one round, according to ABC News.
The bullet struck the gun owner in his hand, then hit his 80-year-old wife, Parks said. The bullet entered the left side of her abdomen and came out on the right side.
It then hit her forearm, came out, hit a wall, ricocheted and landed by her wheelchair, the police chief described.
The husband and wife were flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. No one else was injured.
“This was an accident. It was not intentional,” Parks told the media. “It just slipped his mind that he recharged the weapon.”
He said the man was carrying the gun legally and no charges will be filed.
According to WATE, nearby schools were briefly placed on lockdown as police investigated the scene.
“We are currently working on a program now for our local citizens on weapon safety,” Parks said. “Sometimes we don't get enough of that for the general public.”