A Florida man with an extensive criminal history is back behind bars after allegedly shooting and killing his half-brother with a gun he apparently believed was unloaded.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says the shooting was a “terrible tragedy”, and he’s right, but it’s one that could easily have been avoided if 19-year old Tyler Nichols hadn’t made a series of bad decisions.

According to officials, Nichols and his brother were horse-playing after eating dinner and were preparing to go to the store together to purchase blunt cigar wrappers that they could use to smoke marijuana.

“Nichols jokingly picked up a handgun, which he believed was unloaded, pointed it at his brother, and pulled the trigger,” deputies said.

Where should we start? How about these simple rules: you don’t point your gun at anything you’re not willing to kill, you never assume that a gun is unloaded, and you don’t handle firearms when you’re under the influence, whether it’s alcohol, pot, or any other intoxicant. Bad things happen when these rules aren’t followed, and Nichols is going to have to live with the consequences of his decisions.

According to Sheriff Judd, even though Nichols is only 19, he’s well known to local law enforcement. The teenager was on pre-trial release for a case from 2019 where he was charged with shooting into a home. That order prohibited Nichols from possessing any firearms, but it sounds like he might have lost his Second Amendment rights even before he was arrested for that shooting.

“Tyler Nichols’ prior criminal history consists of seven felonies and six misdemeanors, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, shooting into a building, discharging a firearm from a vehicle, burglary, grand theft, tampering with evidence, battery and criminal mischief,” officials said.

Seven felonies and he’s only 19-years old? Clearly Nichols wasn’t a poster child for responsible gun ownership even before he pointed a gun at his brother and pulled the trigger. In fact, I’m wondering why he was allowed to be released from custody before his trial, given his lengthy criminal history and the fact that he was facing such serious charges.

Now Nichols can add manslaughter to the list of charges he’s facing, and something tells me that it won’t be quite as easy for him to get released from custody before his next trial (or more likely, plea bargain). It’s tragic that Nichols’ brother lost his life in such a stupid and reckless manner, and it will be a travesty of justice if Nichols doesn’t face real consequences for his actions.