I was at CNN on day one, when The Mouth from the South flicked the switch. At the time, the channel had more newsroom employees than viewers. Now, thanks to the Internet, everyone’s a newsroom employee. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. If I had to choose between the self-congratulatory cadre of left-leaning “professional journalists” and hundreds of thousands of pajama-clad nobodies tapping on a keyboard in their parent’s basement, I’d go with the unpaid slackers every time. At least some of these amateurs know not to believe everything they read. To wit . . .

“A 63-year-old Boulder man accidentally shot himself in the knee around 2 a.m. Tuesday, apparently while sleepwalking, police said.”

This tale sure has traveled; the UK’s Daily Mail picked up the e-ball and ran with it. As far as I can tell, this is the original story, from dailycamera.com. And what a fun piece it is too! (A kicker in the parlance.) But is it true?

The Sanford Rothman, who lives on Mineola Court in southeastern Boulder, told police he woke up to a “bang” and discovered he was shot in the left knee. He said he did not have a clear recollection of the incident.

An investigation found that the wound was accidental and most likely occurred while Rothman was sleepwalking.

Boulder police Sgt. Paul Reichenbach said that according to the police report, Rothman keeps a 9mm handgun near his bed, and he takes prescription medication for pain. No alcohol or illegal drugs played a role in the incident.

Reichenbach said no one else was in the house at the time.

I’m not saying this story is inherently dubious. Oh wait; I am. While sleepwalking is a well-studied phenomena, I can find little scientific evidence (after an exhaustive twenty minute web search) that sleepwalkers are prone to harming themselves, either intentionally (in some sense of that word) or unintentionally.

There’s a lot of buzz about the dangers of sleepwalking; especially the challenges that the consciousness-challenged face when negotiating obstacles (stairs, traffic, etc.). And there are certainly studies of people who lash out violently in the middle of nightmares. But most somnambulists are capable of keeping themselves alive.

As you’d imagine, what with evolution and all.

As a journalist, I’m piqued by the details surrounding this tale. Ask Rush Limbaugh: pain medication make you say and do all kinds of crazy stuff—which you’ll deny later. Cough doctor shopping cough.

Also, Mr. Rothman said he didn’t have a “clear” recollection of the incident. So what’s his unclear take? Why did he fire his gun? Were imaginary home invaders doing what imaginary home invaders do best?

The Boulder po-po said the wound was accidental and most likely occurred while he was sleepwalking.

So it is possible, Sgt. Reichenbach, that Mr. Rothman shot his knee for some other reason. Perhaps he was cleaning his gun, or attempting to commit suicide, or heard a noise and thought there was a break-in. Perhaps he was embarrassed by his behavior and then concocted the story to cover his mental illness or mistake? What evidence do we have that Mr. Rothman suffers from sleepwalking? Or that he’s a responsible gun owner?

Of course, there’s no evidence. Some guy shoots his knee. The cops and paramedics respond. Gun checks out. Rothman says he was sleepwalking. Cop writes it up and forgets it. Bored journo sees the log, doesn’t call Rothman (nor do we, BTW), writes it up as writ. And away we go!

The Internet repeats the story—-a goofy scary gun story!—-for fun and profit. Never once stopping to wonder if it’s total bullshit. Mikeb30200:

I’ll bet this is something that goes unreported if no one gets shot, not unlike any other unintentional discharge.  That would make it hard to know how often it happens.

My meta-point: don’t believe everything you read about guns on the net. This website included. TTAG seeks the truth about guns, but we don’t always get there. (In case you didn’t already know that.) At least we start from a perspective of profound cynicism. And that’s a promise.

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