(courtesy drummondislandhotel.com)

The mainstream media often reports negligent discharges (ND’s) in the passive voice. This is particularly prevalent in stories of police ND’s and ND’s that claim the lives of children. The technique sugar coats the shock and deflects blame from the person responsible for the “accident.” Unfortunately, it leaves readers with the impression that the gun was somehow responsible for the damage done. For example, “A 12-year-old girl is dead after a rifle discharged, fatally shooting her during a youth hunting event on Drummond Island,” Michigan’s abc10up.com reports . . .

The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office said the incident happened late Sunday morning. They say two children and two adults were driving on Glen Cove Road when a hunting rifle discharged and shot the girl, who was sitting in the back seat.”

Someone put a loaded rifle in a car/truck/SUV. Someone pointed the gun at someone. Unless it was a Remington 700, and maybe even then, someone pulled the trigger.  To suggest anything else is factually incorrect. Worse, it turns a teachable moment that could save the lives of other gun owners into a senseless tragedy that poisons peoples’ minds against Americans natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.

Everytown for Gun Safety should take up this crusade for ND truth-telling. The fact that they won’t shows you where their head’s at, and why we should hold the media accountable for sacrificing lives on the altar of anti-gun political correctness. Just sayin’ . . .

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18 Responses to Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge Story of the Day: Childhood Tragedy Edition

  1. Unfortunately, it is too late for the 12 year old girl. This was totally and completely avoidable. Basic firearm safety people, basic firearm safety!

    Before travelling to/from your hunting location, engage your firearm’s safety, make sure it is unloaded, and store it in your vehicle. And while you are engaging the firearm’s safety and unloading it, keep it pointed in a safe direction in case it happens to discharge for whatever reason. This isn’t rocket science. Three basic actions to insure safety and save lives. Even a three year old could learn three basic actions.

    • Agree. Of course, making sweeping statements that guns cannot go off when dropped may encourage some people to ignore those rules thinking it’s safe to do so. Most modern style handguns*, in good repair, will not go off when dropped. Many long guns can in fact go off if dropped on the stock or the stock hit sufficiently hard (say, if it’s sliding around loaded & unsecured in the back of a pickup or SUV).

      *hint: Derringers aren’t “modern”. Neither are guns designed around, oh, 1911 (unless the design was modified more recently, like since the 80’s)

      • . . . and series 70 with a titanium firing pin and stronger firing pin spring. I’ve been in law enforcement since 2003 either full time or reserve. We keep our patrol rifles and shotguns in “cruiser ready” for this very reason (loaded magazine, empty chamber). Every time I load up the car for the day, I always press check both weapons before placing them in the rack to make sure the chambers are actually empty. A lot of people don’t seem to realize that a hard bump can potentially make an AR-15 “go off.” Look for the small dimple often left not the primer when you release the bolt of an AR when chambering a round.

        CO has a law that does not allow the transpiration of a “loaded” long gun in a vehicle. The statute defines “loaded” as a round in the chamber. This isn’t meant as a rights restriction, but for true practical safety. Long guns are not meant to be transported in a “loaded” manner, and the above-incident is just another example of why. I completely agree with Robert on this. By sugar-coating the incident, it misses a very valuable teaching opportunity!

      • Just read the news story, and it looks like there was another incident as well. A woman shot herself in the foot with a shotgun. Rule #2: “Never let the muzzle of your weapon cover anything you are not willing to destroy!”

      • Whenever I adjust a rifle trigger, I cock the empty gun, thump the buttplate on the floor and beat it with my fist several times from various angles.

        If it doesn’t go click when I pull the trigger after all the pounding, I increase the sear engagement depth or weight of pull until it does.

    • depending on trigger weight and design it could have been discharged by a bolt or other item in the trunk that somehow worked it’s way into the trigger guard of the loaded rifle and managed to discharge after a sudden stop in traffic with the rifle pointing at the victim. Fingers are not the only things that can discharge a rifle and that may be why it is illegal in Wisconsin to have a loaded shotgun or rifle in a vehicle.

  2. It ain’t the passive voice. I wish it were.

    The gun is the subject of the clause and (allegedly) takes the action. “Hunting rifle discharged.” If it had said “Hunting rifle was discharged” it would actually be passive voice, and it would be correct, because then the sentence is constructed to (correctly) imply that the gun isn’t the agent.

    • When they say “The gun fired”, it is usually incorrect. Unless the gun malfunctions (fires a round without outside force, or when the car hits a bump, etc) there are very few circumstances where someone does not interact with the trigger. In this instance, you are correct. The rifle discharged. The article does not make the distinction between negligence or a malfunction. I wish they would, but I suspect police didn’t disclose that information.

    • There’s a liability and truthful reporting angle to these stories. Unless the DA/prosecutor/USA charges someone, the pub can’t say who pulled the trigger. You have to be careful how far you go down the blame path. Families (and it’s usually a family member) of dead kids make very sympathetic plaintiffs.

    • Strictly speaking, this isn’t passive voice because action expressed by the verb isn’t being performed on the subject of the sentence. The subject of the sentence, the gun, just performs action all by itself, not on anything else and not, technically, even on itself. That’s an intransitive verb, not passive voice. For example, “The moon rose” is a use of an intransitive verb, but not passive voice. To be passive voice, you’d have to write something like “The moon was risen by the moon”, which makes no sense. Even active voice with a reflexive pronoun, such as “The moon rose itself”, isn’t quite right.

      This one’s tricky because “discharge” in this context is an intransitive verb, which denotes action happening by itself, but not exactly the actor acting on itself. Similarly, had the gun “simply gone off” or had it “just fired”, it wouldn’t have been passive voice, but rather an intransitive verb. Now, had the sentence read “The girl was shot by the gun” or “The girl was hit by the discharging gun”, then you’d have yourself a passively constructed negligent discharge.

      Interestingly, “discharge” can be a transitive verb, too, as in “The shooter discharged the firearm”, where the subject is performing the action expressed by the verb upon the direct object.

      The underlying point is that the media’s wording, whether by passive voice or intransitive verbs, often serves to absolve any individual of responsibility for the discharge, instead implying that gunfire just happens or that guns themselves are to blame for the firing.

  3. A style of writing meant to evoke the idea that the writer knows what he is talking about when, in fact, he has no idea what happened.

    Perfect for the news!

  4. I agree. We need to attack gun safety with the same fervor we use to persuade OCers to mellow out. We should be leading this issue.

  5. Why in the world were they driving with a loaded gun, obviously a round in the chamber and a 12 year old child in a position where the muzzle of the gun could be pointing at her? So many things wrong from a safety standpoint it is ridiculous. Too bad the little girl was the one that paid for inadequate safety procedures and the subsequent ND with her life. Very sad. Sounds like these folks knew very little about gun safety or did not take it seriously enough to follow the basics.

  6. The article said no other details, so I wont comment on this incident.

    The hunting laws in CA say no loaded weapon in car. Its even against the fish and game regs to lean a loaded long gun against the vehicle.

    As much as I dislike the government deciding my actions, I understand why these laws get made, as a result of some idiot not using common sense, and the general outcry which makes legislators jump to the conclusion they need to manage everyone as if they are idiots.

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