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The headline above the click2houston.com story almost gets it right: HPD: Man fatally shot while taking selfies with gun. Despite the obvious implication that the victim shot himself, it’s possible someone who’d heard the song #SELFIE one too many times lost self-control. The story’s text is even more oblique. “A man posing with a gun and taking selfies was killed when the gun went off and struck him in southwest Houston, police said . . .

” Investigators said Smith was taking selfies with a gun at an apartment in the 9800 block of Forum Park Drive and Bissonnet around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday when the gun accidentally went off, shooting the 19-year-old in the throat and killing him . . . Investigators said Smith’s cousin was in the apartment but in another room when it happened. The cousin told police they found the gun earlier Tuesday, but investigators are working to find out where.” Probably snuck in. Condolences.

92 Responses to Passively Constructed Negligent Discharge Story of the Day: Selfie Edition

  1. “found” the gun

    Yeah, who’s leaving free guns on the street corners again?
    For their sakes I hope they didn’t steal it.

  2. First thought reading the headline: that’s why you use a camera to take a selfie, not a gun.

    “This is a weird looking camera… I guess the hole in the end is the lens… Here goes, big smile!”

        • I think Newton had a law covering this….. Technically, the gun struck his hand first, causing the bullet to come out the other end, and the bullet then struck his neck…..

          But yea, they’re writing about the wrong one….. Trying to write passively causes a lot of screw ups!

      • Playing with an allegedly found gun? Sounds like this could’ve been avoided had these two jackvwagons at some point gotten a good, swift kick in the Austin.

        • Why are reporters so bad at writing? You know, considering they do it for a living. It sounds like he died by having the gun strike him. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen people in the comments here making fun of horribly worded sentences.

    • You guys win my internet for the day. Any second now someone is going to pop into the office and demand to know what I’m laughing at.

  3. So this is at least the second narcissistic bozo with a gun who’s dead by selfie. Another equally narcissistic bozo is envenomed by a rattlesnake while taking a selfie. Another narcissistic couple walks off a cliff while taking a selfie. A silly Russian twit is electrocuted while taking a selfie. Another fool crashes his motorcycle while taking a selfie. A 13-year old Mexican girl tries to take a selfie on a riverbank, falls in and drowns. A Spaniard tries to climb atop a moving train to take a selfie, with the expected results.

    The gene pool is gradually cleaning itself. The selfie stick was invented to make it just a bit easier for narcissistic nitwits to say, “Gee, look at me. I’m going to do something stupid and die!”

    Y’all go right ahead. I’ll make the popcorn.

    • A few weeks ago I was wasting a few minutes watching a YouTube video collection of people doing dumb things with guns. When it got to a white man in country garb, filming from a tripod while he tried to shoot a hunting shotgun. He raised it up, aiming towards a target and pulled the trigger and … nothing happened.

      He then fiddled around and placed the butt of the shotgun on the ground and … as I watched horrified, he looked down into the end of the barrel! Whereupon the recalcitrant primer finally ignited and … blew a good portion of his face and skull up through his hat.

      I don’t know why our brains are wired to want to watch these kinds of horrific demonstrations, but I’m pretty sure it is because we either know better and want to learn how stupid people end up winning the Darwin Award, or we are being naturally judgmental and enjoying watching dumb-asses meet their deserved & untimely end for being such idiots. I have no theory why society is so morbid as to enjoy watching innocent people get maimed & killed though. Maybe morbid curiosity is another aspect of “human nature” that we have to manage just like lust, rage and sadness; it just seems so callous, and it flies in the face of logic when you consider that the gun-control fanatics probably fit into the same category (they are still mostly human beings I think) that is also fascinated with these events and images.

      Maybe we can use that to demonstrate that they, just like every other human animal on Earth, have our strengths and weaknesses and enjoy watching the suffering of our fellow humans. It would serve to accomplish two things: first, that we are all the same with very common interests and perversions, and second, that they are no better than anyone else and don’t deserve to stand in judgement over anyone else – especially when it comes to gun control. They have, after all, tried to portray all of us as animalistic barbarians – why not level the playing field to take the wind out of their sails?

  4. The implication I got from the news account is the gun just accidentally fired all by itself, for absolutely no reason, and certainly nothing the victim the victim might’ve done. This sort of spontaneous self-initiated activity is virtually unheard of among inanimate objects, with the possible exception of SUVs.

    • Ferraris like to catch on fire scarily often. Pretty spontaneously too.

      That being said I don’t think that the gun loaded its self and stuck one in the chamber for his selfie.

      At least they didn’t say “he was so careful.”

    • It’s funny how things happen. Sometimes, when close to my garage, I can hear my drill motors all start up at once.and my radial arm saw “accidently” started up, and sliced through a 2×4 that was in it’s path!

    • How does this qualify for passively? Shouldn’t this be actively?

      FTA:

      Investigators said Smith was taking selfies with a gun at an apartment in the 9800 block of Forum Park Drive and Bissonnet around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday when the gun accidentally went off, shooting the 19-year-old in the throat and killing him

      • “Gun accidentally went off” is active construction, the subject (the gun) is performing the action (going off).

        The real problem is not the construction being passive (it isn’t) but that there’s an implication the gun could just “go off” without someone else causing it to. The sentence is constructed with the wrong subject, but remains in the active voice. “Gun was fired by an idiot” would, on the other hand, be passive (but factually correct).

        • “The gun went off” is passive voice. “Went” is the past participle of “to go”. The gun did not go anywhere. To go implies movement from one place to another.

          Guns don’t just “go off”. They discharge in response to the trigger being pressed.

          “So-and-so fired the gun” would be active voice. “The gun [went off/fired/discharged/etc.]” is passive voice.

        • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_passive_voice

          Sorry, but a past participle is only *part* of what is needed for a passive construction. You also need a form of “to be” or possibly “to get”, to make the subject what is acted upon. The difference is between “the gun fired” and “the gun was fired.” The first implies the counterfactual of the gun taking action (the subject is active in the sentence), and the second implies something other than the subject caused an action on the subject, the subject is the passive recipient of an action.

          If this sentence (the gun went off) is passively constructed, so is “I went off on a tangent” or “I went to Denver.” That’s plainly absurd. “I was sent off on a tangent” or “I was sent to Denver” are passively constructed (I am the subject of the sentence but I am being acted upon). But you’ll note both of those have a form of “to be” in them. “I got sent to Denver” or “I got shot” are examples of passive voice using a form of “to get.”

          Another way to detect passive construction, would be to ask “Is there an implicity ‘by X’ in the thought?”

          I was sent to Denver (by my boss).
          The gun was fired (by some careless fool).

          The gun went off doesn’t fit this pattern.

          As I’ve tried to explain/agree, saying the gun went off is indeed a mistake, it implies the gun had volition, but implying the gun has volition isn’t using the passive voice. In fact, in this instance it’s an abuse of the active voice. One way of phrasing the proper thought would be as in my second example above (the gun was fired by some careless bozo)…which, in fact, IS in the passive voice. Of course, “Some careless bozo fired the gun” expresses the same thought in the active voice.

          tl;dr. It’s not passive construction unless the sentence is worded such that the subject is being acted on…regardless of whether it’s factually true that the subject was acted on.

        • You’re right, of course. Virtually none of the “Passive Voice” posts on this site contain even a trace of it. This one is an exception in that it contains the passive “was killed.”

        • Bob, whether or not the subject of a sentence is able to act on its own has absolutely nothing to do with whether the sentence is active voice.

        • Finally, someone who fricking understands the point.

          I’m extremely disappointed in Chip Bennett, who is usually much more knowledgeable about what he’s talking about.

        • The point is that guns don’t just “go off”. Guns have no agency. Guns require external manipulation in order to discharge.

          To state that a gun “went off” is a passive construction from the perspective of the person who has the agency to manipulate the gun such that it discharges.

          Feel free to debate the finer points of grammar. I’m not interested.

        • Chip,

          Whether the subject of a sentence has agency is 100% irrelevant to whether the sentence is active voice. Voice isn’t a matter of logic (or strictly speaking, grammar); it’s a matter of style.

        • Again: feel free to debate the finer points of grammar; I’m not interested.

          The statement is passively constructed, with the intent to give the gun agency and to remove responsibility from the person who actually pulled the trigger.

          That’s the point.

        • “The statement is passively constructed, with the intent to give the gun agency and to remove responsibility from the person who actually pulled the trigger.”

          Sorry, that’s just not what “passively constructed” means.

        • Sorry, that’s just not what “passively constructed” means.

          But that’s what Robert meant when using the phrase. In terms of the point he was making in the OP, you’re making a distinction without a difference.

        • “But that’s what Robert meant when using the phrase.”

          I know, but he’s using it wrong and sounds ignorant as a result. To those of use who write for a living it’s as grating as someone calling a magazine a clip or a steering wheel a steering tire.

        • Indeed. Those of us who make a hobby of laughing at .9mm, “clip” for magazine, and other such bonehead usages have no leg to stand on when we persist on misusing a grammatical term to criticize reporting, even if the real complaint we are making is valid.

          Yes, it’s just frigging stupid (if not worse) to write about the gun as if it’s possessed or has a will of its own, and we should call them on it when they do it. But don’t mislabel the mistake being made, lest YOU look like the ignorant putz. Otherwise the other guy can just laugh at you for knowing nothing about grammar.

        • The only response I’ve ever gotten from Robert was him calling me a “pedant.”

          So I guess we will continue to watch him making a fool of himself in his headlines.

  5. Maybe his phone-cam didn’t have its own flash function. Seriously though, somebody could make a killing offering firearms handling courses amidst the gang-subculture – it seems desperately needed. Also, media needs to be scoured of this haunted gun mindset.

  6. I don’t trifle with CSGV or Salon, but i’ll put a nickel on the headline, “Teen gunned down while taking selfie!”

  7. Man fatally shot…

    Congratulations! This actually IS an example of passive construction!

    man…was killed.

    This too!

    Later on, of course, the text is active construction (“gun accidentally went off, shooting the 19-year-old in the throat and killing him .”), but makes the more usual error of granting the gun volition (which is the real complaint you are usually making).

  8. Stories like this one make me ask: Who is having gun accidents? What are the demographics?

    One is vulnerable to leaping to the conclusion that gun accidents must occur most often wherever there are lots of guns. I.e., most victims must be in the households of OFWGs. But is this true? The question is one that must have an empirical answer; it’s not a point-of-view sort of question.

    A century ago some households had guns and others didn’t. Gun owners were probably more careless a century ago than we are today. Householders who didn’t have guns probably didn’t have much occasion to encounter guns in their environment. So, where would the accidents have been concentrated at that time?

    Today is a different time. Gun owners who are 2’nd or n’th generation gun-culture members are – by in large – pretty safe people. Were they not, Darwin would have caught up with them. 1st generation gun-owners today are probably mostly – though not universally – reasonably well trained. The “smart money” in this 1st generation seek out training whether professional or from dedicated amateur friends.

    Yet, there is probably a residual of 1st generation law-abiding gun-owners who imagine that their FFL sold them card-carrying membership in “the gun-culture”. Are these folks having the NGs?

    Finally, there is a segment of the 1st generation who are not-necessarily law-abiding. I don’t know – and I won’t presume – whether this victim was law-abiding or not. He might have come upon this gun in any number of ways for which he is culpable or not. In any case, he was apparently entirely clueless as to how to handle a gun.

    Apparently, America has 360 million guns for 330 million residents. Have we reached the point where EVERY individual MUST be trained-to-arms at some level appropriate to their expected use? Every child, adolescent and adult has some non-zero probability of encountering a gun. Just as they have a probability of encountering a car or other piece of dangerous machinery.

    Unless and until some practice means is discovered to remove guns from the inner-city environment we ought to consider training-to-arms this sub-set of our population. A necessary first step would be something like Eddie-Eagle. Young children can’t be held responsible for keeping guns out of their environment. Nor can we count on their mothers or other caretakers to do so. If we recognize that young people will have sex (whether in or out-of wedlock) we ought to recognize that young people will have guns and bring them into environments where children are present.

    As children get into middle-school they will probably need to know more about guns than “Stop, don’t touch, tell an adult.” They will probably need to pick-up a gun and move it so they can get at their school books. When they get to high school they may encounter guns – more or less willingly – and ought to know how to avoid an ND.

    If inner-city residents are the most vulnerable to NDs shouldn’t they be somewhere near the top of our priority list for education?

    • 360 million guns for 330 million Americans?

      I don’t believe it. There must be more than that. This number would imply an average of one gun owned by each American, and, statistically speaking, if you own ten guns, there are NINE PEOPLE in the US who own no guns at all. Most people who own a gun own a few (or many), so this would imply the vast majority of the US doesn’t own guns. When I hear numbers like a third of Americans own guns, that, plus the (approximately) one gun for every American statistic, implies that the average gunowner owns three guns. Does that sound right to anyone here?

      • 360 million is the latest figure I’ve seen. I haven’t studied the analysis carefully to reach a conclusion; a superficial read suggests that it’s reasonably constructed. The number is so big that the components that are fuzzy wouldn’t have a lot of impact if they were far-off.

        For the number to be much larger you would have to look at a huge error somewhere in the calculation. For example, you could propose that Federal government statistics are grossly off for some reason. Most of this number comes from manufacturer’s reports, importer’s reports and exporter’s reports. Understate the first two or overstate the third and you could have a huge error. You might quarrel with the stock brought forward in the 1940s; but it would have to be way off for the current figure to be understated.

        I don’t think there is a great likelihood for a really large error in this figure. Nor do I think our reasoning would be much affected if there were a large error. If the true figure were 460 or 560 would we conclude that the civilian inventory of 360 created a grossly feeble estimate of the capacity for the militia to perform its duty?

        • For the number to be much larger you would have to look at a huge error somewhere in the calculation… you could propose that Federal government statistics are grossly off for some reason

          Not necessarily, I wrote about this extensively last year (see link below). I estimated that conservatively, we probably had well over 350 million guns in this country in 2014. So the recent Ammoland estimate correlates perfectly with mine last year.

          The error is going to come in with the baseline most of us start at when we look at gun ownership, the Geneva based Small Arms Survey in 2007. A number of criteria were used to come up with this number, including gun registration numbers, expert estimates, household surveys, proxy indicators such as GDP and gun suicides, and comparison with similar countries. But even they have admitted that there are no easy rules to rely on, and that “social science, with its emphasis on verifiable indexes, naturally leads to undercounting total civilian arsenals.” Each of the five criteria listed has problems, potentially huge problems. There is no mandatory gun registration in the United States. Their expert estimates have differed by as much as a factor of ten for some countries, even modern Western countries such as Switzerland. Household surveys tend to be less reliable the more sensitive the subject, of which gun ownership certainly is one. Some people will just not readily give out that information. We’ve just witnessed what happened in one state. Even under the threat of a felony charge, it is estimated that the compliance rate for gun registration in Connecticut is less than four percent.

          We’ve got good manufacturing and import numbers, but they only go back so far. I’ve not seen anything from the ATF prior to 1986. If we’re off anywhere, it’s likely the “guess” that was taken almost a decade ago trying to figure out how many guns we had before we really started keeping records. And as pointed out, even they admit that “social science, with its emphasis on verifiable indexes, naturally leads to undercounting total civilian arsenals.”

          http://dailycaller.com/2014/11/04/gun-ownership-by-the-numbers/

        • Danny, sorry I’m late in responding.

          I don’t see anywhere that we disagree. I ended the paragraph you referenced by saying: “You might quarrel with the stock brought forward in the 1940s; but it would have to be way off for the current figure to be understated.”

          The stock brought forward is – we agree – a guess. What are the limits of the error on this guess?

          The limit on the low side is that the stock was zero (an absurd possibility, but that’s the limit.) So, if the stock were actually zero then the current estimate would be an over-statement by the amount of the stock. If the stock were guessed to be 100% higher than it really was, then that would reduce the over-statement. Whatever the error might be by overstating the stock brought forward it’s significance is diluted by current manufacturing plus imports minus exports.

          The limit on the high side is infinite. However, it’s unlikely to be double the guesstimated number. If it were, then the current estimate is low; we have many more guns in America than we think.

          The question I was trying to get at was the capacity of the militia to do it’s duty given the probable number of guns in their inventory. Our argument can be that we know very well that we have plenty of guns for the militia to do its duty. There exists no force than American civilians that is better equipped with small arms.

          And, incidentally, the up-or-out policy our military has pursued for decades leaves our militia ranks very well populated with men trained-to-arms who can use those arms and train others.

      • But remember, even though there are 317 million people in the US, there are only 240 million people 18 or older. So there’s over 360 million guns which is 1.5 to 1. Deduct felons and anti-gun libs and you’re probably at 3 to 1 for the rest of society.

        • I’d like to follow up on my previous post. 3 to 1 may not sound like a lot, but remember, that’s six guns for a husband and wife. If my neighbor doesn’t own any, then my wife and I have to own 12 guns to keep the average. If my neighbor on the other side has none, now we have to own 18 to keep the average. How about my two neighbors across the street? I live in a tony neighborhood populated with doctors, lawyers, engineers, university profs and soccer moms. Not hard to believe many of them don’t own guns. Now my wife and I have to own 30 guns to keep the average!

          Even if each home owns one pistol for home protection or a long gun for hunting, I still need to have 26 guns in my safe just to keep the 3 to 1 average.

          Most college kids probably don’t own a gun, and there’s millions of college kids. So even if the 367 million guns number is accurate (and we believe it is undercounted for all the reasons I stated in a previous post) that’s a huge number per gun owner average.

        • I agree with your analysis. As a community, we PotG need to reflect on the point(s) to be made about these guns-per-person statistics. Among these are:
          1. total number of guns has no meaningful correlation with unlawful violence. Once a gun owner has 1 gun whether he has 10 or 100 or 1000 doesn’t make him any more likely to commit an unlawful violent act.
          2. the volume of sales is so large that we ought to question the efficacy of any gun-control scheme focused on the point-of-sale. It’s hard for a non-gun owner who has NEVER bought a gun to conceive of the efficacy of controlling a high-frequency event. He could understand the problem of controlling sugar consumption one Big-Gulp-at-a-time; he can’t understand the problem of controlling millions of gun-sales annually.
          3. the number of law-abiding peaceful gun owners is enormous; about 45% of American households. What is the efficacy of controlling gun-ownership and access for nearly half the population?
          4. If efficacy is to be found in controlling guns at all – a matter in considerable doubt – it is to focus on possession by prohibited persons. These folks have a high propensity to engage with the authorities. To what extent does the criminal justice system forego opportunities to prosecute felons-in-posession? If the CJS won’t enforce the felon-in-posession laws, why should the voters imagine they would enforce gun laws on otherwise law-abiding taxpayers?
          5. Anyone who questions the efficacy of the militia in securing a free state need only look at the data published by GunPolicy.org. For every police gun, civilians have 313. For every military gun, civilians have 133. There are more vets in civilian ranks then active duty military. Probably never in the world’s history has government been so firmly constrained by the consent of the governed.

        • If the CJS won’t enforce the felon-in-posession laws, why should the voters imagine they would enforce gun laws on otherwise law-abiding taxpayers?

          Interesting question. Probably because that’s the only ones the government goes after! You know, TEA Party types, ex-military, and other law-abiding citizens. At least on an individual basis. Get caught with a box of hollow points in your car in NJ? You’re toast. Normally. But…

          But people who break the law on purpose? As I wrote in another reply somewhere here today, the government did NOTHING to the straw buyer of the Columbine guns. They refused to prosecute.

          Does anyone know who King Samir Shabazz is? He’s the head of the Philadelphia chapter of the New Black Panther Party. He the one that was photographed with a billy club outside of a polling place. He was basically convicted until Eric Holder ordered the DOJ to drop all charges (he had already lost).

          He’s the one that says he hates all white people and that blacks need to kill white babies.

          He was arrested in New York in 2013 for possession of an illegal gun and a bullet-proof vest. What happened to that?

          He was arrested in New Jersey in 2014 for possession of an illegal gun and ammo that is prohibited in NJ. What happened to that?

          In NY and NJ! And he’s still out running around fomenting hate and taking selfies with guns. Yet you get a woman, a mother with a valid carry license and legal firearm who mistakenly carried her gun into NJ and it takes a pardon from the governor to keep her from serving five years in prison. Yet real criminals are walking around on the street with impunity.

          Amazing.

        • And with that, what I see around me corresponds much better with what the study says. It’s really saying, “hey, let’s look at it on a household-by-household basis.”

  9. Homie! It just went off-that’s how I became a 20year old father LOL. At least the young brotha’ didn’t let it “go off” on anyone else. Are any of you old guys wondering what’s the big deal with selfies?

  10. ” was killed when the gun went off and struck him”
    Does that mean it slapped him? Punched him?
    It appears that “reporter school” is using common core…

  11. My M&P Shield sat in it’s IWB holster all day today. It never took a selfie or go off in it’s resting place (holster). I even asked it, do you want to shoot anyone all by yourself and got no answer. “It went off”, BS someone pulled the trigger there is no accidental discharge. It’s a stupid discharge by the person holding the “selfie gun.”

  12. “killed when the gun went off and struck him in southwest Houston”…Is “southwest Houston” a euphemism for some delicate part of the body? E.B. White wants a re-write.

  13. Wow. Okay so if they really “found” a gun and then played with it, that’s easily one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. This is why “gun safety” is actual gun safety. Not gun bans.

  14. Indeed. Those of us who make a hobby of laughing at .9mm, “clip” for magazine, and other such bonehead usages have no leg to stand on when we persist on misusing a grammatical term to criticize reporting, even if the real complaint we are making is valid

    Yes, it’s just frigging stupid (if not worse) to write about the gun as if it’s possessed or has a will of its own. But don’t mislabel the mistake being made, lest YOU look like the ignorant putz.

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