“An Arkansas man assumed the boy wrapped in a blanket on the futon in his home was his sleeping cousin,” the AP reports. “But hours later he realized it was a 14-year-old boy he’d never seen before who, police determined Thursday, had been shot while playing with a gun with a friend.” Tragic, but at least the gun didn’t “go off,” as it seems to do whenever someone kills a child via a negligent discharge. Oh wait. “Little Rock police said the boy, TyJuan Woodard, died after he and a 13-year-old friend were playing with a gun that accidentally fired and shot him in the chest Wednesday.” And “Hastings said he wasn’t sure how the boys got a hold of the gun, which belongs to one of the 13-year-old’s relatives. He said they were playing with the gun in a bedroom when it went off and shot the 14-year-old in the chest.” Note to the AP: pulling your punches may salve your conscience but the truth saves lives. Just sayin’ . . .

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18 Responses to AP FYI: Guns Don’t “Go Off”—Even When Kids Shoot Kids

  1. Unintended Discharge should be the official term used in any situation like this.
    I don’t think the kids decided to shoot each other, although there were some IGOTD folks who left me scratching my head. The gun certainly didn’t decide to to shoot on its own.
    And for goodness sake you have every right to store your guns how ever you want but when you have kids over a little gun lock would be nice.

    • I don’t think Unintended Discharge is even the right term, mostly because it still enables the passive voice.

      “Two unsupervised youngsters were playing with a loaded gun, when an unintended discharge occurred and injured one.”

      Discharges – intended or otherwise – don’t just happen. There is a predictable and preventable sequence of events that leads to every single one. It’s a way to shift or shrug off responsibility, or (probably in a lot of cases) hide lazy reporting.

      “Two unsupervised youngsters were playing with a loaded gun when one of the children, being raised by morons and having no exposure to firearms outside of movies and video games, accidentally shot his friend.”

      • What is wrong with the passive? The AP has legal liabilities to consider. They don’t have to accuse anyone or use the active for the reader to understand what happened. Do we know which youngster caused the discharge? Libel is something to worry about when you make money reporting instead of doing it as a hobby.

    • In NJ it is unlawful to leave any gun within reach of a child. It’s pretty vague of course. Every gun store has a sign posted up advertising this law. There’s other states with that too, I’m not sure how many.

  2. I’m going to be brutally honest (like that’s new, right?): Every time I read the phrase “gun that accidentally fired” or “when it went off” or any similar euphemism for negligent gun-handling, it makes me want to wring the fvcking reporter’s neck. Especially when children are involved. I just want to shake that idiotic journo by the neck and say, “You stupid, smug bastard! If you’d just report the FACTS, people might teach their kids about guns.” But every time, they blame the inanimate object incapable of pulling its own trigger, instead of the foolish adults who, via negligence, ended a life. It just makes me sick. Every. Fvcking. Time.

    • Agreed. It propagates the ever-increasing culture of shrugging responsibility and diverting blame.

    • It’s not just guns. How many times do you hear or read that “the car went out of control” prior to a traffic accident? Reality is that the incompetent slob driving the car was barely in control under the most favorable circumstances.

    • This bothers me too, but I have a different take on it. I think this type of inaccurate reporting is in deference to you gun rights folks and the NRA. I think some of the reporters have been taught by you guys to downplay the incidents in this way, to shift blame away from the negligent person.

      Blaming them for failing to educate gun owners is one of the most bizarre things I’ve read on this blog, and that’s saying something.

  3. In the interests of what Moonshine said, I sent the following email to the reporter whose name appears at the bottom of the article. I hope I accurately summed up the argument.

    —-

    A sore spot among many of us in the community of responsible gun owners is that quite often, due to construction of language, the blame seems to be placed on the gun, an inanimate object, rather than where it rightfully belongs: on the person who negligently discharged that firearm, or by extension the adult who allowed the gun to come into the child’s possession. Phrasing like “a gun that accidentally fired” or “when it went off,” both of which were used in your story which appeared in the Washington Post on 5/24, make it seem as if the gun discharged of its own free will, and absolves the humans involved of their responsibility and their negligence.

    While guns throughout history have been known to fire on their own, these occurrences have been in the most infrequent and remote circumstances. As such, I would feel comfortable betting not only every penny I have, but every penny you have, and every penny belonging to everyone who read your story, that the only reason that child is dead is because someone had their finger on the trigger when they shouldn’t have. The responsibility lies not with the gun that “went off,” but with the person who had their finger on the trigger and, since that person was a minor child and not the owner, with the adult who allowed that gun to fall into the child’s possession. Language that suggests otherwise ascribes abilities to the gun that it does not have, and makes the gun an object to be feared simply because it exists, rather than a tool about which one should be educated so as to understand the proper handling and use of that tool. In this it is no different than any other implement such as a knife, a hammer, or a chainsaw.

    For the record, I was made aware of your story via a post on a gun blog that I frequent, the title for which I appropriated for the subject line of this email. If you’re interested, that post can be found at:

    • Your letter will be ignored, of course, or maybe — maybe — you’ll get a formulaic response. Still, it was a damn good letter.

  4. I agree, Ralph. The reporter and/or editor will probably ignore a letter or two, but what if each time there were hundreds of letters. Good job, Matt. A similar letter of mine is going out tomorrow with three others about Nick’s adventure with the BATF and big scary fires. One each to my Congressman and two Senators.

  5. boys got a hold of the gun, which belongs to one of the 13-year-old’s relatives. He said they were playing with the gun in a bedroom when it went off and shot the 14-year-old in the chest.”
    I suppose in today’s society that the parent would take the heat for this…but, back when I was that age (14), us kids running around with guns and shooting them outdoors ( without adult supervision ) was really no big deal. We were held responsible for the guns and our conduct with them.
    I really think the kids were responsible for this shooting, and at that age they should have known better than thinking the guns were a play toy.
    I know I was not a true adult at 14, but I did use guns, drove large farm equipment, and operated dangerous machinery. I was not, and was not treated as a little kid when I was 14.

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