PSA: There’s no Such Thing as an “Accidental” Shooting

Gun photo from RGBStock

At least once a week or so, I read stories about allegedly accidental shootings. These stories always puzzle me, because assuming a competent adult and a non-defective gun, there’s no such thing as an accidental shooting. The two kinds of shootings are “intentional” and “negligent.”

What’s worse is that all too often, these supposed “accidents” involve people who carry guns professionally and have received extensive training in their use. They don’t have recourse to the excuse that they didn’t know what they were doing.

For example, Clayton County, Georgia sheriff Victor Hill was indicted on November 12 for “accidentally” shooting a woman with whom he claimed to be “practicing police tactics.”

In late October, former Austin, Texas police officer Charles Kleinert was granted federal immunity from manslaughter charges for “accidentally” killing a man (he claimed to “only” intended to pistol-whip the guy).

For that matter, a decade or so ago, a DEA agent announced to a room full of students “I’m the only one in this room professional enough that I know of to carry this Glock 40” before “accidentally” shooting himself in the leg. Some professional, huh?

Let’s clear all this “accidental” nonsense up right now. There’s no such thing as an “accidental” shooting. There are only two kinds of shootings: Intentional and negligent.

Look, people: Neither guns nor gun safety are complicated.

The gun is either loaded or it isn’t — and you should always assume that it is. If you don’t, you’re negligent. Period.

If you point the gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot, you’re negligent. Period.

If you leave a loaded gun around where a four-year-old can pick it up and shoot a sibling while playing, you’re negligent. Period.

If you use a gun for some purpose other than the one it was intended for — as a bludgeon, for example — you’re negligent. Period.

Especially, not just “even,” if you are a police officer or a member of the armed forces.

Gun rights activists (yes, I am one) are fond of pointing out that guns don’t kill people, people do. That’s true. It’s true whether the killing is justified or unjustified, and it’s true whether the killing is intentional or negligent.

Negligent shooters  and their supporters need to stop making excuses for negligent shootings. And the 99.9x% of responsible gun owners who take gun safety seriously shouldn’t be tarred with their “accidents.”

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Mizzou Protest: Brownshirts on Parade

Mizzou Stormtrooper

Yes, I understand that invoking the Sturmabteilung, aka the SA, aka the stormtroopers, in relation to protests at the University of Missouri falls squarely into the discourse domain covered by Godwin’s Law (“as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”). But the brown shirt fits, and we should hang it on those comporting themselves in its spirit.

Weeks of anger over administration handling of racial incidents at the university’s Columbia campus culminated on November 9 in the resignations of UM president Tim Wolfe and campus chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. Various opinions on those events and issues aside, most of us should be able to agree on two things:

Yes, students and faculty are well within their rights to protest and to call for resignations or other redress of their grievances. They may be right or wrong on any given subject, but their rights of free speech and peaceable assembly are sacred.

No, those rights do not trump everyone else’s rights to free speech and a free press.

Having solicited attention to their outcry, the protesters are hypocrites when they invoke a “safe space — no media” claim against journalists attempting to report on their actions. They’re well beyond the scope of their own rights and in violation of the rights of others when they mob and physically assault those journalists.

Yes, that’s exactly what happened. If you don’t believe it, hit your favorite search engine with the phrase “#ConcernedStudent1950 vs the media.”

Among other outrages, you’ll witness the spectacle of UM assistant professor of mass media (!) Melissa Click getting in a journalist’s face, swatting at his camera and demanding that he “get out” of a public area, before yelling for “some muscle over here” to remove him.

Is a comparison to the Nazi Party’s street brawlers over the top? I don’t think so. The supposed purpose of the Sturmabteilung was to provide “security” for Nazi meetings and rallies. Its actual function was to physically disrupt the activities of opponents, including journalists whose reporting didn’t toe the Nazi line.

The only substantive difference between the madness of 1930s Berlin and this week’s analog in Columbia is the symbolism. Such tactics serve neither justice nor freedom — the means inevitably sullies the end.

America’s college protest movement dishonors itself to the extent that it continues to harbor and justify intolerance and evil.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Teen Sexting: Time to Decriminalize Childhood Mistakes

Teen Texting (

Disturbing: Reports of a “sexting ring” involving a large number of Colorado teens.

More disturbing: The legal response.

“Hundreds of students at Cañon City High School who gave little thought to taking and sharing nude pictures of themselves or classmates could now face criminal charges of child pornography,” reports Kirk Mitchell of the Denver Post.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably an adult who remembers doing stupid things as a teenager — things that you regret, that you hope everyone else has forgotten, and that you’d rather not talk about.

If you’re a parent, you know that your own kids, despite your best efforts to guide them safely to adulthood, are also going to do foolish things that in hindsight they’ll wish they hadn’t done.  It’s just part of growing up.

What no parent wants is for their kids’ childhood mistakes to be hung around their necks like millstones for the rest of their lives due to the ease with which prosecutors try kids “as adults” and impose legal mandates like inclusion on “sex offender registries.”

Yes, it’s saddening that our teenagers sexualize themselves so early; especially so when they memorialize that sexualization in semi-permanent form that can come back to haunt them later. But doing that is so easy these days — every kid has a cell phone and it’s as easy as point, click, share — that to treat teen “sexting” as a crime is perverse.

Even more perverse is the attitude of Fremont County, Colorado District Attorney Tom Ledoux.

On one hand, he claims his hands are tied by outdated child pornography laws, intended to punish predatory adults, that make teen-to-teen sexting a crime: “It doesn’t matter if it was consensual. There is no distinction according to Colorado state statutes.”

On the other hand, he claims the authority to decide for himself which kids are “criminals” and which kids are “victims”: “The district attorney’s office will make distinctions as we see fit.”

Governor John Hickenlooper should put the brakes on LeDoux’s intended destruction of young lives right now with a two-step process.

First, Hickenlooper should direct Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman to prepare pardons for his signature for all students  caught up in LeDoux’s witch hunt, so that he can put an end to it with the least damage possible.

Secondly, he should urge Colorado’s legislature to draft and pass legislation either exempting teen sexting from the state’s definition of child pornography or making it a misdemeanor that doesn’t follow a kid around for life.

Teen sexting is here to stay, because the technology isn’t going away and because kids will be kids. It’s up to us adults to minimize the resulting damage, not add to that damage.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.