How Is This Not Manslaughter?


William DeHayes was showing Hoover his gun collection. While he was showing her his .22 caliber revolver, it accidentally fired and shot Hoover in the head, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. [More at the Tampa Bay Times.]

Hoover died in the ER yesterday; the child she was carrying died with her.

This is, of course, merely the ordinary awful that necessarily flows from Second Amendment fundamentalism.  I’ll say one thing:  anyone who chalks an incident like this to the necessary cost of preserving freedom cannot be said to be pro-life.  If abortion by gun is OK by you…

In any event, the blunt fact of unfettered gun ownership and the celebration of a culture of the gun is that those most at risk of gun violence remain those who own them and their friends and family.  Put together the gun-suicides, “accidents” like these,* and shootings of intimate partners and or others known to the shooter, and you have well over half of all gun deaths in the US — a number which in total is essentially the same as those we lose to road accidents.

The fantasy of the gun? It’s all fun and games until the reaper lays hold of its victim’s cloak:


There’s more.  Here’s the bit that I just can’t stand:

Police are still investigating the incident, but believe it was an accidental shooting, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

An accident? Not a charge of involuntary manslaughter?

Maybe that’ll come, but sweet FSM! You pick up a gun and shoot someone dead — even if you didn’t mean to — and that’s not a crime?

The NRA, ammosexuals, and all their enablers in politics and the media tell us that the term “responsible gun owners” has actual meaning.  It doesn’t, as this case demonstrates .  I’ll update this post if it turns out that Mr. DeHayes faces actual consequences for taking another person’s life, but until then, I’m going to vent:

Responsible means that whatever happens with your gun is your fault.  Period.  You accidentally discharge it and no-one gets hurt? How’s this:  big fine, confiscate the weapon involved, lose the right to bear arms for a year for the first incident, forever if you repeat.  Someone gets hurt or dies?  Jail. Civil liability.  Loss of gun rights for life.  That’s responsibility.

But of course, I dream.  That’s not how we roll.  Instead, we’ll just  water the tree of liberty with a newlywed, and celebrate life by burying her fetus — and wait (not long) for the next red harvest.

a disregard for human life while engaging in wanton or reckless behavior.  The state may be able to prove involuntary manslaughter by showing the defendant’s recklessness or lack of care when handling a dangerous instrument or weapon, – See more at:
an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). – See more at:
an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). – See more at:
an unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence, or from an unlawful act that is a misdemeanor or low-level felony (such as DUI). – See more at:

*Scare quotes because such shootings are not acts of god — the deer that darts across the road just at the moment when you have to swerve into a tree or take a 400 pound antlered rodent through the windshield.  They are the statistically predictable outcomes of handing guns out freely to a population in which only half of the folks are above average.  That is, even though there is no way to predict that Ms. Hoover would fall victim to this awfulness, we knwo we can expect some number per year or month of folks felled by stupidity, carelessness, and general fuck ups with a gun.

Image: Hans Baldung, The Knight, the Young Girl, and Death, c. 1505.


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18 Comments on “How Is This Not Manslaughter?”

  1. Isis the Scientist Says:

    I am solidly on your team here, except with the notion that the problem is with the 50% of the population that is “below average” in intellect. Your comparison with automobile accidents is a good one and certainly car crashes impact even the top 50% of the population. Even the top 50% can be cavalier, careless, or make mistakes, except perhaps the top 1% who pay others to drive their cars.

    • Tom Says:

      Hey Isis — good to see you here. You misread me, though, or I failed to make myself clear: not meaning 50% below average in intellect. I’m riffing here on two things — Garrison Keillor’s joke about all of Lake Woebegon’s children being above average, and the Dunning-Kruger stuff in which (I’m presuming) all gun owners think that they’re the responsible ones, and its only those (fill in the blank) tyros who cause the problems. IOW — I was trying to say that they’re all fucking dangerous.

      • l f file Says:

        Besides which motor vehicles and drivers are rather tightly and appropriately regulated.


  2. mihipte Says:

    If that doesn’t come out as manslaughter in the courts, something is seriously wrong in that jurisdiction. The owner should have kept the safety on and the barrel pointed safely, of which he obviously did neither.

    But no, I don’t generally believe in gun laws – unless we’re talking about semi-automatic or higher. I don’t have a gun, but I genuinely believe I am safer because of those who do legitimately. Just the fact that a concealed-carry *might* be walking around makes populated places safer. Plus they’ll never be removed, just hidden.

    • markiix Says:

      I am genuinely confused about how you could possibly feel safer knowing that any one of the people walking around you could be carrying a deadly weapon. I am fairly certain you are not.

      • mihipte Says:

        Chalk it up to me being raised in Texas with an understanding of guns as an appropriate deterrent to anyone screwing around – or, if someone becomes dangerous, a ready means of dealing with them. But yes, I certainly do count myself safer for concealed carry.

        No, I do not wear a cowboy hat (since I was like 8). And no, I do not accept whatever I hear as my own opinion.

  3. Joe Says:

    In my perfect world, TV news coverage of stories like this would be followed by a stock clip of the local State Representative saying, “I’m Jimmie Smith, and I approve this message.”

  4. It should be manslaughter, but should we really go around convicting and jailing people for accidental deaths in any form? Accidents happen and it sucks, but I think having to serve years in jail for an accidental death is pretty rough.

    As for your assertion that people should be fined, possibly jailed, and have their guns taken because one accidentally fires yet hits no one is a stretch. Things happen and while it is the responsibility of the gun owner to ensure things don’t happen, sometimes they do.

    • Tom Says:

      Thanks for reading. The choice to own a gun is a choice to take on responsibility for a machine that, used as designed, can kill (unlike cars). You make that choice you accept certain consequences, including, ISTM, the willingness to take the freight for whatever happens as a result of your’ owning a gun.

      Most important, I think you need to reexamine your statement “things happen.” Things don’t happen with guns. People make things happen. Guns do not load themselves; they do not fire themselves; they do not drop themselves; they do not leave themselves out where kids can find them; they do not turn a moment’s despair into a suicide death sentence; they do not drastically raise the risk of death in domestic disputes and so on. As you say, it is the responsibility of the gun owner to ensure that things don’t happen “unintentionally” as a result of their choice to have a gun. If something does, the concept of responsibility means that they have to pay the price for their failure to ensure.

      So yeah — I’m a strict liability guy. One unintentional discharge? Lose the weapon and the right to carry. A second? Jail time. All gun owners should be required to carry insurance against the “accidental” consequences that flow from their ownership. If it turns out that the green eye shade folks at the insurance biz can sell such coverage cheap — we’ll all be happy, for it will suggest that gun accidents are low frequency and the victims of such incidents can rely on compensation. If it costs a lot…well that tells you something too, doesn’t it?

      • NonyNony Says:

        Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Something that “responsible gun owners” used to believe in.

        If someone is dead because they’ve been shot it’s because a person has killed them.

      • l f file Says:

        Not to mention that if parents are criminals because they kill their children by accidently leaving them in their car this should also qualify.


    • chris y Says:

      “but should we really go around convicting and jailing people for accidental deaths in any form?”

      I don’t know how it rolls in the US, but in Britain the brother of a friend of mine accidentally killed somebody with his car; his blood alcohol was slightly over the legal limit, so he did two years for manslaughter, and even his brother said quite right too. I”d say that DUI and waving a gun around with the safety off were comparable levels of irresponsibility, so yes, we should jail people for accidental deaths in those forms.

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  6. BruceGee1962 Says:

    Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

    Unless it was accidental. In that case the person had nothing to do with it — it was all the gun’s fault. Stupid gun!

  7. Matt G Says:

    Guns normally don’t go around shooting people. If this woman was killed by a gun, then the gun was either handled properly (in which case she was murdered) or improperly (manslaughter). I could possibly see the case where a person trips over something, for example, but otherwise that gun should NEVER have been pointed at her head for ANY reason.

    • markiix Says:

      In my opinion, even if someone has tripped up and accidentally discharged a gun, surely a responsible gun owner would not have been wandering around, in an enclosed residential space, with people around, carrying a loaded handgun? I believe that would constitute severe negligence and a lack of respect for the dangers inherent in the machine they are supposed to be in control of and they are still responsible for the injuries caused by that negligence.

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