Good Question


Apropos of this incident where a woman was accidentally shot in the arm in an Indiana Walmart, TPM Reader SG has a question …

And what, pray tell, is the man being charged with? The original story does not mention a charge in the case, which leads me to believe he’s not being charged with anything.

Are there not laws under which a person would be charged with misconduct or endangerment for this type of assault? (I almost laugh as I write this because I’m certain there are not, but it’s not really funny). The outcome could have been so much worse than a minor injury.

Motorists can get cited for reckless driving; under the same basis, one should be held accountable for dropping and discharging a gun in a bloody WAL-MART. Good grief. Or is the gun lobby so powerful that even instances of pure incompetence are not punished?

Our country really has lost its collective mind.

This is actually an interesting question on a few different levels. I was going to respond to SG directly. But I thought I’d respond here. I don’t know what Indiana law is. But I think the real question goes to the heart of the new legal regime of various open carry and concealed carry statutes emerging across the country.

Here’s what I mean.

Speaking as someone who thinks these open carry laws are a mix of needless, reckless and crazy, to me, if you are stupid enough to bring a loaded fire arm into a family retail establishment, you’re on the line for basically anything that happens. But the premise of these laws is that doing so is normal, acceptable, even proper. So as long as you’re not specifically negligent, should you be charged with anything?

The law of cars is a good analogue. If you’re reckless and you run someone over you can be criminally liable. Either you’re drunk or stoned or just acting recklessly in other ways. But our law also accepts that cars are both necessary but also inherently dangerous and just because you hurt someone doesn’t mean you’re guilty of a crime. So often people are injured or even killed and no one is charged with a crime.

Now, in this particular case the article says that the gun was “in a holster [but] fell from his waistband while he was shopping and discharged.” It’s a little hard to know what that means since it sounds like the gun wasn’t that well secured. But again, more facts would be necessary to know the level of recklessness of negligence. But the underlying issue remains the same.

Cops carry around holstered guns all the time. Accidents happen; but it’s pretty rare to have something like this happen. It seems increasingly common, though, in the new open carry era where your average doofus decides it’s a hot idea to bring his loaded weapon to the local Walmart.

So just what is the law and balance on negligence, aggravated derp and criminal responsibility?