Don’t worry about playing with guns. You can’t hurt anyone.

Pardon me. Someone is wrong on the internet. I must do something!

Some stupid fucking dumb-ass idiot was playing with a loaded gun. He knew it was loaded. And he grabbed it by the trigger to pick it up. Because, you see, he knew that it’s a persnickety old gun, and the trigger usually jams, so he figured it’d be safe to grab it by the trigger. What could possibly go wrong?

Naturally, it went off, and hit his next door neighbor in the head, killing him. He’d just brought his wife and newborn child home when he was killed by the spectacular stupidity of his neighbor.

The police, discussing the case, said:

“The odds, I’d guess, are 1 in infinity,” said BCSO Maj. Tommy Ford. “This was just tragic.”

Those of us who aren’t mathematical morons know that a “1 in infinity” chance is the probability better known as 0.

You might say that I’m being pedantic. You’d be right. But it’s a stupid statement that tries to minimize the incredible stupidity of what happened here. This wasn’t a crazy freakish chance. A handgun is a device which is specifically designed to be an efficient and effective means for killing people. It is not a toy. Picking up a gun by its trigger is, for all intents and purposes, no different from just randomly aiming the gun and pulling that trigger. The chances of hitting someone aren’t huge, but they aren’t tiny, either.

This wasn’t a super-rare freak accident. This was stupidity and negligence by a jackass. Diminishing it, trying to pretend that it was just freakish is a way of making excuses for the
sub-human scumbag who killed an innocent man. Calling it one-in-infinity – that is, saying that it was impossible even though it wasn’t even particularly unlikely – is just a way of covering up for the fact that our insanely irresponsible way of dealing with deadly weapons kills innocent people.

We do a lot of that in America. Guns are downright sacred here. You can insult Jesus with less repurcussions that insulting a gun owner. A community figure like a local policeman can’t just point out that a gun was used in a horrible, stupid, irresponsible, evil way. Because that would be seen as a threat to the so-called “guns rights” shits who think that any number of innocents getting killed is an acceptable price in order to ensure that they can keep their precious penis replacements.

The man who killed his neighbor in this incident should never have been able to have that gun. He was a convicted felon, prohibited from owning a gun by state law. But we can’t do something sensible like, say, check whether someone can legally own a gun before letting them buy one. That would be an unacceptable infringement on their freedom.

Meanwhile, this shit is being charged with manslaughter. After all, it wasn’t murder. He was just playing with his precious, precious toy.

23 thoughts on “Don’t worry about playing with guns. You can’t hurt anyone.

  1. foobar

    I don’t really want to defend Shisler, the man who shot Ayers — after all, he’s the quintessential Florida Man ( But being “arrested and charged with manslaughter and felon in possession of a firearm” is the appropriate response to what he did. “Murder” and “manslaughter” are legal terms with exact definitions, and just because his stupidity had tragic consequences, doesn’t mean that we can be unlimited in our condemnation. After all, why not add “racist” to “horrible, stupid, irresponsible, evil,” and why not charge him with rape and burglary as well as murder? They’re all negative things, and your tone makes it sound like no punishment is too bad for this guy.

    I agree with your assessment of the policeman’s “one in infinity comment” as being a wild underestimate (of course, you saw fit to call him a “moron” for it). But you make the same mistake by claiming that supporters of the right to bear arms “think that any number of innocents getting killed is an acceptable price” for not completely banning guns in violation of the 2nd Amendment (again, your phrasing is somewhat more… emotional). People who disagree with you are not all idiots and they do not think in such absolute terms. If being near a gun were as dangerous as standing next to radioactive uranium, then I’m sure people would support banning them. But in real life, being a responsible and legal gun owner — basically the opposite of the idiot in this article — means that your neighbors don’t have to worry about unexpectedly dying. The accidental death toll from car crashes is not enough to reasonably ban cars, and the same goes for guns.

    1. markcc Post author

      Note that I didn’t say anything about banning guns. That’s something that you fabricated in order to make your argument sound stronger.

      What I do support is things like actually bothering to make laws concerning guns enforceable.

      This jackass in Florida is, legally, banned from owning firearms, due to a prior firearms conviction. But in America, we can’t actually enforce those laws in a meaningful way. Any jackass, regardless of whether they’re legally allowed to own guns, can easily buy guns.

      My right to free speech is protected in our constitution, and it’s protected more clearly in the language of the constitution that the right to bear arms (which includes that pesky phrasing about well-regulated militia). But under current American legal practices, my right to speech can be restricted in a variety of ways. I’ve got a legal right to donate money to causes that I support – according to the courts, that’s a fundamental part of my right to free speech. But if I use that right to donate money to certain causes, I can be arrested and jailed.

      If the government believes that I’m donating money to one of causes they don’t like, they’re allowed to tap my phones and get copies of my bank records.

      I’ve got a legal right to associate with whoever I want. But if I use that right to associate with the wrong people, I can be surveilled, arrested, and jailed.

      I’ve got a legal right to pray when, where, and how I want. But if I do it the wrong way, with the wrong people, I can wind up in jail.

      All of these rights are subject to legal restrictions.

      But for some reason, in present-day America, guns are different. The government can keep track of all sorts of things about me. But not about the number of guns I buy or sell.

      That’s part of the ridiculousness of this thing, and the thousands of similar things that go on day after day, year after year, in this country. This guy had no right to own a guy. He was legally prohibited from it. But we’re not allowed to take reasonable steps to make sure that people like him don’t have guns.

      In real life, there are responsible, legal gun owners. But there are also irresponsible legal gun owners, and irresponsible illegal gun owners. It’s a convenient dodge to always try to refocus the discussion on the responsible legal types. But that’s dishonest, because most of the time, we’re not talking about doing anything to restrict the rights of responsible, legal gun owners.

      If we were to do something like require gun show sales to check the legal status of purchasers, what harm would that do to responsible legal gun owners? If we were to allow states to share gun purchase records, what harm would it do to responsible legal gun owners? If states shared records about who’s committed gun-related crimes, so that those could be used in background checks, what harm would it to do responsible legal gun owners?

      The answer is: no harm at all. Those restrictions would be no more onerous than restrictions we regularly place on other legal behaviors that are guaranteed by the constitution. So why are guns different?

    2. eric

      Being near a gun is almost certainly more dangerous than standing next to uranium ore, because it’s basically everywhere, such as in many forms of standstone, granite and marble. You know, the stuff that is stuck on the outer side of most public buildings?

      I am not trying just to be pedantic here; you are making the exact same mistake as the officer in the story – you are mistunderstanding the relative likelihood of two events (death by accidental gun discharge; death by cancer from standing next to some uranium ore deposit) out of ignorance.

      1. decourse

        Eric, you might want to look up the word “ore”. It doesn’t quite mean what you think it means.

        1. David Starner

          So what are the numbers here? Uranium is less radioactive then potassium, and it’s an alpha emitter, so the radiation is blocked by clothes. Uranium is just not that dangerous in its unrefined form.

        2. hr

          “ore” is the word you latch onto? The real point of what eric was saying was that “uranium” is a terrible example if you’re trying to come up with something more dangerous than a gun, and I wholeheartedly agree.

          Even solid uranium isn’t particularly dangerous. Wearing gloves is sufficient protection to carry it around in your hands. Standing next to it, your clothes are sufficient protection to keep you from getting skin cancer or whatever.

          If you ate it, you’d die of heavy metals poisoning before you died of the radiation.

          Of course, anything can be taken to extremes. If you are spending your life living naked in a poorly-ventilated room with several tonnes of yellowcake dust you will probably have a bad time, what with the toxic metal in the air and the elevated radon levels.

    3. Nigel

      The first (reputable) source I looked at gives figures for 1993/4 when Northern Ireland was in the grip of “the troubles”.

      England/Wales: 0.46 deaths per 100,000 people.
      NI: 6.82 deaths by firearms per 100,000 people.
      USA: 15.22 deaths by firearms per 100,000 people.

      Road deaths (2011):
      USA: 13.9 per 100,000
      UK: 4.8 per 100,000

      Drug Use:
      USA: 1.5 per 100,000
      UK: 2.1 per 100,000

      I’ll grant you that the accidental death toll from guns is relatively low (1520 people), but how many dead people is too many?

  2. CatMat

    I’m not current on US jurisprudence, but I was under the impression that a convicted felon handling a loaded firearm was a class C felony itself, so why does this “homicide caused by a criminally negligent and reckless behavior during a commission of a felony” become accidental manslaughter, not a felony murder? It’s not like applying pressure to the trigger of a loaded firearm presents no foreseeable danger to life.

    Or is it somehow coherent that he’s looking at up to 10 years for handling a firearm and no more than a year for actually killing someone with it?

    Then again, this could be considered a case of the merger doctrine… I don’t know. I’m not sure I’d have a problem with calling it a murder when someone who is legally forbidden to even handle a firearm kills someone with a firearm.

    1. foobar

      According to Wikipedia Florida does have some variation of the felony murder rule, but it’s not clear whether it’s applicable to illegally owning/handling a firearm. I could understand him being charged with murder, but homicide might be easier to convict on.

      1. CatMat


        It’s just that it seems that there’s more worry about him losing the god-given right to use firearms just because the law says so than there is about him killing someone that bothers me.

        And having a LEO say something like that… So he decided to handle the gun by the trigger and it went off. What are the odds?

        … Not vanishing, I’d say. Otherwise he wouldn’t have loaded the gun in the first place.

  3. Bill

    A man is dead; this is not the time to push your political views on us! It’s just emotion-based knee-jerk reactionism to try to even do anything because people will find a way to accidentally kill people no matter what.

    If it’s not a convicted felon picking up a loaded gun by the trigger, it’s a law-abiding grandma knocking a knife off her counter and then it ricochets off her floor and out the window and cuts someone’s throat. Or a teenager who serves undercooked chicken to Subway customers and then like five people die, or just get sick or whatever. These things happen and there’s nothing we can do about it.

    And have you thought about Chicago? Or mental health? What about Nazi Germany and Sweden and, like, the American Revolution and Vietnam? That school bombing from 1930 something and Chinese guys with knives…anything except guns!

  4. John Fringe

    In the United States there are about 40 homicides every single day. Sadly, we better don’t wait for a week without deaths to talk.

    Is your argument reciprocal?

    What I listen is this: we shouldn’t conduct health checks on food because yes, of course, some teenager served undercooked chicken to Subway customers last week, but people kill other people playing with guns, so it can’t be helped. Let’s shut down the FDA. I don’t believe this to be the right attitude.

    Besides, guns are quite explicitly made to kill people, while one can think other uses for food.

    1. Bill

      I was joking. Granny’s dropped knife and the last paragraph were supposed to give it away, but I guess it is a pretty accurate imitation of some people (“let’s shut down the FDA” is one of the more sane things the inexplicably angry anti-government crowd would say).

    1. markcc Post author

      Right, because people getting killed by rampant stupidity is totally unimportant, unworthy of getting emotional over.

      Got anything substantive to say, or just want to hang around and snipe pettily?

  5. Clark

    Mark, I really like reading your blog when it comes to the math discussion, both in the joy of explaining elegant mathematical concepts and debunking faulty ones.

    I speak as a mathematical graduate student seeking inspiration, but your non-math posts don’t do much for me. I have noticed a distinct muddying of the waters lately. Fully half of your last ten blog posts are not about mathematical concepts, and four are very social-issue oriented.

    Would you consider making such posts on a different blog or otherwise separating them out somehow? Thank you.

    1. markcc Post author

      Sorry, but no, I’m not going to go start a separate blog, just so that you can avoid hitting “next” to skip over something that doesn’t interest you.

      I’m sorry that the math content has been a bit low lately; since my mom died, I just haven’t been feeling up to it. I do have a big post on swift in progress, and I hope to have it ready by monday.

    2. eric

      Clark, the scroll wheel is your friend. Its perfectly okay to use it; Mark won’t be offended…after all, he won’t even know you did it :).

    3. anadrol1

      It’s Mark’s blog he can post anything he likes on it. It’s pretty easy to distinguish the math posts from other posts so why are you complaining?

  6. conrad6

    Mark’s statements disprove his own thesis. If existing laws were enforced, the felon would not have a gun in his possession, because he would still be in jail. And felons rarely “buy” guns, they directly or indirectly steal them.
    Mark should try to go to a gun store and try to legally buy a gun without ID and a background check. Then rant loudly about it in the store. Then post bond post-arrest. I believe he lives in CA, so buying a modern sporting rifle (AKA assault rifle or AR-15) in Mexico (or vice versa – see Fast and Furious) and smuggling it into CA would really inconvenience him if he were caught and prosecuted. It is not that much of an inconvenience to the gang-bangers.
    The best argument for me owning guns is felons possessing guns, and militarized civil bureaucrats like BLM and TSA.. And, since I am still free, I own them because I like them (ex-Army rifle coach, expert in rifle, pistol, machine gun), and because zombies might infect the sheriff’s SWAT team 1/4 mile away .

    1. David Starner

      Last time I checked, most felons do get to get out of jail at some point. And while gun stores do background checks, gun shows don’t have to.

      The fact that you would bring up zombies is a good argument for Mark’s statement; you can’t write a single post without bringing up fantasies of shooting up inhuman monsters that don’t exist in the real world.


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