Pregnant Woman Is Dead And 4-Year-Old Injured, No Charges For Either Accidental Shooting

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handgun on floorThis is a tale of two accidental shootings, at opposite ends of the country: one resulting in an injury, one fatal. It is also the tale of exactly zero charges filed. And lastly, it is a tale about a fundamental flaw in American gun culture: the idea that shootings like these ‘just happen’ and that there is really nothing that can be done to prevent them.

Katherine Hoover of Florida was five months pregnant when shot accidentally by family friend William DeHayes, according to The Daily Beast. DeHayes had been showing off his collection of guns, and when he threw in some tricks from his amateur gun-slinging hobby, something went wrong. After spinning his antique revolver on his finger, “like a cowboy would”, he later explained, he attempted to re-holster the gun–only to have it fire. The bullet hit Hoover in the head, and she died shortly after arriving at the hospital; as did her son, who was delivered by C-section. (I’m still waiting for the pro-life crew to start protesting gun violence, but so far … *crickets*.) And shockingly the state prosecutor Brad King has decided not to press charges against DeHayes:

“There is no evidence to suggest the [sic] DeHayes had a careless or reckless indifference to the safety of the victims when the firearm discharged […] Just as it is my duty to prosecute those who violate the law, it is equally my duty to refrain from prosecuting those whose conduct, no matter how outrageous, does not constitute a crime[.]”

How much evidence does it take, exactly, before we can reasonably suggest that someone was using a gun carelessly? Is not treating it like it was loaded, let alone checking to make sure it wasn’t, not enough? Showing off for your friends by spinning a gun around and doing “cowboy” tricks with a loaded weapon doesn’t qualify as ‘reckless’ now?

Meanwhile on Saturday, from The Guardian, a four-year-old Alaska boy was shot in the leg when his mother’s loaded handgun fell out of her purse and fired. And again, no charges were filed. Because in a country where parents can’t let their kids walk to the park alone without having to explain themselves to the law, of course it’s not batshit crazy completely negligent to have a loaded gun tossed loosely into your purse when you have a preschooler running around.

I’m sure that both this boy’s mother and William DeHayes feel terrible about the incidents they were responsible for. But you know what’s better than accidental shooters feeling terrible? Pressing charges that would require them to get gun safety training, to perform community service to work with hospital patients. To acknowledge that they have not ‘suffered enough already’ just from the knowledge of their actions, and to affirm that yes, gun accidents don’t ‘just happen’.

A few months before Hoover’s death, DeHayes posted a pro-gun meme on his (since-deleted) Facebook account. It said: “Left My Gun Alone Today. It Didn’t Kill Anyone.” Below it, Hayes added, “Yep, proving once again that the lethality of an object is entirely dependent on the intent of the operator.” Because people truly believe this, Katherine Hoover is dead, and a little boy in Wasilla, Alaska got shot in the leg. And as long as the law continues to buy into this ridiculous notion, I don’t expect we’ll stop seeing stories like these anytime soon.

(Image: Daniel Fowler / Getty)