What Is The Ethical Response To This Astoundingly Stupid Story?

I really don’t know.

In Florida, two teenage males—Can we say “males”?—were playing a fun and exciting game: they took turns wearing body armor while the other shot a gun at him, police have concluded. Surprisingly, at least to them, one of the kids was shot dead when a bullet hit a place that the body armor didn’t cover.

Christopher Leroy Broad, 15, died after being rushed to a hospital. 17-year-old Joshua Vining has been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child with a firearm.How should sensible, compassionate, ethical people react to a story like that? The only thing I can recall “like” this idiocy are the episodes where kids are killed playing Russian Roulette, but the Florida episode seems even dumber, somehow. In the Russian Roulette tragedies, I always assumed that the kids, usually boys, were depressed and suicidal. After all, even an idiot knows that if you keep pulling the trigger with a 1 in 6 chance of shooting yourself in the head, you will eventually shoot yourself in the head.

I can tell you my first reaction when I heard the body armor game story this morning: “That’s about as stupid conduct as I have ever heard of.” Not sympathy. Not pity. My next thought was: “What a perfect Darwin Award candidate!” The Darwin Awards are an annual snark-fest in which the principle of natural selection is celebrated by noting the most spectacular and ridiculous ways stupid, reckless, ignorant or otherwise potential blights on society remove themselves from the gene pool.

Now I feel guilty about my reaction, which really hasn’t moderated after several hours. Another thought: at least the victim in this shooting was just one of the idiots. In similar instances, like, say, kids seeing who could drive the fastest drunk and blind-folded, innocent bystanders could be killed. I would have some compassion if the boys were ten. 15 and 17 is easily old enough to know that the body armor “game” is dangerous and insane, unless the teens were suffering from some kind of mental disability. Were they stoned? Then I’d like a word with the drug legalization crowd.

CBS News, predictably, used the episode to gin up its gun control advocacy. Can you really blame this on guns? (So far, we haven’t been told how the gun involved became available to the boys.) I’d finger the parents and the education system first. Disney is proclaiming in Florida that kindergartners should be taught about sexual intercourse options, but the schools don’t teach students that if you shoot a gun at someone, the target is likely to be badly hurt? How long would that take?

I’m still stuck on the thought that at least one of two potential deadly menaces to society at worst and burdens on society at best has been taken out of the equation by his own moronic conduct.

My ethics alarms are lightly pinging, suggesting this is an unethical reaction.

Is it?



17 thoughts on “What Is The Ethical Response To This Astoundingly Stupid Story?

  1. They’re kids. They left behind friends and family who are doubtless heartbroken. I have no idea who dropped the ball and never impressed upon either of them that guns are not toys and should never be used in shooting games with others as potential targets, but two young people are dead and that is a quite permanent consequence for everyone involved.

    We should be sad for them, sympathetic to their loved ones and lament the immature attitude that American society has about guns that makes the Gun Control Advocates so woozy with potential power.

    • Sigh…always read and re-read and always post something not-quite-right. First paragraph should read one young person is dead, not two.

  2. It seems to me the ethical response is mere resignation to the reality, expressing condolences to the family of the deceased, asking the survivor and his family whether they want a recommendation to a qualified mental health professional. Having said that I observe that we have lost sense of what a tragedy is. The death of people from overdoses is often described as tragic when in fact it is the predictable outcome of the personal behavioral choice of the deceased. The death of this young man is not tragic, it was predictable.

  3. Let me see here — Two older boys, surely possessing the knowledge that their game was reckless and likely fatal, proved that knowledge correct. A Darwin nomination is surely warranted, because their actions were profoundly stupid and worthy of derision.

    It’s hard not to take the position that society is better for their being removed from it. Hopefully the surviving miscreant will get better with age, and whatever time he serves in a penal institution will reinforce the right lessons and not convert him from a stupid moron into a hardened criminal.

    I think the most ethical response is compassion, but I think compassion for larger society is also warranted. In this case, there is an ethics conflict.

  4. What happened is clearly disregard for human life, it was immoral, and it was criminal; it’s also a tragedy across the board!

    It’s a tragedy that the boys weren’t properly taught about firearm safety.

    It’s a tragedy that the boys weren’t intelligent enough at that age to figure out on their own that what they were doing was extremely dangerous, bordering on insane, and someone would likely end up dead or close to dead.

    It’s a tragedy that one friend is dead and the other has to live the rest of his life knowing that he killed his friend and will have to pay for his immoral criminal conduct.

    It’s a tragedy that an inanimate object (the firearm) will be used as a scapegoat for political advantage and be blamed for the bad choices and actions of two utterly stupid human beings.

    It’s a tragedy that a politician never let a tragedy, like this, go to waste to push an anti-constitution agenda is a true sign of moral bankruptcy.

    Stupidity: behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgment.

    Genius has limitations but stupidity has none. It’s true that…

    …and true stupidity will usually remove itself from human existence.

    Jack wrote…

    “I’m still stuck on the thought that at least one of two potential deadly menaces to society at worst and burdens on society at best has been taken out of the equation by his own moronic conduct.

    My ethics alarms are lightly pinging, suggesting this is an unethical reaction.

    Is it?”

    No, I don’t think that is unethical, it is morally correct observation.

  5. First off, you must have missed this:


    My reaction to deadly stupidity is typically pity and sympathy. At 15 and 17, these kids are too stupid to know what they are doing. They probably figured, it would be cool. One guy would have shot the other, the vest would work, and they would have a cool story. What should have happened is that the one guy would have shot the other guy, his ribs would have gotten bruised or broken, and they would have learned a lesson. What happened was, of course, worse than that.

    Of course, most kids taking this sort of risk stick to BB Gun fights. Maybe somebody shoots an eye out, but you typically are dealing with welts. One time, around that age, we thought it wise to shoot bottle rockets at each other while in the woods down by the river. As I recall, one guy got a burn on his hand when they went off. Another guy had all of his rockets in the bottle and, when he lit one, not only did they all light up, but none of them could escape the bottle because they got caught on each other. So, he had a series of screeching explosives going off at his feet. No permanent hearing loss, and it ruined the game, but we all had a great laugh at his expense. Several years later, I managed to burn myself on the arm as I lit off another bottle rocket. A far less reckless scenario, with a minor injury.

    Live and learn, as they say. Unfortunately, only the ones who live will learn.

    They also say that the brain is not fully formed until about the age 25. Is it any wonder, then, that the people we send to war are usually young males? We send reckless people who can’t appreciate the risks out to kill each other; they are perfect for the task. These kids would be perfect recruits for the military if they could be trained to be obedient.

    Kids take stupid risks for a combination of reasons: 1) the risk is cool; and 2) they do not appreciate the level of the risk.

    Most of us who take dumb risks do not suffer the worst of the possible consequences. These kids were not so lucky.

    If these kids were not kids, but thirty-somethings, your reactions would be more fitting. He died because he was stupid, and he was stupid because he was young. Age can excuse stupidity; at some point, of course, it ceases to be an excuse. At 15 and 17, it can still be available.


    • Nice comment. Youth is dangerous and often fatal.

      We had a chronically wild child in our grade school class called (ironically) Hunter. I always thought Hunter was a little crazy. He was well to do as his father was a physician. HIs family lived in a nicer part of town than most of the rest of us. They had a swimming pool. When Sister I Forget Her Name led us in our last prayer as we departed for Christmas vacation, she said we should say an extra prayer because sometimes not all of us would come back after the holidays were over. Hunter thought that was hilarious and made a big show of cracking up at the back of the room and laughing up his sleeve.

      Sure as shootin, during the break, Hunter shot himself playing Russian roulette and died on his father’s operating table. I don’t think he was depressed, but he was a thrill seeker. He was probably ADHD and had an overly doting and probably enabling mother. He may have even been on Ritalin or some 1960s equivalent. His father had a revolver in the house for some reason. Who knows, Hunter may have even been overly indulged and given the gun, but I’m pretty sure we were told he got his father’s gun out of his father’s den. He was also a show off. I’m sure he dared the other kids at the scene to play. A few years later, his older and more stable brother was given a GTO to drive. I suspect had Hunter survived to that time, he would have likely killed himself in his brother’s GTO.

      I think even as an eighth grader, my reaction and that of my classmates (certainly the guys) was, “Well, that’s Hunter for you.” The girls were pretty uniformly distraught.

      Youth is not always survivable. I doubt these two guys were the sharpest pencils in the drawer and they probably didn’t have the best home situations. They won’t be the last to not make it into adulthood. And of course, as Dave Barry would observe, why is it so many of these stories come out of his (and my) home state, the Sunshine State? Maybe it’s too much sun?

  6. Where does a kid get body armor. I can understand a kid misusing dad or mom’s firearm but the fact they had access to body armor seems to me that the family unit has issues with authority. I know many firearm enthusiasts and none feel the need to purchase body armor.

    I wonder if Biden wants body armor makers liable for these types acts.

  7. “They also say that the brain is not fully formed until about the age 25.”

    Maybe so, but my brain was sufficiently formed by about age ten to not do anything this stupid. I was raised in a family of hunters and marksmen, and was shown in early childhood what damage gunshots would do to oranges, apples, pumpkins and watermelons, and was able to extrapolate that into damage to the human body, long before I was actually trained and allowed to shoot firearms beginning at age ten when I “graduated” from BB guns. I got my first .22 rifle at age 12, a shotgun a year later, and frequently hunted alone or with groups of friends and cousins throughout my teens. None of us ever had a negligent shot fired or experienced any firearms-related injury. Too few of today’s youth have that education, and experience firearms being used responsibly in a proper context.

    • Yeah, I’m a big believer in the brain development stuff, especially for boys, but how far does that go? If a kid puts his head under a pile driver or jumps in the lion cage, so we say, well, you know how kids are? This Florida incident is in that category for me.

    • Jim Hodgson,

      Well, tell us about the stupid things you did do? Shirley, there is something.

      I got another one: nobody wore bike helmets. Well, nobody except Ivo and his sisters. Leave it to someone named Ivo to do something weird like wearing bicycle helmets. Hard to say what was more uncool, his name or his helmet.

      Then, one day, one of the cool older kids, Jim, flipped over his handle bars, cracked his head open, and had to go to the hospital. I don’t know if he suffered any permanent brain damage, but I do recall he took a while to recover. After all that, we still did not wear bike helmets!

      Even as an adult, I did not wear bike helmets–until I got to the point of not being quite sure that I was as steady on a bike as I used to be. Of course, now I always do–and my kids have never been had the option not to.

      Ivo (or, his mom) was definitely ahead of the times.


      • Oh, I did do some stupid things, but none involved firearms or death-defying acts (broken bone-defying, perhaps). And stop calling me Shirley.

  8. Yes and no. I think anyone who dies that young (even if by stupidity) is really a kind of tragedy. Would these people have grown out of their stupidity and become productive members of society? Part of being young is being stupid as well. Did they bring their own deaths upon themselves? Yes.

    I think maybe a little more compassion may be better though, even if they did act like morons.

    On the other hand, I think we also have lowered our standards too much for teenagers. Some parents won’t even leave their 15 year old home alone anymore. I think treating teenagers too much like kids also keeps them more kidlike longer, and this means making dumber decisions.

  9. It doesn’t say so in the linked article, but I’d bet good money that social media was involved in some way. They were filming it to put on YouTube or Snapchat or TikTok or whatever, virtually guaranteed… There is nearly zero chance this horror wasn’t filmed on at least one cell phone.

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