Grammar

Isn’t an Attempted Shooting Still a Shooting?

123RF

Occasionally, we’ll hear of a shooting in the community. But when should you call a shooting vs. an attempted shooting?

A viewer asked recently why we called an incident involving shots fired an “attempted shooting.”

To them, it must mean the gunman’s weapon jammed. Or, maybe that the gunman experienced some sort of last-minute change of heart.

Neither was the case The gunman in question did actually discharge his firearm.

He damaged a couple of vehicles. At least one bullet struck a home while a family was inside. Police responded to the scene and collected evidence. No one actually saw the gunman. Police couldn’t find anyone to provide a description.

As of the following morning, when news spread about it, police did not know of a motive in the attack, either.

Police reported no injuries, however. That is to say, no one was wounded by gunfire.

So do you call it a shooting or an attempted shooting?

Gun enthusiasts sometimes visit a shooting range. There, they refine their skills by firing at paper targets. If all goes well, said gunmen strike their targets. (Or at least they strike as closely as they can manage.)

It’s only when something goes terribly wrong that a person gets shot.

But in the 99.5% of cases where only the targets sustain bullet holes, we still call it a shooting range.

On the other hand, when someone sets out to kill someone but fails, we call the criminal charge they’ll likely face “attempted murder.” No one was murdered, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to call it a murder case.

By that logic, when a gunman wounds no people, a shooting would be an “attempted shooting.” But some think an attempted shooting doesn’t accurately convey that a gun was actually fired.

If a news outlet reports a shooting in which no one is wounded, angry readers accuse it of sensationalizing.

Some newsrooms adopted a policy that describes the act of firing a gun as a shooting only when someone actually gets wounded.

I see both sides. But when someone fires a gun, there has, in fact, been a shooting, even if nothing is struck. I don’t care for the whole attempted business, but I also understand too few people are willing to read anything more than the headline.

Which do you prefer?

If a gunman fires at someone but misses, is it a shooting or an attempted shooting?

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.