Intent to Kill and the Forensics of Hang Fire

There has been a ton of debate online in the wake of the latest shootings in the States. One thing no one argues about is whether or not the shooters intended to commit murder, because of course they did.

Canadians, on the other hand, have been debating the question of intent – in the Gerald Stanley/Colten Boushie case. Did Stanley shoot to kill, or did his gun experience a rare malfunction? Called hang fire, it apparently happens when there is a delay between the trigger pull and the movement of the bullet.

My academic expertise is in the forensic science of DNA fingerprinting, but I became interested in ballistics while writing Forensic Science: In Pursuit of Justice. I didn’t come across any mentions of hang fire during my research, so I won’t attempt to explain it myself. This article in the National Post does an excellent job of summarizing expert opinion on the phenomenon. It’s worth your time.

Thoughts and prayers for all those affected by gun violence, accidental or deliberate, Canadian or American.



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