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· Lawyer and Gun Activist
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From Friday night's online:
Published on: 02/03/07

A stray bullet, fired by men target-practicing on a tree, pierced the roof of a house about 150 yards away and killed a woman in Newton County on Friday evening, authorities said.

Tanya Rosemary McCracken, 31, was in an upstairs bedroom of the house in the 800 block of Hightower Trail in Covington when she was hit, sheriff's officials said.

Two men have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony, in the shooting. Officials said both were using a rifle to shoot bullets into a tree.

There are a couple of kinds of "involuntary manslaughter", as found in Code section 16-5-3. The most serious kind is when you cause the death of someone while doing misdemeanor crime, or some act that is made unlawful by a local ordinance, such as "reckless conduct" (16-5-60) or discharging a firearm where prohibited by law or shooting within 50 yards of a public street. Such a killing is a felony with a 1-10 year penalty.

The less-serious type of "involuntary manslaughter" involves committing a "lawful act" that is nonetheless done "in an unlawful manner" because it is likely to cause death or great bodily harm. I'm not exactly sure what that means, or how it is different from the kind of gross negligence that would also be misdemeanor "reckless conduct" per 16-5-60.
Killing someone during the commission of a lawful act done in an unlawful manner is misdemeanor itself-- max jail time 12 months, maximum fine $1000.

I guess the difference is that you might be able to endanger someone's safety in a way that puts them at risk of only a minor injury (therefore they are still "unsafe") but not the kind of injury that would be considered "serious." Then you'd be committing Misdemeanor Reckless conduct, not a lawful act done in an unlawful manner. If somebody died from your reckless conduct, however, you'd get the 10-year felony. If someone died because of you doing the more dangerous practice of "a lawful act done unlawfully" then you'd still only face misdemeanor charges. Go figure!

Bottom line: Be sure of your target, and what is beyond it. Don't go throwing bullets into the air, and don't count on a small wooded area only 150 yards deep to catch all the slugs before they reach your neighbor's home. Get a stack of sandbags, or have an excavator dig you a real berm of earth several feet high and several feet wide.
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