I'm a murder mystery writer and recently I came up with an interesting idea for a murder method, but I was curious in particular legal logic behind it.

Let's say two adults - Persons A and B - decided to shoot their BB guns at the other, for some reason. Unbeknownst to Person A, a third party hours prior - a Person C - replaced A's BB gun with an actual gun that looked exactly like the original BB gun. When Persons A and B shoot at each other, B of course dies.

Let's say later, in the course of the case, it was proven beyond a doubt that Person A didn't know he had an actual gun. On top of that, it was conclusively proven that Person C was the one who switched the BB gun with an actual gun. Would Person A still be convicted or face some sort of legal trouble? Additionally, would Person C ever be arrested, even though he technically wasn't the one who killed Person B?

  • This woul;d depend somewhat on what jurisdiction this was under. What country, and if the US or a similar federal country, what state or province. But at the least A would be guilty of assault, it is assault and battery to shoot at another with even a BB gun. Jul 3, 2021 at 3:33
  • Let's say this was in United States, Texas. Also, regarding the last point, Person A would be charged with assault even if Person A and B mutually agreed to shoot each other? Jul 3, 2021 at 4:19
  • 2
    "For some reason" has to be specified. If it was a good reason, there is no criminal liability. If it was a bad reason, there is criminal liability. Similar question about C's replacing the gun. You've described the scenario of more than one TV show where A and B were actors.
    – user6726
    Jul 3, 2021 at 4:42

1 Answer 1


It is a good idea for a story: that’s why it’s a trope

It features (with drugs instead of guns) as the core plot point of 2019’s Knives Out.

Shooting someone with a BB gun is problematic because it’s hard to see what legal justification there could be for that type of assault. However, if we instead thing of paint ball guns, C is a murderer and A & B have committed no crime.

Real life examples:

  • While performing a suicide scene in a production of Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller in Vienna, actor Daniel Hoevels accidentally slit his own neck, as the theatre company's order for the originally sharp knife to be dulled for the stage was overlooked; a police investigation never determined who was responsible, or whether it was due to negligence or a deliberate attempt to kill or injure him. The wound was almost fatal, but Hoevels quickly returned to the stage after emergency treatment in the hospital.

  • Never treat a blank in a gun as harmless. They can maim or kill you. Anyone who says otherwise is not your friend. Read the article here on Gun Safety for more details.

    • There have even been two sad cases listed in Fatal Method Acting: Brandon Lee, accidentally killed during The Crow because the crew left a cartridge in the barrel before loading the blanks, which then hit his spine; and actor Jon-Erik Hexum, who in-between takes of the show Cover-Up, goofed around with a gun and by firing it into the side of his head, had a blank cause enough trauma to shatter a quarter-sized piece of his skull and propel the pieces into his brain.
  • More than 20 illusionists have been killed performing the 'bullet catch' trick. It is generally considered the most dangerous magic trick as so many things can go wrong. Some of those killed were murdered when someone (often their partner/assistant) substituted a live round for the blank or—in earlier days, when single-shot black powder guns were used—placed the ball back in the barrel after it had been removed.

  • 1
    it’s hard to see what legal justification there could be for that type of assault – I'm sure two people could legally shoot each other with BB guns if the action was mutually consensual, in which case it would not be assault. I think OP is implying that the intended action is not assault.
    – forest
    Jul 4, 2021 at 3:23
  • I have seen boys do stupider and more dangerous things than shoot BBS at each other when there’s alcohol involved and girls watching.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 2, 2021 at 11:53

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