We occasionally get "questions" that ask absurd, bad-faith questions with some legal hook.

For example (I hate to feed a troll by giving the question attention, but I figure doing so once to provide a future reference for how to handle these is worth it):

What happens if i discharge a firearm into occupied vehicle/boat/structure/craft?

I was thinking of doing this, let me know if it's a "good" or "bad" idea?

There's no conceivable way this is a real question about the law. At the very least, the question of whether it's a "good" or "bad" idea should be obvious to anyone. I believe it's obviously trolling, and merits removal. We've gotten other questions of this sort in the past; this is just the latest example.

There are a few options:

  • Vote to close as trolling
    • Pros: Closes the question, warns other users it's a troll, can vote to delete once closed.
    • Cons: Gives the troll attention by directly exposing the moderation action accusing them of trolling, takes a long time to reach deletion.
  • Flag as Rude/abusive
    • Pros: Six such flags will delete the post, escalates for possible instant deletion by moderators.
    • Cons: May result in declined flags if moderators disagree with this approach or whether it's a troll (though moderators could, at their option, dispute the flags instead).
  • Flag with custom text indicating that it's a likely troll
    • Pros: Makes clear why the post is being flagged, escalates for possible instant deletion by moderators.
    • Cons: Requires waiting for a mod to handle the flag, no option for multiple flags to delete.

An answer from one of the moderators on how they would prefer such posts be handled would be especially appreciated.

  • I keep meaning to post in main meta to propose "troll" as a new flag reason that autofires on six flags. – HAEM Jan 7 at 10:17

I would recommend doing all of the following:

  1. Downvote the question. (That's what the downvote is for, and it doesn't cost rep to downvote questions.)
  2. Vote to close >> "Community Specific" >> "Other - add a comment." That way other users and moderators can clearly see why it's being targeted for closure and deletion.
  3. Flag the question. Having done #2 you can flag as "rude or abusive" ... even though that may not be literally right a moderator is most likely going to click in and catch on quickly from the votes and comments. (If hesitant you can omit this step, or flag as "in need of moderator intervention" with a comment.)

In the example referenced, within 90 minutes of posting the question it had four downvotes, four close votes, and one "rude or abusive" flag. I saw the flag and deleted the question. So based on this sample the system works! :D


I just want to add a few micro points. I agree with the premise that it is an insincere troll question and should be blasted out of the sky. I agree with downvoting. I disagree with the specific reason to close, because that is not a reason ("being stupid"), that is an emotional reaction. The reason is that what constitutes a "good idea" is not a question about the law, it's an ethical question. When questions are closed but not deleted, it matters from the educational perspective whether the reason stated is "correct", but since this question was vaporized, having a correct stated reason does not matter in the long run.

Flagging is about communicating with mods. The question was not rude or abusive, and I don't think we should say that questions are rude or abusive unless they are rude or abusive, or there is no other way to communicate with mods. But there is, so I advocate flagging as "other" and saying what the problem is. Troll questions like that are not emergencies, unlike porn. Things happen here pretty quickly since the mods do not sleep, and I don't see the harm in allowing a troll question to limp towards the abyss for an extra hour or two. I do see the harm (to self) in mis-stating reality for the sake of a convenient disposition of the matter. Do you actually believe that the question is rude or abusive? I don't, and I have a hard time believing that you do. We could travel down a long road in moral philosophy to discuss why ignoring reality for the sake of an expedient resolution is not a good idea. Not that I'm accusing you, I just think that it is important to be clear and correct about the reasoning that we use in evaluating questions and answers here.

This raises a related question, though. Suppose the question had been "Is it legal to discharge a firearm into an occupied vehicle in California" (to ward off the "Jurisdiction?" response). That seems like a stupid question as well, but I invite you to give a researched non-opinion answer. What statute is violated? What is the exact cause of action in a civil suit. "Everybody knows" that it is illegal to discharge a weapon into an occupied vehicle, but perhaps the question is a minimalist attempt to get a fact-based answer.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .