Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard an awful lot about “wrong place shootings.” These are incidents where someone shoots another because that person just happens to be in the wrong place, generally by mistake and without being threatening in any way recognized by the law.
These are senseless and awful, but they’ve become a huge cause for anti-gun crusaders. Some have even claimed that the fact these happen is proof that we need gun control.
However, whenever you hear about a rash of something via the media, you need to be careful. After all, it sounds like this phenomenon of wrong place shootings is something new.
As USA Today notes, though, they’ve been a thing for a long time.
A teenager in Louisiana was fatally shot after going to the wrong house while looking for a Halloween party. A young man in Georgia was gunned down after pulling into the wrong driveway when GPS led him astray. Another man died from a bullet in Atlanta after Lyft dropped him off at the wrong apartment.
But these aren’t the “wrong place, wrong time” shootings that have been dominating media attention in recent days. They happened in 1992, 2013 and 2019.
“People are constantly told to be scared and to use guns to defend themselves, so we shouldn’t be shocked when this happens,” says UCLA law professor Adam Winkler.
Of course Winkler would say such a thing, except literally no one tells them to shoot when scared. They’re told they should defend their life. For that to happen, there needs to be, you know, an actual threat.
Deadly overreactions to “wrong place” events have brought tragic consequences across the U.S. for decades. And many times when they happen, there are calls for stronger gun control, questions about racist motivations, and pleas for tougher laws to protect innocent people from gun-wielding homeowners.
But solutions have been elusive.
In the 1992 case, the death of Yoshihiro Hattori, a 16-year-old Japanese exchange student, caused reverberations around the world. Hattori, dressed in a white tuxedo in the style of Saturday Night Fever’s John Travolta, was fatally shot by a homeowner with a .44 Magnum revolver after Hattori went to the wrong address.
Now, it’s clear USA Today has an axe to grind. They always have, lest we forget the chainsaw bayonet fiasco.
However, the overall point here, that these “wrong place shootings” are not new and have been an issue for decades is perfectly valid and incredibly accurate.
What we’re currently seeing is the media getting a bee under its bonnet on an issue, then amplifying similar cases. It’s not necessarily that they’re happening more often, but that they’re being amplified more often.
That’s not to say these examples aren’t awful on every level. They most definitely are.
Yet we also need to remember a few things.
The first is that this is a nation of 330 million people with an estimated 400 million firearms in civilian hands. While tragedies occur, they occur at a rate that is staggeringly small compared to the number of people and the number of firearms we have.
That’s not intended to downplay the awfulness of what happened, mind you, nor to excuse it. Those who commit these “wrong place shootings” are people who deserve to be prosecuted. They should know better.
And that’s where the problem lies. While people like Fred Guttenberg want to pretend we can restrict guns to such a degree that would allow anyone to have a gun but prevent these kinds of shootings.
This isn’t an access issue. This is a training issue, one that even mandatory training wouldn’t resolve for a number of reasons I’ve noted elsewhere.
The truth is that these shootings aren’t new. They just feel that way because we’re hearing about them more. That’s all.