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Why are Americans getting shot after mixing up addresses or cars?


Three shootings happened within the past week because of what appear to be simple mistakes. In upstate New York, a 20-year-old woman was shot and killed after the car she was in pulled into the wrong driveway. In Missouri, a 16-year-old boy was shot when he rang the wrong doorbell. And in Texas, two high school cheerleaders were shot after one of them accidentally got into the wrong car. So all this made us wonder, in a country where there are more guns than people, how often do these types of shootings happen? For more on this, I'm joined by Allison Anderman. She's senior counsel and director of local policy at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Allison, is there any data at all that tells us how often people are shot for simple mistakes like the ones I just mentioned?

ALLISON ANDERMAN: There is no national repository for this sort of information. But we do know from media reports and survey data, as well as statements from law enforcement, that these types of rage-induced shootings are increasing. They're still rare, like mass shootings between strangers, but they are on the rise as well.

MARTÍNEZ: And see, that surprises me because, I mean, we catalog absolutely everything. We're a statistics-driven culture. So I'm surprised that this information doesn't exist. Why not?

ANDERMAN: Well, these incidents involving guns and shootings are captured at the local level by local law enforcement and in jurisdictions around the country. And there's just - there's no uniform system for cataloging this data, but also no place to put it.

MARTÍNEZ: Does anybody think that there should be a place to put it or at least some kind of standard way to collect this kind of information?

ANDERMAN: I think it's a very big challenge in terms of getting everyone at the local level in the country on the same page. The CDC does collect data on firearm homicides and publishes that information two years after the calendar year.

MARTÍNEZ: So let's talk about, then, policies or laws that may be affecting the likelihood of these types of shootings. The castle doctrine and stand your ground laws, that kind of stuff comes to mind.

ANDERMAN: Yes. So the so-called stand your ground laws are dramatic expansions of centuries worth of self-defense principles. So it's always been the law - I mean, going back hundreds of years to the English common law - that a person has a right to defend themselves with lethal force in their home without having to retreat from their home. But what stand your ground laws have done is take this into the public sphere and tell anyone and everyone that if they feel the slightest provocation, they can use lethal force without retreating, even if they can do so safely without harm to anyone.

MARTÍNEZ: Does race play a role in stand your ground cases, according to the data?

ANDERMAN: Yes. Unfortunately, stand your ground laws promote racist violence. There have been studies showing that when a white person kills a Black person, it is 281% more likely that the killing will be found justified than when a white person kills another white person.

MARTÍNEZ: Is there anything at all that you see in research that may explain why people are feeling provoked or maybe even justified to shoot?

ANDERMAN: Well, I think it is the confluence of a lot of factors. Over the last few years, we've had increased gun buying as a result of the pandemic and protests for racial justice. So we have more people than ever carrying guns. We have a steady weakening of gun laws in a majority of states in this country - as I mentioned, the erosion of self-defense laws, and also the gun industry selling a narrative of fear and this notion that everyone must be armed everywhere and at all times to defend themselves. And the result is people using guns offensively, not defensively, and at a hair's provocation.

MARTÍNEZ: And I'm thinking of the phrase shoot first, ask questions later. That phrase has been around in America for as long as anyone can remember. Allison Anderman of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Allison, thanks.

ANDERMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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