Wrong door, wrong driveway: How US got to shoot first, ask later

Concealed Carry


A string of perplexing shootings across the United States has revealed a fearful society where firing first and asking questions later has become, for some, acceptable if not always legal.

The incidents involve people, including children, who have been shot at for seemingly mundane acts and mistakes: ringing the wrong doorbell, pulling into the wrong driveway, chasing a ball into a neighbor’s yard.

Why We Wrote This

A series of high-profile shootings for seemingly mundane things – ringing the wrong doorbell, turning into the wrong driveway – reveals an on-edge society. This does not take place in a vacuum.

There has long been a sense for travelers in unfamiliar areas that some driveways are better not breached – lest one meet a proverbial recluse holding a shotgun loaded with rock salt and nails.

Yet a barrage of state laws scrapping concealed carry permitting requirements, the replacement of a legal duty to retreat from danger with a “stand-your-ground” standard, and a steadily growing national arsenal of handguns and high-powered rifles have heightened the risk of violence. These trends have raised concerns about desensitizing society to the costs of firing a weapon too soon, and they represent changes to a core social contract about the role of guns in a democratic society.  

“What we are seeing is an abdication of responsibility to the public – we are not concerned about our fellow man,” says Kenneth Nunn, an expert on U.S. self-defense law. 

A string of perplexing shootings across the United States has revealed an on-edge society where firing first and asking questions later – in other words, letting a gun do all the talking – has become, for some, acceptable if not always legal.

The incidents involve people, including children, who have been shot at for seemingly mundane acts and mistakes: ringing the wrong doorbell, pulling into the wrong driveway, chasing a ball into a neighbor’s yard.

There has long been a sense for travelers in unfamiliar areas that some driveways are better not breached – lest one meet a proverbial recluse holding a shotgun loaded with rock salt and nails.

Why We Wrote This

A series of high-profile shootings for seemingly mundane things – ringing the wrong doorbell, turning into the wrong driveway – reveals an on-edge society. This does not take place in a vacuum.

Yet a barrage of state laws scrapping concealed carry permitting requirements, the replacement of a legal duty to retreat from danger with a “stand-your-ground” standard, and a steadily growing national arsenal of handguns and high-powered rifles have heightened the risk of violence. These trends have raised concerns about desensitizing society to the costs of firing a weapon too soon, and they represent changes to a core social contract about the role of guns in a democratic society.  

“What we are seeing is an abdication of responsibility to the public – we are not concerned about our fellow man,” says Kenneth Nunn, an expert on U.S. self-defense law and a law professor emeritus at the University of Florida. “I think there’s a belief that if you’re a homeowner and have a gun, you’re basically insulated from any criminal charges if you use it … that there’s no limiting principle for vigilante violence. And some people are OK with that.”



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