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Why Do 'Wrong Address' Shootings Seem To Be Increasing?

A North Carolina maintenance man had arrived to fix damage from a leak. A teenager in Georgia was looking for his girlfriend’s apartment. A Texas cheerleader wanted to find her car in a dark parking lot after practice. Each accidentally went to the wrong address or opened the wrong door, and each was shot. They had made innocent mistakes that became examples of the kind of deadly errors that can occur in a nation full of guns, anger and paranoia, and where most states have empowered gun owners with new self-defense laws. This week, the issue of “wrong address” shootings stirred protests and outrage after a homeowner in Kansas City, Mo., shot a 16-year-old who rang the wrong doorbell. Days later, a 20-year-old woman in upstate New York was fatally shot after she and her friends turned into the wrong driveway.

Other cases have attracted far less attention. In 2021, a Tennessee man was charged with brandishing a handgun and firing it after two cable-company workers mistakenly crossed onto his land. Last June, a Virginia man was arrested after he shot at three lost teenage siblings who had accidentally pulled onto his property. “It’s shoot first, ask questions later,” said Justin Diepenbrock of Polk County, Fla., where a father and son searching for what they thought was a burglar opened fire last year on a woman parking her car after working an overnight shift. Such shootings are uncommon in a country with nearly 49,000 gun deaths in a year. Gun-control advocates say they are a stark illustration of how quickly people reach for guns and how tragic the results can be. Activists and researchers say the shootings stem from a convergence of bigger factors — increased fear of crime, a attendant surge in gun ownership, extreme political messaging on firearms, fearmongering in the media and gun industry marketing that portrays the suburban front door as a fortified barrier against a violent world.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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