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[AP/Mic Smith]

Coronavirus & Guns

People Keep Shooting Each Other Over Coronavirus Restrictions

Tracking gun violence tied to face masks, store closures, and social distancing rules.

Since March, state and local governments across the country have instituted a slew of public closures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The policies have shuttered businesses and prevented public gatherings, but have also engendered a new category of gun violence.

We’ve spotted at least 15 shootings related to these restrictions since the first statewide lockdown went into effect on March 19. According to an analysis of news clips and Gun Violence Archive data, at least two people have died and 10 have been wounded in incidents that run the gamut from disputes over coughing in public to anger at businesses refusing service to customers who aren’t wearing masks. Flint, Michigan, is the only place so far with two cases, both disputes involving security guards.


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“There is a lot of anger, frustration, stress, despair, depression, fear, and hopelessness — all of these emotions are building up for different reasons,” Yale sociologist Vida Bajc told The Trace. “Given all of this, it is not surprising that we see gun violence persist despite the quarantine.”

In the list below, we’ve compiled shootings with a strong connection to pandemic-related public health restrictions, like social distancing and mask requirements, occupancy limits, and business closures. The list does not include gun-related threats or brandishing in public, nor disputes in which the pandemic seems to have played a more limited role.

Spot a relevant example we’ve missed? Please let us know by sending us a note here.

August 31 
St. Louis, Missouri

A 29-year-old man opened fire outside a Family Dollar store after employees told him to leave for not wearing a mask. When a man followed him out to make sure he left, the suspect shot at him. The man, who was not wounded, returned fire, striking the suspect in the hip. The suspect, who is barred from owning guns due to a prior gun-related criminal conviction, was charged with first-degree assault and illegal gun possession.

August 28 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A man shot and critically wounded a 25-year-old man who tried to mediate a social distancing dispute between the suspect and a security guard at a Wawa convenience store. The guard had told the alleged gunman to wait outside because there were too many people in the store. He was charged with attempted murder.

August 15 
St. Louis, Missouri

A security guard at a gas station opened fire on three men who attacked him after being told to comply with the city’s face mask mandate. The men allegedly punched the guard and struck him with his own baton, prompting him to open fire, wounding one of them in the stomach.

August 1
Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania

A man opened fire outside a cigar shop after a clerk asked him to wear a face mask. The employee was not wounded. When police tried to arrest the shooter the next day near his home in Slatington, he fired on officers with an AK-47 and a semiautomatic handgun. He injured one cop before being shot twice and wounded. He was arraigned on 22 charges including attempted homicide.

July 26
New Orleans, Louisiana

A man shot at employees at a convenience store after being asked to wear a mask. No one was injured in the incident and police are still looking for the shooter.

July 8
Shreveport, Louisiana

A convenience store clerk shot at a customer who refused to wear a mask. No one was injured. The clerk was arrested.

May 29
Merced, California

A man fired his gun out of frustration after a hospital prevented him from being able to visit a sick relative due to pandemic guidelines. No one was injured. The man was arrested.

May 15
Flint, Michigan

A security guard at a liquor store shot a customer in the ankle after the man reportedly struck him several times in frustration over the store’s pandemic-imposed occupancy limits.

May 14
Aurora, Colorado

An employee at a Waffle House was shot and wounded after confronting a customer who refused to wear a mask. Police arrested a man and charged him with attempted first-degree murder.

May 12
San Antonio, Texas

A bus driver turned away a licensed concealed carrier for trying to board the bus without a mask, a local news outlet reported. The man proceeded to shoot and critically injure a passenger who came out to confront him.

May 7
Lexington, Mississippi

A police officer was shot and wounded while responding to a report that people were not socially distancing at a party. Three men were arrested.

May 6
Oklahoma City

An employee at a McDonald’s was shot and two other employees were wounded when a customer opened fire after being told the dining area was closed because of coronavirus restrictions.

May 1
Flint, Michigan

Calvin Munerlyn, 43, a security guard at a Dollar General store, was fatally shot after denying entry to a woman whose daughter was not wearing a face mask. Police arrested the woman, her husband, and a suspected accomplice.

April 22

De’onte Roberts, 16, was shot and killed during a fight with his stepfather, who refused to let the teen back home after he’d allegedly violated Georgia’s stay-at-home order. The man, 42, was charged with murder.

March 28
Johnstown, Pennsylvania

A 53-year-old man confronted a motorist who reportedly coughed without covering his mouth in a convenience store parking lot. The argument sparked a physical confrontation, and the coughing man opened fire. No one was injured. Both men were arrested for assault.