Last Friday, a man accidentally shot himself at a showing of “It” at a movie theater in Norwalk, Connecticut. On September 4, a man legally carrying a gun without a permit in a Missouri grocery store was wounded when his handgun slipped from the waistband of his pants and discharged, sending a bullet into his leg. In April, the co-owner of a Florida strip club was moving an AK-47-style rifle from a shelf when it fired, striking and killing an employee in an adjacent stockroom.
So far this year, 71 people have been unintentionally shot at businesses across the United States, according to an analysis of Gun Violence Archive data. The locations include hotels, grocery stores, gas stations, theaters, and fast-food restaurants where Americans conduct their daily affairs. The total works out to about one person every four days. Seven of the shootings proved deadly.
Some of the victims were business owners or employees who accidentally discharged their weapons at work, hitting themselves or co-workers. Others were patrons utilizing state laws that allow gun owners to carry concealed guns outside their homes after undergoing training and securing a permit. (In the dozen states that now have so-called permitless carry laws, licenses are not required.)
Through the first nine months of 2017, an additional 28 people have been shot — one fatally — at businesses where the presence of guns would be expected, most often gun ranges. One of those shootings occurred at a range at the National Rifle Association’s Virginia headquarters; another was at the gunmaker Sig Sauer’s New Hampshire training academy.
In 2016, at least 92 people people were accidentally shot at businesses, eight of them fatally. An additional 56 people were shot at gun ranges, shops, and shows in that period, 10 of them fatally.
Along with schools, hospitals, churches, and government buildings, America’s businesses have become contested terrain as gun-rights groups battle reformers over the public spaces in which firearms can be legally wielded. Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio are among the states where legislators and governor have moved in recent years to expand the locations where concealed guns are authorized. Several U.S. retail and hospitality giants, including Starbucks, Levi’s, and Chipotle — and even beloved gun-belt fast-food chain Whataburger — have enacted corporate policies restricting guns in their facilities.
Lawmakers in some state capitals have sought to force the hand of businesses that currently bar guns from their private property. An NRA-backed measure teed up in the Florida Legislature for the upcoming session would require businesses to provide security if they bar concealed guns, and would allow concealed carriers who patronize those establishments to sue if they are injured by a person (or animal). An earlier proposal in Tennessee was ultimately rewritten to protect gun-free business owners from liability resulting from shootings — as long as they post required “no-guns” signage.