John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
This year's list of incidents includes an Italian restaurant, a prosecutor's office, a Target, a Burger King ...
Last year, CityLab took a brief look at the disturbingly high number of accidental firearm discharges that take place in public bathrooms across the United States. There were reports of accidental gunfire in bathrooms at a Walmart, a hotel, a grocery store, an Internet cafe, and a Carl's Jr. (The roundup somehow missed this one at an Irish pub in Florida.) In most cases, the self-inflicted victims were pulling up or lowering their pants when their concealed weapon fell out, hit the floor, and fired.
One of these unfortunate incidents prompted a MN Guntalk forum user named "peckerhead" to offer this advice, for men:
Seriously, guys, it's not difficult.
Leave it holstered, and do not use the grip of your weapon to manipulate your pants. Back up to the toilet. Unbuckle your belt. Using your weak hand, pull the loose ends of your belt away from your body and hold snug. Using your strong hand, undo your drawers and drop them to just above your knees. Sit down. Buckle your belt at the first notch. Spread your legs a little to keep it snug while your take care of business. Problem solved.
But it seems nobody took peckerhead's suggestion to heart, because since then there's been no drop in the stream of concealed weapon-carrying Americans accidentally firing their guns in the john. Below, I've posted a chronology of the most-recent PSA-worthy incidents for anybody who doesn't have a Google Alert set up for "accidental discharge + bathroom." Please note that this list is certainly not exhaustive, as I had to cut off my search at a certain point due to the sheer volume of these incidents.
(And let's not forget the wider and grimmer picture here, as these are just a fraction of total unintentional shootings in the U.S. each year, of which far too many are tragically fatal. In 2011, for instance, accidental firearm discharges killed 591 people in the U.S., according to the CDC.)
• Last Thursday, an elementary school teacher in a Salt Lake City suburb unwittingly discharged her concealed weapon in the faculty bathroom. The bullet shattered a toilet, sending shards into her leg and her to the hospital. The school promptly made crisis counselors available to students, reports the AP, which adds this context:
Utah is among the few states that allow people with concealed-weapons permits to carry guns in public schools, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Teachers are not required to disclose that they are carrying a weapon, and administrators are prohibited from asking if they carry or barring them from bringing their weapons.
• On September 6, an off-duty cop accidentally fired a round inside the restroom of a Target in Honolulu. The bullet bounced off a stall door before drilling another stall. He allegedly called 911, but the incident never appeared in the police department's public reports, leading TV station KHON2 to wonder if somebody tried to cover up the mishap.
• In June, a veteran detective with New Jersey's Camden County Prosecutor's Office shot himself in the leg at his office's loo. Informs the South Jersey Times: "Prosecutor's office spokesman Jason Laughlin confirmed the accidental shooting on Monday. However, he said he could not confirm a Philadelphia Inquirer report stating the detective was seated or about to sit when the gun fired."
• A man was walking to the bathroom (OK, this one squeaks by) in April in Attleboro, Massachusetts, when the gun in his pocket went off. The bullet hit him and then struck his wife in the foot, says the Sun Chronicle, sending both to the hospital.
• In December, a man had to be carted away in an ambulance from an Italian restaurant in Kentucky when his concealed weapon punched a new hole in his body. Reports the News-Enterprise: "He set his pistol on the toilet paper dispenser while using the restroom and it slipped off and shot him in the leg, said Elizabethtown Police Sgt. David Neary."
• Last spring, customers at a Burger King in Manchester Township, Pennsylvania, were shocked by what sounded like a "cannon going off" in the men's room. The source, writes the York Dispatch, was a guy whose 9mm pistol discharged, sending him into a panic as he tried to flee through an emergency exit (and then, when it wouldn't open, the front door).