Gun sculpture
Gun sculpture, United Nations, New York City. Photo credit: Tomás Fano / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

True stories, from the tragic to the grotesque, of people shooting at other people, and at things -- for reasons that boggle the mind.

Gun Violence

This is one of my favorite stories. Maybe you can relate to it. It’s about a grouchy old man confined to a wheelchair, with his TV remote in one hand, and a shotgun in the other. One day, his remote didn’t work, and he couldn’t shut off a commercial featuring Earl Scheib — so he shot his TV. (To appreciate this story, you really must experience Earl Scheib. Just click on the link and listen for a few seconds.)

Below is a collection of news stories (compressed to save space) about characters who shoot all kinds of things as well as people, sometimes fatally, and often for the flimsiest of reasons. This seems to happen more in America than anywhere else, and it has become a way of communicating, another form of national self-expression.

Some of these incidents will make you laugh, cringe, or gasp in horror!

At the end, we include some videos where the guns and rifles seem to have minds of their own. The same cannot be said of the shooters.

Woman Fires Gun at McDonald’s After Getting Cold Fries

“A Georgia woman faced multiple charges, including aggravated robbery and armed assault, after she fired a gun into a McDonald’s floor because she received cold fries, according to multiple reports.

“The woman originally left the McDonald’s with her order on a Monday afternoon, but returned and said her fries were cold, according to WTOC-TV. The station, citing the restaurant owner, said the manager went to get new fries and the woman went into the kitchen, firing a shot into the floor…”

Woman Fires Gun Into Burger King Drive-Thru Window

“A 54-year-old Mount Pocono woman fired a gun into a Burger King drive-thru window in East Stroudsburg after demanding free food because she was disgruntled over a previous order, according to police.

“About an hour later, as Mary Louise Check continued a drinking binge, she opened fire in Mount Pocono on the car and the apartment of a man she was upset with, police said…”

Armed Group Storms Popeye’s When Chicken Sandwich Runs Out

“The chicken sandwich saga reached a new level of madness when an armed group rushed a Popeye’s restaurant in southeast Houston. 

“Employees told an ABC13 reporter on the scene that a group  including two women and three men rushed the door of the store after they were told in the drive-thru that the chicken sandwiches were sold out

Houston Police confirmed to HuffPost that they received a call just before 9 PM. regarding five or six people in a vehicle. They said one man pulled a gun on employees after Popeye’s ran out of the chicken sandwich…”

Waffle House Good Samaritan Shot Paying for Meals, Handing Out $20 Bills

“A good Samaritan was fatally shot while handing out $20 bills and paying for meals at a Florida restaurant, according to police.

“Police arrested Ezekiel Hicks, 25, on murder charges in the death of 41-year-old Craig Brewer, who was shot and killed at a Waffle House, in Gainesville, Florida, just a few miles west of the University of Florida…

“Witnesses said the victim was arguing with a female acquaintance of the suspect, who was reportedly upset because Brewer’s generosity didn’t include her,,.

Man Shoots Computer

“A man was coaxed out of his home by police after he pulled a gun and shot his personal computer, apparently in frustration.

“‘We don’t know if it wouldn’t boot up or what,’ Sgt. Keith Moon said.

“The computer, in a home office on the second floor of the townhouse, had four bullet holes in the hard drive and one in the monitor.

“One bullet struck a filing cabinet, while another made it through a wall and into a neighboring unit…”

Man Shoots Smoke Detector With Shotgun

“We get how annoying smoke detectors are, even though all they seemingly want to do is save your life. Especially the ones in the kitchen. They always go off at the most inopportune moments, usually when you’re right in the middle of cooking something major. Then you have to find a broom and/or stepladder to get the thing to stop squawking, once you’ve calmed down your pets and kids and whatever was boiling/smoking/scalding over. 

“When they were just battery-operated, they were a little easier to dismantle, but now that many of them are hardwired, they are harder to shut up.

“All that said, we still think 68-year-old Leroy Mason, of Barton, Vermont, took things a little too far…”

“The man became “upset fire crews wouldn’t relocate it so he ‘took it upon himself to relocate the smoke detector, and shot it with the shotgun,” according to police…”

Annoyed by Bristol Palin’s Dancing, Man Shoots TV

“A Wisconsin man angry at the success of Bristol Palin on “Dancing with the Stars” blasted his TV with a shotgun as she waltzed her way into the program’s finals…

“According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Smoking Gun website, Cowan’s wife Janice told police her husband was watching Bristol Palin dancing Monday night when he ‘jumped up and swore…Steven was upset that a political figure’s daughter was on this show when Steven did not think that she was a good dancer.”

“Cowan, 67, then took his shotgun and fired a round into the TV screen, triggering a 15-hour stand-off with police in the small town of Vermont, Wisconsin. He surrendered and was charged with reckless endangerment and use of a dangerous weapon, according to the complaint…”

Father Shoots Kid’s Laptop 

“Teenagers, parents, and the social web: A frequent recipe for disaster. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – among the many social forums on the today’s Web – are virtual breeding grounds for parent-child animosity. Kids make videos; parents get mad. Kids try to hide their teenage lives from parents on Facebook; parents find out…

“The most recent video making the Web’s social rounds concerns Tommy Jordan, an IT worker allegedly from North Carolina. His job’s the important part, as the source of his YouTube parenting lesson stems from the discovery he made after upgrading his daughter’s computer. In doing so, he found a screed she posted on Facebook, blasting her parents, her chores, and all the other unfortunate parts of teenage life.

“When your kid tells you off on Facebook, what do you do? If you picked “fill her laptop with hollow-point bullets and upload the video to YouTube,” you might be on track for Parent of the Year…”

Man Shoots Himself in Face After Firing at Ceiling to Get Neighbors to Quiet Down

“An Arizona man who allegedly fired his gun at his ceiling in an effort to get his neighbors to quiet down ended up shooting himself in the face, police said.

“The unidentified man, located in Phoenix, initially paid his upstairs neighbors a visit after he became “upset with them.”

“He ‘had banged on the door, yelling at them, trying to make contact during this argument’ at about 11:20 PM, Phoenix Police Sgt. Vince Lewis told KTAR.

“The man then headed back to his apartment, still upset. He allegedly retrieved a weapon and fired several shots into the ceiling — and, somehow, shot himself in the face.

Investigators said he was transported to a hospital in extremely critical condition, according to the Arizona Republic, which reported no one else was injured in the incident.”

Annoyed by Neighbor’s Noise, Man fires Gun 10 Times Into the Air

“A man fired his gun 10 times in the air because he thought his neighbor’s family gathering was getting too loud behind a home in the 1200 block of Morse Street, according to a police report. No one was injured, Denton police spokesman Bryan Cose said…”

Woman Shoots Gun After Long Wait in DMV Line

“A Kansas City woman is charged with making a terrorist threat and unlawful use of a weapon after firing a gun outside a Department of Motor Vehicles office, apparently because she was upset about the long wait in line…

Man Fires Warning Shot at Driver Taking Too Long to Exit Mall Lot

“A man enraged by delays from a person struggling to use a credit card while exiting a garage at Pentagon City Mall fired a gun shot into the air before the car he was in sped off, leading to a police pursuit into the District, according to police in Arlington County…”

Restaurant Employee Shoots Customer Who Skips Out on Bill

“A restaurant employee in Georgia was arrested after shooting a customer for walking out on the bill. The customer reportedly tried to pay for his meal at China Cafeteria in Decatur with an invalid credit card, WSB-TV reports. When the employee, Xin Xing Chen, realized what had happened, he and his co-worker went outside to confront the customer.

“A fight broke out between the three people and at one point Chen went back inside the restaurant, grabbed a gun and shot the customer. His co-worker was also shot by accident.

“The restaurant is known for its cheap food. The menu board outside the restaurant advertises a $4.99 house special and $3.50 lunch special…”

Americans Who Carry Concealed Weapons Keep Shooting Themselves in Public Bathrooms

“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…”

‘You Pulled a Gun in Front of My Kids Over a Mattress!’

“It began, police say, as a dispute among neighbors in Abilene, TX Two families argued about where to dump trash in an adjacent alleyway. Insults escalated to threats, and a father and son, both armed, allegedly shot and killed a 37-year-old man who lived next door in an encounter captured on camera…

“The September 1 standoff between the neighbors, which ended in the fatal shooting, was the final argument in a days-long feud over trash disposal, said Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge…

“Howard was killed in front of his brother and his common-law wife, Kara Box, who recorded the encounter on her cellphone.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published the footage, which gives a rare glimpse into a deadly dispute and sheds new light on a weeks-old killing…

“The video, at a little over two and a half minutes unedited, begins with the Millers, guns drawn, staring Howard down, a flipped twin mattress between them. That mattress, Box told the Star-Telegram, was the conflict’s catalyst.

“Box and Howard had thrown the mattress in the dumpster a couple days earlier, she said. But on September 1, they saw the mattress back on their property. So Howard moved it back to the dumpster…. She told the paper that she and her husband then watched the elder Miller, John, walk to the dumpster, pull the mattress out and toss it back on Howard’s property.

“That’s when, Box said, Howard and Miller started shouting at each other. John Miller pulled a handgun out of his basketball shorts, she said, and, at some point, his son arrived with a shotgun. Then Box started to record.

“‘Oh yeah, you’re going to jail,’ Howard can be heard saying in the video.

“‘Nah, I’m not,” John Miller replies. He’s holding his handgun at his side. Behind him, Michael Miller has a shotgun in his right hand and is resting it on his shoulder, behind his head. His left hand is in the front pocket of his jeans. The Millers are shirtless.

“‘Back off . . . If you come closer to me, I’m gonna kill you,’ John Miller says calmly…

“‘Hey, you hear him say he’s gonna kill me?’ Howard, who appears unarmed, asks Box, before turning back to the Millers. “I’m at the dumpster. Put the gun up and go inside. You pulled a gun in front of my kids over . . . a mattress.’

“The men begin trading insults, their voices get louder. Howard tells the Millers, ‘You’re dead. I promise you, you’re both dead . . . I’m gonna kill you.’

“Michael Miller then interrupts and advises, ‘If you’re gonna show this video to the cops, you might as well stop yelling that you’re gonna kill us.’

“Howard responds that he doesn’t care and repeats his threat.

“‘If you come within three foot of me, I’m gonna kill you,’ John Miller says.

“‘You’re not going to shoot my husband,’ Box responds.

“A couple seconds later, pops can be heard and the camera moves wildly. Then Michael Miller is seen taking aim with his shotgun. More pops…

“Howard had been shot at least twice…

“John and Michael Miller said they didn’t want to talk about that day or the charges against them.

“‘I really don’t have a comment one way or the other,” John Miller told the Washington Post. “This is something that I consider a private matter between me and the state of Texas.’”

What Gun Background Checks Can’t Detect: Stupidity

Armed Adults in Schools Are More Hazard Than Protection

“Our comprehensive analysis finds there have been more than 80 publicly-reported incidents of mishandled guns at schools in the last five years, including:

A teacher’s loaded gun falling from his waistband during a cartwheel.

A student grabbing an officer’s gun while the officer attempted to subdue the student.

A teacher unintentionally firing a gun in class during a safety demonstration.

“Until very recently, educators and policymakers across the country have rejected the idea of arming teachers. But last summer, President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the administration is considering allowing states to use federal funding to arm teachers in schools.

“Arming teachers is an incredibly unpopular proposition, opposed by seven out of ten teenagers, eight out of ten teachers, and seven out of ten parents. And for good reason.

“A study published in March 2019 found “no evidence that the presence of resource officers in schools lessened the severity of school shooting incidents.” And there is no evidence that armed teachers would be any more effective. In fact, a robust body of public health research strongly suggests armed teachers would not effectively deter violence. On the contrary, they would likely increase, rather than decrease, students’ exposure to gun violence in schools.

To catalog the risk guns in schools pose to student safety, we conducted a systematic review of publicly-reported incidents involving mishandled guns on school campuses. We analyzed data from the Gun Violence Archive since 2014 (when their records begin) and independently verified each incident.

“Scroll through the comprehensive list, broken down into a few general categories, to see how guns brought onto campus—in many cases for the purpose of preventing violence—can actually increase risk.”  [Ed: Go here to see the list.]


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Just Funny Videos / YouTube.


  • Milicent Cranor

    Milicent Cranor is a senior editor at WhoWhatWhy. She has worked as a creative editor at E.P. Dutton, a comedy ghostwriter, and editor of consequential legal and scientific documents. She has also co-authored numerous peer-reviewed articles for medical journals.

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