Should a City Be Responsible for the Safety Against Gun Violence?

Gun violence has been a growing concern in America over the last several years. Although the firearm crime rate has dropped over the past decade, gun violence in the U.S. still kills more than 100 people in the country every day. Gun violence in schools, concerts, clubs, churches, and other public places have led to people living in fear. Millions of Americans have witnessed or know someone who has witnessed a shooting. Out-of-control gun violence has led many to ask whether their city governments hold any liability for shootings.

Government Responsibility for Citizen Safety

Every government – state and federal – has a duty to protect and provide for its citizens. The government must provide goods at a level necessary to ensure a competitive economy and functioning society. It also must protect citizens from violence as much as reasonably possible. This may involve instituting law enforcement agencies, surveying neighborhoods, and taking other steps to prevent violence. Failing to reasonably ensure the safety of citizens, resulting in gun violence injuries and deaths, is negligence.

It is possible to hold a city responsible for gun violence. A personal injury lawsuit after a shooting could involve multiple defendants: the shooter, the owner of the property where the shooting occurred, and the city government. The shooter could be civilly liable for performing the act of violence itself. A property owner could be liable if he or she negligently failed to keep the location reasonably secure. If a concert stadium reasonably should have checked guests’ bags for weapons, for example, the owner of the property could be responsible for gun violence.

A shooting survivor or a victim’s family could bring a claim against the government in Minnesota if the government entity knew or reasonably should have known of the threat of gun violence, yet failed to do anything to prevent a shooting. Although the law does not expect a city government to prevent shootings every time, it does impose a reasonable expectation of safety. If a city was negligent in meeting this expectation, resulting in a shooting, the city could be accountable for victims’ damages.

What Are Cities Doing to Stop Gun Violence?

The gun violence against places of worship in particular have led churches in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, to take a stand. Church leaders have expressed their frustration and disappointment for the current state of gun violence, as well as their plans for how to improve security at their religious institutions. One rabbi from Minneapolis, Marcia Zimmerman, visited the Capitol to represent her community and to tell lawmakers that all places of worship – regardless of faith – are banding together to make a change.

Marcia and other church leaders agree that legislation cannot solve the gun violence issue. Instead, it will take addressing the root cause of the problem: hate. Church leaders speaking out is just one example of people in Minnesota communities going up against gun violence in the hope of creating a safer future for citizens. In the meantime, city and state governments continue to debate gun control efforts in Minnesota, with roadblocks such as budgets and a divided Congress. With legislators failing to do much to control gun violence, citizens are wondering if they could hold the government responsible for shootings.

Cities are legally responsible for the safety of its citizens. If you were recently involved in a shooting in Minnesota, speak to an attorney about your rights. You may have grounds to file a civil claim against the city government and/or other parties in pursuit of compensation for your pain and suffering, emotional distress, and medical bills. Working with an attorney can help you understand responsibilities people and governments may have owed you to prevent the tragic gun violence you experienced.