In the wake of last week’s shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, California, a gun control advocacy group is once again making hyperbolic claims. Tragically last week, Cedric Anderson shot and killed his estranged wife Karen Smith, and two students, killing one, before killing himself. Now this week, Everytown for Gun Safety has come out with the claim that a gun is discharged in a US school about once a week. This is not surprising as previously they have claimed that there have been 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook. Again, the devil is in the details.
Much like their definition of a school shooting, their definition of ‘school’ itself is quite vague and open to a lot of interpretation.
The list tracks “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds,” which could include suicides, accidental discharges, and criminal activity, such as gunfire related to an armed robbery.
So basically, one could interpret that anytime a gun is discharged within earshot of a school, Everytown considers that gun being fired in a school. Now I have no problem with gun control groups, they have their right to seek gun control as they see fit. What I do have a problem with is the distorting of facts. Everytown would have had a better and more logical argument if they had said a gun is found in a school about once a week. While I’m only going by anecdotal evidence of news articles that I’ve read in my research, that seems way more plausible than their wild claims of guns being fired in schools.
With every one of these wildly unrealistic claims, Everytown for Gun Safety becomes less of an advocacy group and more of a parody of one. In my opinion they’re the PMRC or Jack Thompson of guns. They are so out of touch with the facts that they never really had any credibility to begin with.
I have no problem with gun violence prevention groups, that is unless they try to portray the facts wrongly. That’s what I think Everytown for Gun Safety is doing once again. Previously in June of 2014 they claimed that there had been 74 school shootings since the shootings at Sandy Hook. Then in late 2015, they claimed that there had been 47 school shootings that year. Now with yesterday being the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the advocacy group is now claiming that there have been 200 school shooting incidents since then. As usual, it feels like Everytown is misleading the public with their claims. This time not only is Everytown playing fast and loose with the numbers, but they’re also misrepresenting themselves with their phrasing as well.
First, let’s take a look at the number 200. There have not been 200 school shootings as we think of them. When most people think of school shootings, they think of tragedies like Sandy Hook or Columbine. Since Sandy Hook there have been 17 school shootings with the most recent one being the shooting at Townville Elementary School back in September. As far as their phrasing goes, Everytown is trying to play it coy this time. Instead of saying there have been 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook, they’re now saying that there have been 200 school shooting ‘incidents’ since Sandy Hook. The word ‘incidents’ is a C.Y.A. word like ‘allegedly’. The problem is, even if they’re using the word ‘incidents’, the public, and most media, still perceive it as 200 school shootings. If they wanted to be more honest and use less scare tactics they would say that there have been 200 gun related crimes that happened near schools since Sandy Hook, but that doesn’t make a catchy headline.
Please don’t get me wrong. Not only is 17 school shootings in 4 years still pretty disturbing, so is 200 shootings near schools. However, as I have said in the past, when you call everything a school shooting, it lessens the impact of actual school shootings. After a while, we’ll all become numb to whatever is being called a school shooting, and we’ll just shrug them off like it was a shoplifting charge.
My advice to Everytown is not to sensationalize the statistics. 17 school shootings, or 18 including Sandy Hook, in the past four years is still pretty disturbing. However, as the saying goes “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” and you’re getting awfully close to statistic territory.
Once again, much like last year, headlines are making the rounds gain exaggerating the numbers of how many school shootings there have been this year. This year the number being tossed around is that there have been 47 school shootings this year and the stat has been brought to us by the same people who made the equally ridiculous claim last year of 74 school shootings since Newtown.
The ABC article I linked to doesn’t even try to hide the fact that the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety has exaggerated the numbers…
Of those shootings, 26 were classified as attacks that resulted in injury or death.
The 21 remaining shootings were a mix of attempted or completed suicides, accidental shootings or instances in which a gun was fired at campus, including grade schools and colleges, but no one was injured.
It seems like to me that Everytown for Gun Safety is once again using the loosest definition of school shooting. I almost want to say they consider every shooting that was within one square mile of a school was considered a school shooting.
While I’m not trying to lessen the impact of these other shootings and the pain that they’ve cost there has really only been one school shooting this year that fits my definition and that was the one at Umpqua Community College. As I’ve said before my definition of a school shooting is when a student or outsider storms a school with guns with the express purpose of killing as many victims as possible. Suicide attempts, parking lot confrontations and shootings that take place off of campus are not school shootings and to report them as such is not only irresponsible journalism but it’s also fear mongering.
When media presents statistics from a biased source as fact it’s done only for the sake of sensationalism and pageviews. Don’t just read the headline and think you have all the facts. The devil, as they say, is always in the details.
Today I keep seeing the same headline over and over. “74 School Shootings Have Happened Since Newtown.” No, no they haven’t, unless you have the loosest definition of ‘school shooting’ possible.
The article that have been running this headline refer to this report done by a group called Everytown for Gun Safety. (Full report PDF file here.) The problem with their numbers in my opinion is that a lot of these shootings took place in parking lots or at sporting events and at least one where no one was injured or killed. These are not what I would call ‘school shootings’.
I define school shootings one way. That is when a student or even an outsider storms a school with guns with the express purpose of killing as many victims as possible. That’s probably what most people think of when they hear the term school shooting. By my definition there have been 9 school shootings since Newtown. You know what? That number is still too high.
I choose not to own a gun. That is my personal choice. If someone wants to own a gun that’s their right. However most of the guns used in these shootings came from home. In the majority of the shootings the gunmen were minors who were able to easily procure their parents’ guns. There are instances where the 2nd Amendment is not a guaranteed right such as felons can not legally own guns. There should be another provision added to that. If you own a gun and it’s not properly secured and is used by a child to commit a felony then you lose your gun privileges. Maybe then some people will smarten up and secure their guns better.