Lies, Damn Lies, and School Shooting Statistics

 

gunsafetyWe are closing in on the third anniversary of the most horrific gun-related crime in modern memory — the 2012 mass murder of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Let me ask you a question: How many school shootings do you think have there been since that awful early December morning?

A dozen? Two dozen?

Nice try. According to the gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety — formerly Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — there have been 160 school shootings since Newtown, adding up to approximately one per week.

Now, I’m neither a gun owner, an NRA member, nor a Second Amendment fundamentalist. I’ve only ever fired a gun once — 20 years ago at a range with a friend.

Guns aren’t really my thing. But I do follow the news pretty closely and the 160 school shootings claim — which I read in an AP story about debate over removing metal detectors from New York City public schools — didn’t sit right with me.

If there had been a school shooting in America every week since Newtown, I’m pretty sure I’d have heard about it. But, hey, maybe my bull detector is broken.

I went to EverytownResearch.org to see for myself where all these school shootings have been taking place (and how it is I’ve managed to miss them). Turns out my bull detector is not broken — not at all.

It works like a charm.

I couldn’t look deeply into each incident listed as a “school shooting” on the Everytown site (because I have a life to live), but a mere perusal and a little Googling was enough to convince me that this organization — lovingly and authoritatively quoted by the AP — stretches the truth to fit its fantastical predetermined conclusions about gun violence in America’s schools.

For instance, the most recent entry on Everytown’s school shooting “database” happened on November 11, in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas. Everytown lists it as a “gun fired unintentionally resulting in injury or death.”

According to a local news report, however, “two students were waiting in the parking lot to catch a bus to the high school. According to Independence County Sheriff Steve Jeffery, one student had a .380 semi-automatic handgun that he was showing to the other. The weapon reportedly discharged in the vehicle and hit the student in the leg.”

A school shooting? Umm. Not really, but okay.

Next entry: November 10 — Lecanto, Florida, a 15-year-old freshman high school student attempts suicide with a gun inside a classroom. The local FOX affiliate reports that, “Despite his head wound, the sheriff said, the student remained conscious and was able to confirm that he had no intention of targeting others.”

This incident at least happened inside a school and it was technically a shooting — but still, come on.

Next entry: November 5 — Moultrie, Georgia. “A student being escorted through a school fired a Colquitt County deputy’s gun in its holster Thursday, but no one was injured,” reports the Moultrie Observer. “The deputy was able to get the boy from under the desk and was escorting him to the ‘time-out room’ when the boy got his fingers inside the deputy’s holster and fired one shot from the semiautomatic pistol.”

You getting the picture here?

Next entry: November 1 — Winston-Salem State University. Here we have an actual shooting death, but not at a “school” in the sense that we usually talk about school shootings, but at a University, in the parking lot of a dormitory, at 1:20 in the morning. So, in other words, a personal dispute turned deadly. Not exactly Columbine.

In fact, there are a couple of college shootings on the Everytown list. I’ll skip them.

Next entry: October 24 — Ed White Middle School in San Antonio, Texas. Oh no! A middle school? Just like Newtown, right? Eh, not quite.

“Arturo Gutierrez, 25, was shot and killed around 2:30 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Ed White Middle School when a white sport utility vehicle drove by and someone opened fire.”

You want some more? October 15 — Wagner High School, again in San Antonio, Texas. ‘[A] man pulled into the parking lot in a cream-colored sedan, exited his car with a bat and smashed the principal’s car. He then pulled out a gun and fired shots at the car.”

(Overheard that afternoon at Everytown for Gun Safety: Hey Dave! D’ya see this? We got another school shooting over. Some kid blasted the principal’s car and drove away. Woo-hoo! Chalk it up!)

I suppose by now you get the point. In about 45 minutes, I was able to satisfy myself that the 10 most recent “school shootings” on Everytown’s list weren’t actual school shootings. I could have kept going. I think I’ll go back to my life.

They want to take the metal detectors out of New York City’s schools? I say go right ahead, but don’t even think about touching my bull detector. You’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

There are 26 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    While these aren’t mass-violence school shootings, it would be pollyannish to say they aren’t examples of serious problems.  Criminal acts and violations of basic gun safety.  Let’s not laugh this off.

    • #1
  2. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Well, done, Matt.

    • #2
  3. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Mark Wilson:While these aren’t mass-violence school shootings, it would be pollyannish to say they aren’t examples of serious problems. Criminal acts and violations of basic gun safety. Let’s not laugh this off.

    That’s both a fair point, but — I think — secondary to the mendaciousness of what Everytown is doing here.

    Again, it is a fair point.

    • #3
  4. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    wow

    • #4
  5. jmelvin Member
    jmelvin
    @jmelvin

    Even if Everytown for Gun Safety were being honest about the nature of these shootings, it should demonstrate the utter failure of prohibition laws to affect crime, despite the often very harsh punishments for even carrying, let alone using, a gun on school campuses.  However, even at 160 shootings, this should be considered an incredibly rare event, given that even the lowest common estimates state that this nation has perhaps 80,000,000 gun owners.  If one assumed that there were just one person behind each of these acts you would only have 0.0002% of the population of gun owners committing a crime.  If you went completely ridiculous and estimated that for each of these shootings there were 100 people involved in some nefarious plot and every one of them were gun owners you still would only have touched 0.02% of the total estimated population of America’s gun owners involved.

    Now getting onto the number of deaths committed with a firearm we can be generous with the anti-civil rights gun hating crowd and grant them deaths including suicides and homicides, including all lawful defensive uses estimating at about 35,000 / year (about half of which are suicides).  If there were only one gun owner involved in each of these killings you’d still only have 0.04% of the population of gun owners involved.  Again, to be completely ridiculous we could then give them a theoretical number of 100 gun owners involved in every one of these shootings and you would only get to 4.4% of the gun owning population of America that would be involved.

    However, Everytown for Gun Safety has no intention of being honest, affecting crime, or even teaching actual gun safety.  Their whole reason for being is to deny the common person their recognized civil right to keep arms to defend himself or herself.  Period.  They will lie about this all day long to your face, to their priest, and would probably state it to God above, but at the end of the day, that is their goal, not an end to crime or an increase in gun safety.  When in discussion with these types it is best to recognize that you are dealing with liars of evil intent and act with that frame of reference.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Matthew Hennessey: October 15 — Wagner High School, again in San Antonio, Texas. ‘[A] man pulled into the parking lot in a cream-colored sedan, exited his car with a bat and smashed the principal’s car. He then pulled out a gun and fired shots at the car.”

    Oh man, I missed that one. Now I have to go update the Everytown for Sports Equipment Safety website.

    Good catch, Matt. Thanks!

    • #6
  7. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Excellent article. Thank you.

    • #7
  8. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mark Wilson:While these aren’t mass-violence school shootings, it would be pollyannish to say they aren’t examples of serious problems. Criminal acts and violations of basic gun safety. Let’s not laugh this off.

    That’s both a fair point, but — I think — secondary to the mendaciousness of what Everytown is doing here.

    Again, it is a fair point.

    I absolutely cringe when I see conservatives react flippantly to the subject of teen suicide or life-threatening recklessness that takes place with guns on school grounds.  As if that’s to say, “There’s no problem here, you fools.”

    By the way, even though I disagree with Everytown’s agenda on gun control, they are not mendacious (OED: Not telling the truth; lying).  They are very upfront about how they are counting.  This is the sixth sentence on the webpage in question, right under the map:

    Everytown uses a straightforward, fair, and comprehensive definition for a school shooting: anytime a firearm is discharged inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds

    You might disagree with their characterization as “fair” but it’s definitely not false.

    • #8
  9. Probable Cause Inactive
    Probable Cause
    @ProbableCause

    Mark Wilson:I absolutely cringe when I see conservatives react flippantly to the subject of teen suicide or life-threatening recklessness that takes place with guns on school grounds. As if that’s to say, “There’s no problem here, you fools.”

    I googled this up.  (It’s on the internet, so I assume it’s true.)  The #1 killer of kids is accidents, including car accidents.

    • #9
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    I don’t think America has a problem with school shootings. It is literally a one in a million affecting issue. It is a problem like homeopathy is a cure. If the problem were as widespread as Everytown suggests, it would rise to the level of a small problem. If it was as widespread as their name suggests, it would be a catastrophe.
    Everytown are being deliberately misleading (they know how their statistics are used and intend them to be misused in that way, making the disclaimer disingenuous). If I become an editor here and post “Libertarians are pedophiles”, carefully defining “pedophile” as “advocate for small government” in the body of my article with the intent of getting the tweet with the headline retweeted a lot as part of my campaign to slander libertarians, I’d be engaging in roughly as good faith an effort.

    • #10
  11. wilber forge Inactive
    wilber forge
    @wilberforge

    The Everytown narrative is to provoke more gun hysteria, Period.

    Their stats have long ago been proven, Errant is too kind a phrase to appoint them. The statements made by their overly excited spokespersons would be amusing, save they border on insanity.

    Mental health checks may be in order here and not for gun owners.

    • #11
  12. Yeah...ok. Inactive
    Yeah...ok.
    @Yeahok

    Our test/school shooting scores are too low! We need to get some guns to Missouri and Yale.

    • #12
  13. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mark Wilson:While these aren’t mass-violence school shootings, it would be pollyannish to say they aren’t examples of serious problems. Criminal acts and violations of basic gun safety. Let’s not laugh this off.

    That’s both a fair point, but — I think — secondary to the mendaciousness of what Everytown is doing here.

    Again, it is a fair point.

    Is it? Before reaching the conclusion that it’s a “serious problem,” I’d like to see it compared to statistics for other hazards — lawn mowers, automobiles, swimming pools, pharmaceuticals — before concluding this is a problem that demands our immediate attention.

    • #13
  14. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mark Wilson:While these aren’t mass-violence school shootings, it would be pollyannish to say they aren’t examples of serious problems. Criminal acts and violations of basic gun safety. Let’s not laugh this off.

    That’s both a fair point, but — I think — secondary to the mendaciousness of what Everytown is doing here.

    Again, it is a fair point.

    Is it? Before reaching the conclusion that it’s a “serious problem,” I’d like to see it compared to statistics for other hazards — lawn mowers, automobiles, swimming pools, pharmaceuticals — before concluding this is a problem that demands our immediate attention.

    I think you’re reading more into my post than I intended.  Surely you’d agree that kids bringing guns to school, destroying the principal’s car, accidentally shooting each other, or committing suicide at school are all serious issues — cultural issues, parenting issues, mental health issues.  Not to be confused with “this is a serious national problem that requires legislation.”

    • #14
  15. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    I wonder if this would have counted. When I was in 1st grade, back in the Johnson administration, a couple of my friends found a box of pistol ammunition on the way to school. They arrived with the box and were showing it to an assemblage of first and second grade boys. Someone said “Be careful, if you drop one it could go off.” Others scoffed, then someone took one and threw it on the sidewalk to prove it was safe. Naturally, it went off, creating loud bang and a very stunned silence. Fortunately, no one was hurt, the bell rang and everyone ran to class. I’m pretty sure we looked as innocent as the kids in “A Christmas Story” who left their classmate stuck to the flagpole. Fairly soon, the principal asked our teacher to send my friends to his office. They left, and despite my thinking it would be the last time we’d ever see them, they returned after a few minutes.

    The principal gave my friends a lecture about not picking up guns or ammunition, or bringing them to school, etc. He asked where the rest of it was, and they said they threw it away. In those days, the school had an incinerator next to the playground and every morning the custodians burned the previous day’s trash. “Where is it?” asked the principal, and in reply there came a pop-pop-pop from the direction of the playground.

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Mark Wilson:I absolutely cringe when I see conservatives react flippantly to the subject of teen suicide or life-threatening recklessness that takes place with guns on school grounds. As if that’s to say, “There’s no problem here, you fools.”

    I think that’s a reasonable reaction; when we do that, we look heartless and — perhaps — it’s not a wrong impression.

    By the way, even though I disagree with Everytown’s agenda on gun control, they are not mendacious (OED: Not telling the truth; lying). They are very upfront about how they are counting.

    The reason I argue it’s mendacious is that the definition is intentionally and grossly misleading. Suicides, accidents, and irresponsible handling of weapons are all serious matters, but they can’t honestly be called “school shootings,” by anyone, least of all an organization born out of the Sandy Hook massacre.

    It would be — to extend James’s analogy — like someone known for having been sexually abused defining libertarians as pedophiles, but then saying it’s fair because they disclosed their definition.

    • #16
  17. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Just to be clear, I know Mark is not defending Everytown. As far as I can tell, the extent of our disagreement is over just how bad their use of this phrase is.

    • #17
  18. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Mark Wilson:I think you’re reading more into my post than I intended. Surely you’d agree that kids bringing guns to school, destroying the principal’s car, accidentally shooting each other, or committing suicide at school are all serious issues — cultural issues, parenting issues, mental health issues. Not to be confused with “this is a serious national problem that requires legislation.”

    OK. I did misinterpret what you wrote. I would agree that each one of these incidents is, individually, a problem, one that I would expect the kid’s parents and the school to respond to.

    But the same would be true if a kid had destroyed the principal’s car with a baseball bat. Apart from the choice of tool (a gun), these incidents have nothing in common, so there’s no reason to assume they’re symptomatic of a societal problem.

    And we wouldn’t be talking about any of these incidents if they hadn’t been compiled together into a deceptive list intended to create the illusion of a larger problem. That, I think, was the OP’s point. But I see now that you weren’t disagreeing with that, and I’m not disagreeing with you.

    • #18
  19. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Mark Wilson:I absolutely cringe when I see conservatives react flippantly to the subject of teen suicide or life-threatening recklessness that takes place with guns on school grounds. As if that’s to say, “There’s no problem here, you fools.”

    Remove the phrase “with guns” from that paragraph, and I’ll agree with you completely. I just don’t understand why it’s necessary to conflate the two issues. The underlying problem, if there is one, is mental health, not guns.

    No one is saying “There’s no problem.” We’re saying “Guns aren’t the problem.”

    • #19
  20. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Just to be fair—when I was directed to an NRA site that offers stories of homeowners defending their homes against criminals with firearms, the only one for my state was a guy who shot his ex-brother-in-law in the ankle as he was fleeing from an ill-advised attempt to take some of his ex-wife’s stuff. Serious, certainly, but not exactly what we picture when it comes to home defense. Had the homeowner actually killed his brother in law, it might have gone down as a Domestic-VIolence related homicide.

    Since any given instance of human interaction, violent or otherwise, can probably be made into more than one story without violating the original facts of the case, it’s always worth questioning the relationship between anecdote and data.

    Having said that, a question—what do y’all think is motivating the anti-gun people? That is, I know what motivates pro-gunners, but if a genuine concern for safety isn’t what gets the anti-gun activist out of bed in the morning, and isn’t what appeals to Americans who are sympathetic to his claims…what does?

    • #20
  21. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: The reason I argue it’s mendacious is that the definition is intentionally and grossly misleading. Suicides, accidents, and irresponsible handling of weapons are all serious matters, but they can’t honestly be called “school shootings,” by anyone, least of all an organization born out of the Sandy Hook massacre. It would be — to extend James’s analogy — like someone known for having been sexually abused defining libertarians as pedophiles, but then saying it’s fair because they disclosed their definition.

    I don’t buy the analogy because “school shooting” — even though it has acquired a certain definition vis a vis current events — is a reasonable description for any shooting that takes place at a school, whether accidental, murderous, or otherwise.  On the other hand pedophile is in no way a reasonable description of libertarians.  If their statistics for “school shootings” had included car accidents and fist fights at the mall, then I would wholly agree they are mendacious.

    • #21
  22. Wylee Coyote Member
    Wylee Coyote
    @WyleeCoyote

    Kate Braestrup:Having said that, a question—what do y’all think is motivating the anti-gun people? That is, I know what motivates pro-gunners, but if a genuine concern for safety isn’t what gets the anti-gun activist out of bed in the morning, and isn’t what appeals to Americans who are sympathetic to his claims…what does?

    A mixture of genuine concern, technical ignorance, and cultural disdain.

    • #22
  23. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    Kate Braestrup:Having said that, a question—what do y’all think is motivating the anti-gun people?

    Mostly ignorance. Guns are scary and intimidating if you don’t know anything about them. I’ve never been particularly anti-gun, but even I was a bit nervous about guns before the first time I shot one and learned that they’re just inert hunks of metal and plastic that aren’t dangerous unless you do something stupid with them.

    I’ve often said that no one should be allowed to propose gun policies until they have gone to the range at least once.

    • #23
  24. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    Wylee Coyote:

    Kate Braestrup:Having said that, a question—what do y’all think is motivating the anti-gun people? That is, I know what motivates pro-gunners, but if a genuine concern for safety isn’t what gets the anti-gun activist out of bed in the morning, and isn’t what appeals to Americans who are sympathetic to his claims…what does?

    A mixture of genuine concern, technical ignorance, and cultural disdain.

    Exactly.  I’m really envious that you were able to express this so clearly and concisely.  I would have written 150 words trying to feel my way to the same conclusion.

    • #24
  25. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Mark Wilson:

    Wylee Coyote:

    Kate Braestrup:Having said that, a question—what do y’all think is motivating the anti-gun people?

    A mixture of genuine concern, technical ignorance, and cultural disdain.

    Exactly. I’m really envious that you were able to express this so clearly and concisely. I would have written 150 words trying to feel my way to the same conclusion.

    Seconded.

    • #25
  26. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Mark Wilson:

    Wylee Coyote:

    Kate Braestrup:Having said that, a question—what do y’all think is motivating the anti-gun people?

    A mixture of genuine concern, technical ignorance, and cultural disdain.

    Exactly. I’m really envious that you were able to express this so clearly and concisely. I would have written 150 words trying to feel my way to the same conclusion.

    Seconded.

    Thank you, guys.

    • #26

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.