This week we saw another school shooting, this time just south of us in Troutdale, Oregon where a male student killed another student, before taking his own life.
And of course, last week we saw a school shooting on the campus of Seattle Pacific University where Aaron Ybarra brought a shotgun to the Queen Anne campus to kill as many people as he could. He took the life of one student, while injuring others.
People are understandably upset and distraught; especially parents who understand that this can happen. It's unlikely but it's possible.
Well, I say it's unlikely but maybe that's a talking point. You've heard time and time again that there's a gun violence epidemic in this country. Ed Murray said it last week in what seemed like just minutes after the SPU shooting. You heard the same comment uttered today by folks in the media who are desperately looking for a way to curb the epidemic. I got a tweet today that said "you say there is not a gun violence epidemic in the us. When have we had this many school shootings?" I got a Facebook message that said: "No gun epidemic? Are you that cold?"
Earlier today I heard some folks talking about this map that's going around, published in the Washington Post pushing out what's supposed to be a shocking number: there have been at least 74 shootings in schools since Newtown!
And it's this narrative that there's a school shooting epidemic that demands we take a deeper look into the statistics.
Is there a school shooting epidemic in this country?
When you're told that there's been a school shooting, it's hard not to think of Columbine, right? It's hard not to think of Virginia Tech. When you're told there's been a school shooting, you think of Sandyhook.
You think of the worst of the worst. Now the folks who put together these stats and maps and memes, they know that and they want to play to your fears.
Folks who want to ban guns or institute harsh laws against gun owners, they want to scare you and they want to appeal to your fears so they redefine what a school shooting is.
Do you view a suicide on campus as a "school shooting"? Do you view an accidental shooting or a shooting that just happens on a campus but has nothing to do with the school or the students, do you view that as a school shooting?
The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and Gun Truth Project says the number of campus shootings in America is on the rise. The group Everytown for Gun Safety says there have been 74 school shootings since Newtown.
But when you look at their lists that simply list the dates and schools this happens, their stats start to fall apart.
Everytown for Gun Safety says there were 37 school shootings in 2013. The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and Gun Truth Project says 17. The big disparity is due to one counting HS and colleges and the other counting just incidents on college campuses.
It turns out they both list an incident that happened last year in South Dakota at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. This "school shooting" wasn't a murder. It was a suicide. It was a college professor named Alberto Lemut. He apparently shot himself.
Then a shooting in Cambridge caught my attention. It's on one of these lists. It caught my attention because it happened on April 18 of last year and it happened at MIT. That was around the time where the Tsarnaev brothers were trying to escape the city after the Boston marathon bombings. During their escape, they drove through MIT and shot and killed a police officer. They count that as a school shooting.
The majority of these school shootings aren't the type the reasonable, average person thinks of when we say there's been a school shooting.
Over the last seven years, since 2007, there have been six college school shootings. They say shootings are on the rise because in 2013 there were 17. But that's using an inflated number; and they don't use suicides and random shootings when looking at instances in 2007, or 2008, or 2009, or 2010, or 2011, or 2012. Only in 2013 because they want to create a graph that shows a HUGE INCREASE so they can scare you into immediate action...
Now folks will say, well just one school shooting is too many. And okay fine (that's true) but the "one too many" argument is a disingenuous ploy to play to your emotions, your fears, and to demonize the other side.
Because now, I seem cold for saying there's no school shooting epidemic. As if saying that means you don't want to come up with a solution to school shootings. But we all want to come up with a solution -- we just want a solution that works and a solution that works means we should be looking at facts (not just emotions) when coming up with policy prescriptions. -Jason Rantz