Everytown is Every Scaremonger

Here’s a list of things that haven’t been involved in the deaths of anyone that I know personally:

  • Anthrax
  • Killer bees
  • Immigrants
  • Terrorists (though, being from New York, I know many people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and am lucky not to have lost any family or friends of my own)
  • Ebola
  • White Supremacists
  • Sharks
  • The Russians
  • North Korea
  • Mad Cow Disease
  • MS-13
  • Pitbulls
  • The mentally ill
  • Net neutrality repeal
  • Tax cuts
  • Zika
  • Mass shootings

I understand that I don’t know everyone and that almost everything on this list is responsible for deaths, sometimes tens of thousands of deaths or even much more if you count people outside of America. But I live my life without worrying about any of them. Outside of ranking West Africa near the bottom of my preferred travel destinations, they don’t really affect my life at all.

This, however, does not stop the media, politicians, advocacy groups, corporations, and others from telling me and anyone else within earshot that we are in perpetual peril. Death is lurking at our doorsteps, and we must do something or people will die.

Predictably enough, the something the scaremongers want us to do almost undoubtedly involves parting ways with our property or our liberty. We need to increase funding, pass legislation, build walls, ramp up security, limit access, and fortify our home defense systems to withstand nuclear winter.

Please…

My skepticism of buying what the scaremongers are selling does not mean I believe there are no threats to public safety, that there are no solutions to these threats, or that we should never do something. My points are that these threats are almost always blown out of proportion, and becoming freer and more secure in our persons, papers, and property never seems to be the formula the scaremongers want to try.

In the wake of another horrific mass shooting at a high school in Florida, the mainstream media and the bulk of the left are engaging in their typical calls for gun control. With apologies to honest Progressives who admit they want to confiscate large quantities of privately owned firearms and repeal the Second Amendment, not many people have put forward ideas that could actually prevent mass shootings or even ideas that are not already legislated.

To sow fear amongst the masses and push for more gun control, the mainstream media has been reporting that the incident in Florida is the 18th school shooting of 2018 (which is only a month and a half into its existence at the time I am writing this). If that were the case, it would mean a school shooting has taken place roughly every three days.

This statistic appears to originate with Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group which describes itself as follows:

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund seeks to improve our understanding of the causes of gun violence and the means to reduce it – by conducting groundbreaking original research, developing evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge in the courts and the court of public opinion.

I do not intend to question the intentions of Everytown. In all likelihood, they believe what they are doing is right and just. But Everytown is being dishonest, and the mainstream media that cites their data is being irresponsible.

According to Everytown’s school shootings map, there have been 17 school shootings thus far in 2018 and 290 school shootings overall since 2013 (these numbers will jump to 18 and 291 respectively once the Florida shooting is accounted for). But after taking a closer look at the map, I noticed that Everytown’s definition of school shooting is not limited to the Columbine High School-like massacres the phrase brings to mind.

To put the 18 school shootings into perspective, I have divided them into five categories:

  • School Shooting (SS)-An instance in which one or several people brought at least one firearm to a school with the apparent intention of killing or harming others and fired at least one bullet at at least one person. Fatalities occurred in two of the three.
  • Red Zone Incident (RZ)-An instance in which a gun was brought to a school with plausible intent to kill or harm others, but no shots were intentionally fired at others. In one instance a shot was fired at the floor, in the other a student accidentally shot other students.
  • Suicide Attempt (SA)-An instance in which a person discharged a firearm at him or herself at a school, but not at anyone else. One instance involved a student, and one involved an adult from outside the school.
  • Miscellaneous (M)-An instance in which a gun was present at a school for any reason other than premeditated intent to harm or kill others, and at least one shot was fired. These instances include accidents, shots fired as a result of an altercation, and an attempted robbery.
  • Unknown (U)-An instance in which gunshots were reportedly fired in the direction of a school, but too few details are known about the incident to guess motive, and no one was shot. Gunfire at NET Charter High appears to have been directed towards students while the target is unclear in the other three instances.

Here is how the 17 school shootings plus the recent Florida massacre* fall under my definitions:

Type Number Schools # Shot # Killed
SS 3 -Marshall County High, Italy High, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High* 50+ 19
RZ 2 -Metropolitan High, Salvador B. Castro Middle 2 0
SA 2 Coronado Elementary, East Olive Elementary 2 2
M 7 Lincoln High, Oxon Hill High, Wake Forest University, Dearborn High, Murphy High, Harmony Learning Center, Grayson College 3 3
U 4 Wiley College, The NET Charter High, New Start High, California State University 0 0

There are many ways to interpret and react to this information. And I can understand the feeling and the logic behind the urge to want to do something about gun violence and the presence of guns at schools or in public life in general.

But the fact is that we have not had 18 Columbines this year.

According to the Department of Education, there are about 76.3 million students enrolled in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in America. If the 2018 pace continues, roughly 200 people will be killed in shootings at schools (though this is unlikely as 138 have been killed in total since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012). This means each student has a roughly 0.0000026% chance of being shot to death at school this year. If you factor in school faculty and individuals from outside schools, the odds go down even further.

Of course, it is obligatory to say that each unnecessary death is one too many. Every life is precious, and I have no respect for adults who do not see it as their duty to protect children. And perhaps there are ways to make schools safer even without infringing upon anyone’s Second Amendment rights or other liberties.

But the fear induced by the rare and tragic shootings that occur at schools is largely unfounded, and those who push Everytown’s numbers are peddling shoddy data at best and flat out fiction at worst.

Keep calm, and carry on.

***

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Everytown is Every Scaremonger

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