AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File
Mass shootings are far too common an occurrence in our nation. But the odds that you or your child is involved in a mass shooting are slim to none. They’re rare.
School shootings are particularly rare when you think of how many schools there are in this nation.
However, a recent poll found that parents are convinced schools aren’t safe environments.
The deadly attack at Columbine High School in 1999 seemed to usher in a new era of school shootings.
Two decades later, polls consistently capture growing fears among American parents that their children face imminent danger whenever they go to school. Those fears have only intensified since attacks at an elementary school in 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, and last year at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, some research suggests that some type of school gun violence happens almost daily in the United States. Other studies indicate that deaths from school violence have actually declined since 1991. Answers to some key questions about school attacks over the past several decades:
What do the data show?
According to data compiled by Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, who has been researching gun violence for decades, school shootings were more frequent in the 1990s than today. From 1991 until the Columbine shooting, an average of 19 fatal school shootings happened each year, with about 22 people killed.
In contrast, over the past eight years, an average of about six fatal school shootings happened each year, with about 14 killed.
“First of all, schools are safe, and if you consider the over 50 million schoolchildren and the over 100,000 schools that we have, the risk of a student or a faculty member being killed by gunfire, it’s extremely low,” Fox told AP. “The one-homicide-is-too-many mantra is quite true. Yet when you do the calculations, the probability is very small.”
Of course, the report then refers to an Everytown for Gun Safety study that argues there’s a whole lot more violence at schools, but that study looks for any link possible to a school to make the case. This includes gang violence that happens to take place near a school, even when those involved aren’t students.
Can’t we all agree that’s reaching quite a bit?
Yet parents still think schools are unsafe. Why is that?
Fox chalks much of it up to the attention such crimes receive in the news. A generation ago, there were many fewer cable TV news channels and websites covering the events 24 hours a day.
One school shooting he cites happened in 1989, when a gunman killed five elementary school students and wounded 32. The shooting in Stockton, California, is barely remembered.
Columbine was among the mass shootings in recent decades that sparked the “No Notoriety” movement, an appeal by both gun-control and gun-rights activists to avoid repeated reporting of the names and biographic details of gunmen. They hope denying attention to the attackers prevents inspiring a new crop of future shooters.
Here at Bearing Arms, we’re part of that movement. We don’t even mention the murderers’ names, much less any details about their lives.
However, there’s also another part of this from the media, something they’re not talking about.
In particular, the media has talked non-stop about guns, gun control, mass shootings, and the talking heads keep acting like this is a common occurrence and as if it happens all the time. It doesn’t. Yet the coverage–and not just with regard to the shooters–keeps presenting a picture of our children all being in danger.
This falls squarely on the shoulders of the media. In their drive to get as many viewers or readers as possible, they seize on a topic and ride that pony until it’s well and truly dead, only to resurrect it through necromancy the moment another opportunity presents itself. They continue to talk about children’s lives and gun control as if without it, people are going to be slaughtered every day.
Is it any wonder then that people believe their children are unsafe?
Don’t get me wrong. There are always ways we can improve school safety, and we should continue to explore them to the best of our ability. Yet we can’t have that rational discussion because the media has latched onto the idea of mass shootings as the biggest threat and that gun control is the only option available.
In other words, not only is the media feeding into the perception that our kids are unsafe, they’re actively preventing us from making real moves to make them safer.