How Anti-Gunners Use Statistics Misleadingly

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

When it comes to the gun control debate, statistics tend to fly both ways. We all have our favorite statistics we use each to try and make a point when discussing this sort of thing and nothing is going to change that.

And, of course, some of those statistics we have thrown our way are absolute bull. In fact, I love using those statistics as pinatas, smacking them around until the candy falls out.

However, anti-gunners can misuse even accurate statistics.

In 2012, 20 students and six adults lost their lives in the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting. Sadly, this event is not an isolated one. In 2018, one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings occurred in Parkland, Fla., leading to the loss of 17 precious lives. From 2009 to 2019, over 180 school shootings occurred across the nation, and with firearm sales at an all time high over the past two years and little to no change in nationwide support systems, this trend shows no sign of slowing.

The second leading cause of death for youth in the United States is firearm-related injuries. Yet, this trend is not consistent across the globe. Firearm-related deaths are 25 times higher in the U.S. than in some other high-income countries, and the U.S. has the highest number of guns per capita.

Following the Parkland school shooting, protesters nationwide vocalized their contempt for the nation’s inadequate safety measures. They advocated for gun control and begged our democratic government to protect the nation’s youth. These protesters’ pleas did not go entirely unheard. Policymakers like Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida’s 22nd District, home to Parkland, have taken steps in the right direction. For example, just this past week, Deutch introduced a piece of bipartisan legislation in the House aimed at providing funding for tightened school security. While both helpful and necessary, if passed, this bill would function as a Band-Aid-like approach. It would neither disarm future perpetrators, nor would it provide individuals with the support services necessary to avoid attempting a shooting in the first place.

Note the framing here.

First, talk about Sandy Hook, Parkland, and other school shootings. Then bring up how many youths are killed with firearms, then go back to Parkland.

The implication here is clear, that somehow school shootings are responsible for all that loss of young lives. However, that’s simply not the case.

If you took all the mass shootings in the United States–real mass shootings, mind you, not the ones the Gun Violence Archive tries to claim are mass shootings–you’d likely see fewer than 100 fatalities a year even in the worst of years. That’s not just school shootings, either, but all mass shootings carried out by a single actor or multiples working in unison, such as Columbine.

While young lives are lost far too often to gun violence, the truth of the matter is that few of them are killed in school shootings. If each of those 180 school shootings claimed as many lives as Sandy Hook did, then we’re talking about 3,600 lives over the course of a decade. While each loss would be a tragedy, it’s hardly an epidemic. It’s 360 people per year.

And yet, many of those school shootings yielded a much lower body count. Nowhere near that many people were killed in school shootings over that time frame.

Instead, most of those lives were lost to other forms of violence, often gang-related. Either these young people were involved in gangs themselves or they were unfortunate enough to be collateral damage in gang warfare.

Yes, these are victims and we should work to reduce the numbers, but that’s no reason to misrepresent the facts. School shootings account for only a tiny number of victims each year. Considering the total number of students in the United States, 56.4 million, even 360 lives lost is little more than statistical noise, however tragic it be.

Honestly, this kind of dishonesty is par for the course with anti-gunners. They don’t necessarily lie, they just keep presenting numbers that don’t mean what they hope you’ll think they mean.

Maybe I’m just getting cranky in my old age, but I sure as hell don’t feel like playing along.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET