School Shooting Facts or Fiction: It Depends

Think on: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” MARK TWAIN

Tumbleweed must confess to having actually conducted market research projects.  Market research can be a fascinating area whereby response statistics are gathered, analyzed, and outcomes reported.  Notably, how you ask the question can dictate outcomes, even “engineering” desired outcomes.  Statistics can be shaped and recipients duped.  Think on Mark Twain’s caution.

A few days back, Tumbleweed saw a social media feed announcing that dozens of school shootings had occurred since the beginning of the year.  There had certainly been a couple of mass shootings of grave concern, but the number quoted – 44 – intuitively seemed misleading.  The source of the number was an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety.  Turns out it is a favored resource of the left-wing anti-gun movement.  Mind you, our hearts go out to those whose loved ones were killed or injured, but it seems hypocritical, even deceptive to leverage tragedy for political advantage.

According to its website, “Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives.  But something is changing. More than 4 million mayors, moms, cops, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans have come together to make their own communities safer. Together, we are fighting for the changes that we know will save lives.”  Sounds worthy enough.  Then, Tumbleweed dug deeper.

Tumbleweed examined each of the 44 incidents in 2018 reported as school shootings through May 21.  We dare not diminish the three horrific mass school shootings at Santa Fe, Texas; Benton, Kentucky; and Parkland, Florida that account for the vast majority of deaths and woundings in the data.  But what of the other 42 incidents.  Thirteen were accidental firearm discharge and 19 of the 44 shootings resulted in no injuries.  Eleven incidents resulted in one or more deaths, including the three suicides.  Thirty-nine involved a handgun, while five used a rifle or shotgun (two AR-15s).  Overall, among 34 K-12 shootings and 10 college shootings, 39 lives were lost and 66 people were injured.  Eleven incidents involved non-students, and in two cases metal detectors were not in use or broken.  Any shooting is scary, deaths and injuries are terrible tragedies.

There are 98,000 K-12 facilities in the United States and 7,200 post-secondary institutions.  Cold, unemotional analysis would reveal that the percentage of incidents – despite tragic consequences – are statistically insignificant (0.0004 percent).  Statistically at least, our institutions are pretty safe.  Keep in mind, too, that many of the incidents reported in 2018 could have been readily avoided.

Everytown for Gun Safety statistics are startling, but hardly a rationale for taking away the right to bear arms.  Everytown is inexcusably deceptive, as it plays with truth.  There are preventive means that are far more complex and effective than stripping away our Second Amendment rights.  The over-reaction of the gun lobby certainly reflects shades of Mark Twain’s caution, as they repeatedly seize tragedies to leverage their anti-firearm message.  Analyzing statistics doesn’t bring back lives or heal wounds, but misusing statistics to gain political ends is a horrific tactic.  Tumbleweed suggest always looking at the political motivations underlying statistics.  Just sayin’.