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Lying About School Shootings



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This map, which purports to show that there are have been 74 “shootings at schools” since the abomination at Newtown, is currently doing the rounds.

Writing it up, the Washington Post reported that,

Tuesday’s school shooting in Oregon is at least the 74th instance of shots being fired on school grounds or in school buildings since the late-2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., according to a list maintained by the group Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for policies it believes limit gun violence.

There have been at least 37 shootings on school grounds this year, which is just barely half over. All told, there has been nearly one shooting per week in the year and a half since Newtown. Everytown identifies a school shooting as any instance in which a firearm was discharged within a school building or on school grounds, sourced to multiple news reports per incident. Therefore, the data isn’t limited to mass shootings like Newtown—it includes assaults, homicides, suicides and even accidental shootings. Of the shootings, 35 took place at a college or university, while 39 took place in K-12 schools.

The Post is admirably clear that the map includes both colleges and schools, that it counts “any instance in which a firearm was discharged within a school building or on school grounds,” and that the data isn’t “limited to mass shootings like Newtown.” This point has also been made forcefully by Charles C. Johnson, who yesterday looked into each of the 74 incidents and noted that not only did some of them not take place on campuses but that “fewer than 7 of the 74 school shootings listed by #Everytown are mass shootings,” that one or more probably didn’t happen at all, that at least one was actually a case of self-defense, and that 32 could be classified as “school shootings” only if we are to twist the meaning of the term beyond all recognition.

And that, of course, is precisely what the map’s creator is doing. The point here is not to tell the truth, but to get out the “74 school shootings since Newtown” figure and to turn it into conventional wisdom before anybody can check if it’s actually correct. This is why, on its website, Everytown for Gun Safety introduces the map with the simple claim that,

Since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been at least 74 school shootings in America. How many more before our leaders pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives?

This is why it hides its disclaimer at the very bottom of a long and detailed page. And it is why it includes no such qualifications at all on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, on which Everytown merely mentions “the 74 school shootings since Newtown,” claims that “Reynolds High School is the 74th school shooting since Sandy Hook,” and puts out misleading graphics such as this one:

Alas, the ruse appears to have worked. Yesterday, these claims were widely repeated — and almost always without context or clarification. When you can’t win honestly, I guess you just lie.

Everytown is not the only advocate of gun control that is engaged in a concerted effort to convince the public that gun violence is on the rise. At his White House event yesterday, President Obama insinuated that the United States was uncommonly awash with shootings. “We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens,” he said.

And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this.

Later, the president added:

So the country has to do some soul-searching about this. This is becoming the norm.

This isn’t true. But it doesn’t matter. As Pew reported last year, the American public remains largely unaware that the last two decades have seen a quite remarkable drop in gun violence. Obama presumably knows this. ”Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence,” Pew wrote, “most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56% of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12% think it is lower.”

The truth?

National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Beneath the long-term trend, though, are big differences by decade: Violence plunged through the 1990s, but has declined less dramatically since 2000.

Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72%) over two decades.

Don’t want to take Pew’s word for it? The Obama administration’s own Department of Justice agrees:

According to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. gun-related homicides dropped 39 percent over the course of 18 years, from 18,253 during 1993, to 11,101 in 2011. During the same period, non-fatal firearm crimes decreased even more, a whopping 69 percent. The majority of those declines in both categories occurred during the first 10 years of that time frame. Firearm homicides declined from 1993 to 1999, rose through 2006, and then declined again through 2011. Non-fatal firearm violence declined from 1993 through 2004, then fluctuated in the mid-to-late 2000s.

As Forbes’s Larry Bell notes, this is the “gun-control hypesters’ worst nightmare.” ”More people are buying firearms, while firearm-related homicides and suicides are steadily diminishing.” I would only add that these drops have happened while the gun laws have generally been liberalized, not tightened. Do we really want to start screwing with the trend so that we can all feel good about ourselves?

For good measure, Obama also suggested that the United States does not have a background-check system in place, taking aim at,

the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in to make sure that if you’re going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a fairly rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semi-automatic weapon? 

This idea, he griped, “makes no sense.” Indeed it does not. Federal law already requires all stores in all states to run background checks on all purchases — semi-automatic or not. How it is possible that the president can simultaneously consider his failure to amend the nation’s firearms laws to be his biggest failure and have no idea what they actually are?

The answer is that he doesn’t care. Indeed, nobody involved in the campaign for stricter gun laws seems to care much about the details at all. This confuses me. In what other area does the Left allow itself to remain so shamefully ignorant of basic facts? In what other area are extremely important distinctions — such as the difference between ”semi-automatic” and “automatic” weapons — dismissed as “semantics”? In what other area does the Left send people such as this and this out to debate and to embarrass themselves on television? In what other area would the Democratic party put up with its leader confirming that he has absolutely no clue how the laws he wishes to amend actually work, and slip into praising Australian gun confiscation? In what other area would the party of government waste its time going obsessively after a type of weapon that is responsible for about one tenth as many deaths each year as are hammers? It’s a mystery. And the worst part? Sometimes, it works.



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