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Opinion

Everytown report on school shootings is off-target

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Education,Gun Control,Firearms,Mass Shootings,Spencer Brown

The anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety on Tuesday published a list of 74 school shootings the group says have taken place since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

"How many more before our leaders pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives?" the report asks.

But Everytown employs an overly broad definition of "school shooting" that inflates the problem to make the situation seem more dire than it is.

A disclaimer posted after the Everytown report reveals its system of classification: "Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts."

The report, however, includes incidents that didn't happen on school property, some that were suicides, and others that posed no threat to innocent students, a fact labeled problematic in a study from Sociology Compass. "The high level of attention given to school shootings, compared to other forms of victimization in schools, is potentially misleading," it reports.

Misleading indeed. Although Everytown claims its list of 74 incidents are proof of a school shooting epidemic, news reports from the incidents suggest otherwise.


A map of Everytown's list of school shootings, mapped by Huffington Post's Mark Gongloff
At least three shootings cited in the report took place off-campus, going against Everytown's own definition of a school shooting. Eight incidents were self-inflicted injuries or suicides, where no other students were targeted.

At least five shootings were tied to gang rivalries, initiations, and students with prior criminal records.

In fact nearly half of the shootings cited by Everytown would be better classified as random crimes committed in or around a school. That is, they didn't involve people intending to commit mass murder. They were criminals, gang members, scorned lovers, people with problems whose crimes just happened to take place in or around schools.

The fact that these sorts of crimes also take place in shopping malls, office complexes, and places of worship prove only one thing: crime exists. It does not show that schools are some sort of magnet for wackos looking to shoot people. It means that they're a part of communities where crime happens. Certain schools have metal detectors not because they're focused on stopping the next mass shooting, they use them to stop students who are also gang members from bringing their guns into schools.

The Everytown report not only contradicts its own definitions, it creates an overinflated picture of schools that are more dangerous than war zones, of communities full of people just hoping for a chance to shoot up a school. It neglects the fact that crime happens everywhere, everyday. It misses the target of most violent acts, and turns on gun owners rather than violent criminals.

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Spencer Brown

Special to the Examiner
The Washington Examiner