The media had a field day with the anti-gun protest on the Washington Mall over the weekend. As much as the visuals lent themselves to televsion, and the rhetoric confirmed the biases of many of those covering the event, the hard truth is the speakers were long on emotion, and short on facts.
The most relevant fact: there is no epidemic of school shootings, and gun violence is in a years-long decline. In short, anti-gun activists are lying…so much so, that even New York Magazine had to take notice:
In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting, progressive activists and commentators (including this one) repeatedly claimed that there had been 18 school shootings since the start of this year. This proved to be a gross exaggeration. In reality, according to new research from Northeastern University, there have been a grand total of eight mass shootings (shootings that kill at least four people) at K-through-12 schools in the United States since 1996. Meanwhile, over the past 20 years, the number of fatal shootings in American schools (of any kind) has plummeted.
If mass school shootings were the only form of gun violence in the United States, the case for treating the regulation of firearms as a pressing policy issue would actually be fairly weak. For the past quarter-century, there has been an average of one mass murder (a killing of four or more people committed with any weapon, as opposed to just firearms) in an American school each year. Every one of those atrocities is a blight on humanity. But it is nearly impossible to design a policy that can bring the incidence of an already exceptionally rare crime down to zero — and given the inherently limited nature of legislative time and resources, it would make little sense to prioritize such a marginal and difficult issue over public health challenges that kill exponentially more people.
The Education Department reports that roughly 50 million children attend public schools for roughly 180 days per year. Since Columbine, approximately 200 public school students have been shot to death while school was in session, including the recent slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (and a shooting in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday that police called accidental that left one student dead). That means the statistical likelihood of any given public school student being killed by a gun, in school, on any given day since 1999 was roughly 1 in 614,000,000. And since the 1990s, shootings at schools have been getting less common.
The chance of a child being shot and killed in a public school is extraordinarily low. Not zero — no risk is. But it’s far lower than many people assume, especially in the glare of heart-wrenching news coverage after an event like Parkland. And it’s far lower than almost any other mortality risk a kid faces, including traveling to and from school, catching a potentially deadly disease while in school or suffering a life-threatening injury playing interscholastic sports.
These are facts. They can be bland, remote, and often boring. They rarely make for good television. But facts are only antidote we have to the relentless push to demonize gun owners, the organizations they may belong to, and the Second Amendment.
The students at the center of the latest anti-gun push may believe they are leading a “revolution.” Hardly. They are merely props, used willingly, if cyncially, to advance a political agenda.
We support efforts to improve school security. But we will not bow to the fear mongers and agenda pushers who would strip law abiding citizens of their the Second Amendment rights.