Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

July 5, 2014

Fact Check: Spinning stats on school shootings

By Alexander Nacht

factcheck.org

Q: Have there been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut?

A: No. The group making this claim uses a broad definition that more than doubles the number of school shootings.

FULL QUESTION

I’d really like to see an article on this “74 School shootings since Sandy Hook” stat that’s getting traction today. It seems misleading to me, at the very least. First, it includes grade schools, elementary schools and colleges. It also doesn’t seem to distinguish between a student at college accidentally discharging his gun in his dorm room, a child committing suicide in a school bathroom, two adults playing basketball after school hours who get into a fight that ends in gun violence, a fight between two students that ends in one of them firing a gun, a mass shooting, etc.

FULL ANSWER

The claim that there have been 74 school shootings since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., comes from a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, whose mission is to “end gun violence and build safer communities.” President Barack Obama appeared to reference the group’s report in a June 10 Q&A with David Karp, the CEO of Tumblr, when Obama said that school shootings happen “once a week.” At that point, there had been 78 weeks since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, meaning that, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, school shootings have occurred almost weekly.

The group’s list (as of June 10), however, overstates the number of school shootings by including incidents such as accidental discharges of firearms, suicide attempts and incidents in which no involved party was affiliated with the school. The group’s broad definition of “school shooting” is published at the bottom of the report:

Everytown for Gun Safety: 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. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. Incidents in which guns were brought into schools but not fired there, or were fired off school grounds after having been possessed in schools, were not included.

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