I have no problem with gun violence prevention groups, that is unless they try to portray the facts wrongly. That’s what I think Everytown for Gun Safety is doing once again. Previously in June of 2014, they claimed that there had been 74 school shootings since the shootings at Sandy Hook. Then in late 2015, they claimed that there had been 47 school shootings that year. Now with yesterday being the anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting, the advocacy group is now claiming that there have been 200 school shooting incidents since then. As usual, it feels like Everytown is misleading the public with their claims. This time not only is Everytown playing fast and loose with the numbers, but they’re also misrepresenting themselves with their phrasing as well.
First, let’s take a look at the number 200. There have not been 200 school shootings as we think of them. When most people think of school shootings, they think of tragedies like Sandy Hook or Columbine. Since Sandy Hook, there have been 17 school shootings with the most recent one being the shooting at Townville Elementary School back in September. As far as their phrasing goes, Everytown is trying to play it coy this time. Instead of saying there have been 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook, they’re now saying that there have been 200 school shooting ‘incidents’ since Sandy Hook. The word ‘incidents’ is a C.Y.A. word like ‘allegedly’. The problem is, even if they’re using the word ‘incidents’, the public, and most media, still perceive it as 200 school shootings. If they wanted to be more honest and use fewer scare tactics they would say that there have been 200 gun-related crimes that happened near schools since Sandy Hook, but that doesn’t make a catchy headline.
Please don’t get me wrong. Not only is 17 school shootings in 4 years still pretty disturbing, so is 200 shootings near schools. However, as I have said in the past when you call everything a school shooting, it lessens the impact of actual school shootings. After a while, we’ll all become numb to whatever is being called a school shooting, and we’ll just shrug them off like it was a shoplifting charge.
My advice to Everytown is not to sensationalize the statistics. 17 school shootings, or 18 including Sandy Hook, in the past four years, is still pretty disturbing. However, as the saying goes “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” and you’re getting awfully close to statistic territory.