The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Playing Politics with School Shootings

You’d think any shooting in any school would be seen as tragic enough. But the anti-Second Amendment group Everytown is so rabid they expand the definition of “school shooting” to astronomical proportions in order to ramp up the numbers as much as possible. Their goal isn’t informing the public, but terrifying them. If that takes some exaggerations, lies, and dishonesty, well all’s fair when it come to politics.

When you hear of a “school shooting” what do you think of? The rational person would assume a shooter discharging a gun at children inside a school or perhaps on the school playground. You imagine children being attacked by an armed assailant. Do you think of drug dealers in a dispute at 2 a.m. or domestic violence down the street as a “school shooting?” Probably not.

When some media and gun control advocates say “school shooting” they mean lots of things, including cases where a gun was shot off, near a school, in the middle of the night. The Los Angeles Times said there has been a “school” shooting every week. Well, 25 of the cases they listed were someone committing suicide, not shooting at others. Most were incidents at colleges. For the most part the advocacy group saying this tries to give you the minimum amount of information necessary. Your imagination is what they are after, not facts.

Note: Unlike Everytown I provide links to each incident to local news sources reporting the details which Everytown excludes from their statements. The link will take you to one news source and you can easily do a search to find more if that doesn’t satisfy you.

For instance, anti-gun Everytown listed North High School, in Des Moines as one “school shooting.” On a Friday night, after school hours, a gun was fired near the school and one girl had the bullet graze her buttocks. Police said it was a gang related incident. It didn’t happen in the school and it didn’t happen during school hours. Yet, the advocacy group listed it as a “school shooting.” And media outlets trusting them reported it as such.

College campuses are a real find for the advocacy groups because the campuses often cover large areas, often with buildings scattered within several square miles. A student was shot in a parking lot at night at Widener University, counted as a “school shooting.”

At one school a stupid teenager took a gun to school to show off. He dropped it and shot himself. Another “school shooting.” Just not what most people have in mind when they hear the term.

Now, remember, the advocacy group “Everytown for Gun Safety” isn’t given these details. They want the reader’s wild imagination to flow. I took the limited information they give and then googled to find out more.

Another “school shooting” in Milwaukee was a drug dealer in a dispute in a parking lot near a Lutheran school. No students were involved and it was not on campus.

Here’s a real beauty counted as a “school shooting.” Anthony Harding was a rapist who kidnapped a teenage girl and raped her. He told the girl he wanted to kill himself but didn’t have the guts, but if he did something awful, such as rape, he thought he could. So he raped her. He left the storage unit where he kept her and she escaped and called police. Police were searching for him when he went to parking lot NEAR a school and shot himself. That was listed as another “school shooting.”

Here is another doozy of a distortion pushed by these anti-gun advocates. They simply claimed a “school shooting” took place at Lawson Elementary School, in Little Rock. Well, it took place outside the school at 2 a.m. at night on a weekend. No students were involved and it wasn’t in the school.

Another “school shooting” used to prove how school shootings are common was at Tenaya Middle School. A teen was found shot in the parking lot late on a Sunday evening.

Northwest Passage High in Coon Rapids, MN was listed as a victim of a “school shooting” as well. A young man accidentaly shot his girlfriend in his apartment, he fled the scene and ran into a wooded area next to the apartment where he shot himself. On the other side of the wooded area is the high school, which was not involved in the shooting at all. It was just close to the high school. But it was added to the list of “school shootings.”

By the way, so far every one of these cases I just picked randomly. So far, not one of them was an actual “school shooting” as most people would imagine it to be.

At Willows Elementary another ‘school shooting” took place. It was also in the middle of the night outside the school. No one was in the school, no students were involved it was just outside the school but dishonestly portrayed as a “school shooting.”

At Flint Southwestern Classical Academy another alleged “school shooting.” It would appear the parking lot is used on weekends by gangs and there was a shooting there at 2 a.m. Obviously the school was closed, no students were present and no shots were fired in the school. It is still called a “school shooting.”

At Ft. Calhoun Elementary in Nebraska, after the school was closed and students went home, someone got into a dispute outside the school and there was shooting. Police said it was unrelated to the school and the parking lot was for a meeting that turned violent. The advocacy group counted it as a school shooting anyway.

In my old home town of Griffith, IN I saw Everytown listing the local Catholic school. I was shocked. But I read the incident and it wasn’t at the school, which was across the street and closed for the day. It was a domestic dispute, no children were involved, it wasn’t at the school only across the street from one. NBC erroneously said the shooting took place in the school parking lot, when it later turned out to be in the church parking lot across the street.

Fort Meyers police said someone was killed near Franklin Park School, but it was not a school shooting, only one in the vicinity of a school.

The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety claims they did not include shootings that took place off school grounds. Yes, they did. In addition, they included shootings that took place when the schools were closed. The first one was part of a Catholic Church and the school is used for church events.

At Raytown Success Academy the shooting took place between adults, not students, in a parking lot. No guns in the school, no attempt to kill students.

At Liberty Technology Magnet HS a student shot another student after classes were dismissed, outside the school.

Headlining this with “since Newtown” is meant to plant one sort of image, stagger the people with the claim there have been 74 more since then, and then provide insufficient details so readers have no idea this can include marital disputes outside across the street from a school, or shootings in the middle of the night.

Politifact did something similar to what I’ve done here regarding a claim by Philip Levine, a candidate for governor. Levine, in 2018, claimed Florida suffered “14 school shootings in eight years.” Politifact collected the information on all the incidents and gave it to “Jaclyn Schildkraut, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Justice at the State University of New York at Oswego. Schildkraut said she only considered two of the incidents “school shootings” — the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas and the Nov. 20, 2014, shooting at Florida State University.”

Schildkraut looked at shootings involving more than one person where victims were not being specifically targeted but shot merely for being present. A dispute in an office between a teacher and a principal, for instance, was not seen as “school shooting” as no children were ever at risk or being targeted. Politifact concluded Levine’s accusation was Mostly False:

Levine can count 14 instances in the past eight years where guns were discharged on school grounds. But describing those 14 instances as school shootings is misleading, an expert told us, particularly when compared with, and in the context of, the shooting in Parkland.

James Alan Fox is one of the country’s main experts on mass killings. He is Lipman Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University and author of “Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.”

Prof. Fox says the media has presented a story of depicting “school shootings was out of control.” True, they have. He noted how the definition of “school shooting” was regularly stretched to pad the numbers. He wrote:

“We were informed, for example, that since 2013 there has been an average of one school shooting a week in the U.S., and 18 since the beginning of this year. While these statistics were not exactly lies or fake news, they involved stretching the definition of a school shooting well beyond the limits of most people’s imagination.”

TheWashington Postgave the claims by Everytown Research four “Pinnocchios” when it comes to their claims about school shootings. Prof. Fox agreed and stated they were particularly deceptive in the claims they presented.

In USA Today Prof. Fox wrote we should put the actual risks in context:

“Notwithstanding the occasional multiple-fatality shooting that takes place at one of the 100,000 public schools across America, the nation’s schools are safe. Over the past quarter-century, on average about 10 students are slain in school shootings annually.

Compare the school fatality rate with the more than 100 school-age children accidentally killed each year riding theirbikes or walking to school.

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James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.