A study released by a national gun control group on the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, claiming nearly a hundred school shootings since then, is raising questions.
Compiled from media reports between Dec. 15, 2012 and Dec. 9, 2014, the 8-page analysis of school shootings conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, contends that in the that time there has been an average of nearly one such event every week. It concludes that, by its definition of what a school shooting is, some 95 have occurred in 33 states during the time in question.
“School shootings – no matter the circumstances – corrode the sense of security we should expect from our educational institutions in this country. Two years ago, the NRA called for arming teachers – that’s their solution – more guns for everyone, everywhere, anytime,” said Everytown President John Feinblatt in a prepared statement to accompany the report. “The gun lobby wants schools and college students to join the country’s arms race and buy more guns. Instead, we can and should do more to prevent gun violence – that’s why we’re fighting for common-sense public safety measures that respect the Second Amendment and keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
The group did make some allowances for defensive gun use in their report, mentioning that at least three incidents in which a private citizen discharged a firearm at a school that was ultimately determined to be self-defense, as well as cases in which a gun was brought into schools but not fired were omitted from the data compilation.
However, the methodology of the report is something of a moving target as it categorizes every incident that involved a firearm in or around a school as a “school shooting,” even if it was an accident, gang-shooting, suicide, coincidental shooting, or one in which no one was injured.
“Bloomberg’s groups ignore the clearest point: the number of deaths from non-gang, non-suicide shooting deaths have been declining at schools over the last couple of decades,” Dr. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” told Guns.com Wednesday.
According to Lott’s own research, using data from the National School Safety Center and others, non-gang, non-suicide firearms deaths on school campuses to include K-12 and universities has been on a steady decline from over 30 per year in 1992 to closer to under 10 per year by 2009.
Lott also pointed out that the latest Everytown report is built upon a foundation that draws heavily from a June 2014 analysis issued by the group that claimed 74 school shooting had occurred since Newtown.
That report was debunked by both Politifact, which held that the finding was “Mostly false,” and CNN who found in its analysis the number closer to being correct was 15 shootings in the period rather than 74.
“Despite all the criticisms that Bloomberg’s groups have gotten over their report on school, they have, with one exception, continued to include all the questionable ‘Newtown like’ school shooting cases that they had previously,” Lott said.
Of the 95 cases, at least eight were suicides in which no one else was killed or injured. In many of these instances, such as when a professor at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology killed himself in an empty classroom, or when a 23-year old man shot himself on the grounds of an Iowa public school after midnight, these events occurred while the school was empty and the shooter isolated.
There were also cases of late-night criminal acts included in the study such as a May 2014 incident in which a pair of armed robbers shot a student at Marquette University after 2 a.m. during the course of a mugging. In another case cited by Everytown as a school shooting, a 38-year-old man was found dead in a Clarksville Tennessee high school parking lot and investigators quickly deemed it an issue that did not involve the school itself.
“We are positive this is not relating to any students or staff at Northwest High School or any other high school in the Clarksville Montgomery County area,” said Clarksville police spokesman Sgt. Charles Gill at the time.
At least 20 of the incidents classified as school shootings by the Bloomberg group were incidents in which a gun discharged on campus, but it resulted in no injuries to either the shooter or anyone else.
Some of the incidents are hard to verify that they even occurred at all.
At the tail end of the school shooting report, Everytown lists a Dec. 2 event in Houston on the campus of Texas Southern University. The shooting, according to the study, did not incur any fatalities or injures. However, news searches of media outlets in the Houston area offer few details. Further, TSU’s official social media outlets, to include Facebook and Twitter, contain no information on an active shooter event contrary to what is is typical with such an incident, nor does the TSU Police Department’s website.
When contacted by phone for details of any recent shootings on campus, TSU Police told Guns.com on Thursday that it had no information available on any shooting that occurred this month.
Following up with the gun control group on the Texas Southern claim, Everytown reached out to the university to confirm and then advised of their findings that TSU confirmed no gun was discharged on Dec.2.
When presented with the detail by Guns.com, an Everytown spokeswoman said they’d remove the incident from the list.
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention — our intention is always to make sure our list is accurate,” Everytown Communication Director Erika Soto Lamb advised Guns.com Thursday.
The information contained in the report came as no surprise to gun rights advocates.
“Their numbers have been fully discredited,” Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms told Guns.com. “But all the Bloomberg groups keep using it anyway. The big lie keeps growing!”
Nevertheless, lawmakers with a history of supporting gun control initiatives have already seized on the new numbers from Everytown as a means to advance future legislation.
“Here’s the reality: this country has experienced 95 school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook. The other reality is that Congress is complicit in these murders if we continue to sit back and do nothing to reverse this trend,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. “We don’t have to choose between protecting the Second Amendment and enacting common-sense safety measures. It’s long overdue for Congress to stand up and act.”