Want to see one of the best and most penetrating videos on gun violence? Take a look at the new Everytown video that was mounted to coincide with the two-year anniversary of Sandy Hook. I haven’t seen any depiction of the stark reality of gun violence that beats this effort. The video is accompanied by a new report analyzing the nearly 100 school shootings that have occurred since Newtown, and is an updated version of the report on school shootings originally published earlier this year. Since this report, like the previous version, will no doubt come in for the usual slash-and-burn hysterics of the pro-gun crowd, I thought I would get my licks in first. So here goes.
The report is built on public (i.e., media) reports of school shootings defined as a gun being discharged within a school building or the campus around the facility. This would include shootings that take place in school playgrounds, school parking lots and other areas that are considered school property but are not enclosed within the school building(s) proper. Because it is based on media reports by definition it is incomplete and therefore has to be considered as representing a smaller number than the actual shootings that take place on school property.
The report breaks down shootings between K-12 institutions and colleges/universities, noting that the number of shootings that occurred in the two environments was roughly the same, with 49 shootings in K-12 and 46 in colleges and universities. But while there were 18 shootings resulting in at least one injury on a college campus, as opposed to only 14 shootings that caused injuries suffered in K-12 institutions, the lower grades were much more deadly with 15 K-12 schools being the scene of gun homicides, whereas gun deaths occurred at only 8 college locations.
When Everytown’s previous report was issued in June, the pro-gun apologists immediately found all sorts of “inconsistencies” and “exaggerations” about the degree of danger posed by guns being used in and around educational institutions. The most bizarre statement came from a right-wing blogger named Charles Johnson who determined that the numbers were overstated because a “gang” shooting that took place on school property, like a playground, was not actually a school shooting per se, but was just a random act of violence that happened to take place on school property. But the fact is that most acts of violence are random; they take place between individuals who knew each other before the violence occurred and break out because one party or the other decides to escalate a dispute from a verbal to a physical altercation.
It really doesn’t change things because someone decides to bring a gun onto school property who doesn’t happen to attend that school. After all, Adam Lanza wasn’t a student at Sandy Hook Elementary when he opened fire on December 14, 2012. But what differentiated him from many school shooters was his age; i.e., the most difficult aspect of the Everytown report is the age breakdown of the shooters in the K-12 schools. While 60% were 17 years old or above, 40% were 16 years old or younger, with 3 shooters being 12 and one unbelievably age five. How in God’s name does a five-year-old tote a gun to school and then shoot it? For that matter, what can you say about twelve year old kids with live guns?
Earlier this year one of the so-called NRA commentators, Billy Johnson, posted a video in which he argued that teaching gun competency in school was as important as learning how to read and do math. It’s easy to dismiss such dopey rhetoric as pandering to the fringe of the pro-gun crowd. If the best the pro-gun community can come up with is to quibble over whether or not this shootings took place during the school day or that shooting involved students from a particular school, then they are making it clear that a serious and sober discussion about school violence is beyond their abilities or concern.