There have not been 11 "school shootings" in the first 23 days of 2018, contrary to what you may have read in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, National Public Radio, the Huffington Post, the Week, Business Insider, and many others.
Rather, there have been approximately 11 incidents since Jan. 1 in which a gun of some form, including a pellet gun, was discharged on or around school property.
The "11 school shooting" statistic includes at least two suicides, a 32-year-old man shooting at a school bus with a pellet gun and a student accidentally firing a real gun in class after mistaking it for a training weapon, as noted by the Washington Examiner’s Siraj Hashmi.
In other words, not the sort of thing one imagines when he reads the words “school shooting” in a headline.
The point here isn’t to downplay the tragedy of suicide. The point here is not to suggest gun violence isn’t real. Rather, the point here is to shame newsrooms for uncritically repeating an obviously inflated statistic circulated by anti-gun advocacy groups, including the hyperpartisan Everytown for Gun Safety.
Of all the people to cite as a source, partisan activists are the ones in most need of thorough fact-checking.
The newsroom most responsible for amplifying the “11” figure is the New York Times, which published a headline this week titled, “School Shooting in Kentucky Was Nation’s 11th of Year. It Was Jan. 23.”
The Benton, Ky., shooting this week, which left two students dead, “was one of at least 11 shootings on school property recorded since Jan. 1, and roughly the 50th of the academic year,” the paper reported. “Researchers and gun control advocates say that since 2013, they have logged school shootings at a rate of about one a week.”
The Times had company in spreading this statistic.
The New York Daily News, for example, published an article titled, “Kentucky attack was 11th school shooting in 23 days of 2018.”
Like the Times, the Daily News cited “research” from gun control groups, specifically Everytown, to claim the Kentucky shooting was merely the latest in a recent string of shootings.
Interestingly enough, the same report also included a line that claimed specifically that the Kentucky shooting is the “10th incident of gunshots fired at U.S. schools so far in 2018, which has only seen 23 days.” See, “gunshots fired at U.S. schools” is both specific and accurate. The Daily News could’ve used that in the headline, and it would’ve been close enough to the truth to pass the sniff test. But it didn't, opting instead for the imminently scarier and sexier "school shooting."
Politico’s Michael Calderone tweeted elsewhere, “Yesterday's deadly school shooting in Kentucky — the 11th school shooting already this year— got little attention on cable news.”
It is farcical to lump the Jan. 8 pellet gun incident with the shooting this week in Kentucky. It is even more foolish to use the same label applied to the Columbine Massacre for an incident wherein a man committed suicide in an empty school parking lot.
Using the term “school shooting” to describe events in which the shooter intended no harm to anyone but himself, or where a gun was fired accidentally, is plainly misleading. That’s a charitable reading of the supposed data. A more cynical reading suspects the “11” figure is an intentionally dishonest attempt by anti-gun advocates to overwhelm the Second Amendment debate with a frightening, but ultimately misleading, statistic.
Shame on newsrooms for giving this clearly inflated number oxygen. One wouldn’t expect the Times or NPR to parrot gun statistics produced by the National Rifle Association. Why would they do the same for an anti-gun group?