“There Is No ‘Epidemic of Mass School Shootings’”

That’s the title of a New York Magazine article that brings some much needed perspective to the current debate over school safety (despite the author’s pro-gun control agenda):

American children do not “risk their lives” when they show up to school each morning — or at least, not nearly as much as they do whenever they ride in a car, swim in a pool, or put food in their mouths (an American’s lifetime odds of dying in a mass shooting committed in any location is 1 in 11,125; of dying in a car accident is 1 and 491; of drowning is 1 in 1,133; and of choking on food is 1 in 3,461). Criminal victimization in American schools has collapsed in tandem with the overall crime rate, leaving U.S. classrooms safer today than at any time in recent memory.

And, perhaps most critically, there is no epidemic of mass shootings in American schools — at least, not under the conventional definitions of those terms. …

[I]t is nearly impossible to design a policy that can bring the incidence of an already exceptionally rare crime down to zero — and given the inherently limited nature of legislative time and resources, it would make little sense to prioritize such a marginal and difficult issue over public health challenges that kill exponentially more people. …

There is no “school safety” crisis in the U.S. … In the decades since Columbine, progressives have often led the public to believe otherwise. And for understandable reasons. Spectacular acts of mass murder committed against children (especially upper-middle class children in “good” public schools) attract a degree of media attention and political concern that our nation’s (roughly) 20,000 annual firearm suicides — and daily acts of urban gang violence — simply do not. The most misleading piece of the Parkland survivors’ message — that their experience is representative of a widespread social problem that threatens the lives of all American children — may well be its most politically effective component.

But if misrepresenting the nature of America’s gun problem has political benefits, it also has policy drawbacks. After all, if the March for Our Lives mission statement were actually true — if “every kid in this country” went “to school wondering if this day might be their last” — then there would be a reasonable case for filling American schools with law enforcement agents and increasing the use of juvenile detention. 

H/T: Lyman Stone

Jon Guze / Senior Fellow, Legal Studies

Jon Guze is the Director of Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over twent...