It has become a staple argument for those who seek to turn the Florida school shooting into momentum for gun control legislation: This is the 18th school shooting in America just this year, and that’s too many.
But whatever the merits of the various proposals, they ought not to be predicated on this being the 18th school shooting … because it is not.
The made-for-TV figure comes from Everytown For Gun Safety, the group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
And the mainstream media have lapped it up.
The AP wrote: “‘We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically and should instead pull together,’ Ryan said in comments that have become familiar. The Florida massacre was the 17th school shooting so far this year.”
“We’re averaging one school shooting every 63 hours,” a headline read on Huffington Post. “Wednesday’s shooting at a Florida high school is the 17th school shooting incident of the year,” read the subhead.
Eric Wemple from The Washington Post: “Chuck Todd’s ‘MTP Daily’ on MSNBC was conceived to highlight the recurring national drama of Washington politics. The running storyline, however, is always apt to be interrupted by the recurring national trauma of gun violence. Such is the reality of covering a country that has seen eight school shootings in 2018 alone.*
“So when Todd took the chair on his set on Wednesday afternoon, he was forced to deliver the news about that 18th school shooting.
The asterisk referred to one article that disputes the 18 figure and another that puts it at eight school shooting incidents this year.
But Wemple’s own paper took a harder look at the 18 school shootings talking point and found it wanting. It seems that, to arrive at the figure, Everytown stretched the definition of “school shooting.”
“A month ago, for example, a group of college students were at a meeting of a criminal-justice club in Texas when a student accidentally fired a real gun, rather than a training weapon. The bullet went through a wall, then a window. Though no one was hurt, it left the student distraught.
“Is that a school shooting, though? Yes, Everytown says.”
In previous years, the group has called an incident where a man was shot on a Tennessee high school’s property at 2 a.m. on an August night a school shooting. It claimed a man shot late at night in an elementary school parking lot and found the next morning was a school shooting.
It claimed an incident in which a gun went off accidentally in the glove compartment of a man’s car in an Indiana high school parking lot before any students had arrived on campus to be a school shooting.
It claimed two boys in Washington state who shot at their high school on New Year’s Eve were participating in a school shooting.
That’s how it is Everytown can claim that since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America or about one per week.
It’s how it claims 18 shootings this year, when just five occurred during school hours and resulted in any physical injury, three others appeared to be intentional shootings that did not injure anyone, two were police officers’ weapons going off accidentally and led to no injuries and two were people who committed suicide in school parking lots – one at a school that had been closed for seven months.
Is a shooting at a sorority event at Wake Forest University a school shooting? Yes, Everytown says. Is a shooting from a car that was passing a gym where a basketball game was taking place after 8 p.m. a school shooting? Yes, Everytown says.
The definition is “crystal clear,” Everytown’s spokesperson says. “Every time a gun is discharged on school grounds it shatters the sense of safety” for students, parents and the community.