Shootings Since Sandy Hook: The Fight to Define What ‘Counts’

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

When do school shootings count as shootings? When is a school shooting considered “fake?” More importantly, why are we only concerned with gun violence in very narrow definitions? A recent analysis of school shootings that have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook ignited the need for such questions.

The report, published by Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is an effort by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the pocketbook behind the groups’ combined efforts in Every Town for Gun Safety, referred to by some as Everytown, the self-proclaimed antithesis to the National Rifle Association. This makes the information likely to be as biased as information coming from the NRA. Consider the source of your data and from there, decide how objective the gathering was likely to be. In this sense, critics are understandably aggressive in picking apart Everytown’s facts and statistics, and I generally applaud criticism of any data set; there’s usually something worth criticizing in how information was gathered, presented, or explained, even in scientific communities — much less from politically motivated sources. I’m particularly glad, though, that people are taking the time to criticize this particular report, because it brings up important questions about where our gun concerns lie, and what definitions people on both sides of the issue find most important.

First, let’s look at what the report says post-update. It examines the period between December 15, 2012, the day after the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, up to February 10, 2014, reporting that during that time “there has been at least 44 school shootings including fatal and non-fatal assaults, suicides, and unintentional shootings — an average of more than three a month.” The full report goes on to specify what shootings were fatal, which were caused by a “schoolyard argument,” which were suicides, and which were non-fatal. The report notes that three of the four shootings dealt with a gun obtained from the home, and “this includes three cases where a minor used a gun to attempt or complete suicide in his school.”

The oft-quoted basics that were posted on the website — and are where most take issue – simply state that since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, there have been 74 school shootings, going on to criticize the political failure to change gun policy.