Advocates for stricter gun laws insist tighter controls are necessary to stem an epidemic of school shootings. Activists in Boston recently staged a mock back-to-school fashion show that featured bulletproof vests, helmets, and gas masks. The not-so-subtle message: American schools are dangerous places.
Two horrific shootings during the last school year would seem to back that assertion. Statistics quoted in many media stories also paint a dire picture: Everytown for Gun Safety has logged at least 57 incidents of gunfire on campus so far in 2018. Government statistics are even worse. A U.S. Department of Education report released this spring claimed 235 schools reported at least one incident involving a gun during the 2015-16 school year.
But most of those incidents never happened, according to an analysis by NPR. Reporters managed to confirm just 11 incidents from the government data. The rest? Reporting errors. Some of them are blatantly obvious: Cleveland schools reported 37 shootings, but that number was actually entered on the wrong line of the spreadsheet. The real number of shootings in Cleveland schools? Zero.
Legislators are spending millions on school safety measures across the country. If school shootings aren’t really a widespread problem, is that money well spent? —L.J.