Are School Homicides ‘Becoming The Norm’?

 

 

 

” In the aftermath of yesterday’s shooting at an Oregon high school, the president worried that such slayings are “becoming the norm.” I’ve written skeptically in the past about whether the number of mass shootings in America is actually increasing, as the word becoming implies—see my posts herehere, and here—but there’s always a haze of uncertainty around those numbers, thanks to the varying definitions of “mass shooting” that different people use.

  But maybe that isn’t the best thing to be measuring in the first place. The Oregon incident isn’t a “mass” shooting at all—the gunman killed two people, and one of those was himself—but it obviously speaks to the same sorts of fear and grief. If your son was just shot, after all, it’s hardly a comfort that his classmates survived. A map darting around the Internet this week claims to show all the school shootings since Sandy Hook. Note the modifier: school, not mass.

  So how frequently are people killed at school? The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) keeps a running count of such homicides, with “at school” defined to include deaths not just on school property but “while the victim was on the way to or from regular sessions at school or while the victim was attending or traveling to or from an official school-sponsored event.” You might quibble about whether those off-campus killings belong in this category, but still, it’s a straightforward definition that doesn’t get bogged down in how many people die in one attack or, for that matter, what weapon was used to murder them.

  (Of the 74 incidents listed by Everytown, 35 occured on or near a college campus.**) The map also includes nonfatal shootings, including accidental discharges and at least four events in which no one was injured at all. And some of its items qualify as “school shootings” only under a rather broad understanding of the phrase. While this killing, for example, did take place in an elementary school parking lot, it happened at night, long after the students and teachers had gone home. The victim was 19.

  This much is clear: If you’re wondering where kids are likely to die, the answer plainly isn’t a classroom. (Quoting the BJS report one more time: “During the 2010–11 school year, 11 of the 1,336 homicides among school-age youth ages 5–18 occurred at school.“) And in the period for which we have clear data, the school homicide rate moved in the same direction as the overall homicide rate: downward. To bring it still lower, the first question to ask is what happened to get us that far.”

 

Jesse Walker at Reason has more details

For further reading on the subject of American mass shootings see below:

 

 

The ‘Ugly’ Truth About Mass Shootings

Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown

The Facts About Mass Shootings

The Truth About Mass Shootings and Gun Control