Bloomberg's latest stats on school gun violence ignore reality

Are schools and colleges dangerous places, with lots of gun violence?

Some groups paint a picture of these places being particularly unsafe. Supposedly both murders and firearm suicides are very common at educational institutions. Last Wednesday, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s two groups, Moms Demand Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, jointly released a report that received massive uncritical news coverage.

They claimed that 44 shootings occurred in schools and colleges nationwide since the Newtown, Conn. massacre on Dec. 14, 2012 and Feb. 10 of this year. Out of the 44 shootings, a total of 28 died. To dramatize their numbers, Bloomberg’s groups emphasized that one of these attacks occurred every 10 days.

But their statistics are not what they seem. Included in the numbers are suicides. Also included are late night shootings taking place in school parking lots, on their grounds or even off school property, often involving gangs. As “shootings,” they also include any incident where shots were fired, even when nobody was injured.

Look at some of the cases included in their misleading statistics:

The list goes on and on. Overall,

Indeed, gangs are a major problem. But they aren’t just a threat off school campuses. And some schools just happen to be located near dangerous areas, so the gang activity spills over to school grounds. Linking such violence to the Newtown tragedy is highly misleading.

Also, some perspective is needed. Contrary to what many people believe, high school shootings have actually been falling over the last two decades. To illustrate this let’s compare the five school years 1992-93 to 1996-97 with the five school years from 2008-09 to 2012-13. During the first period, the number of non-gang, non-suicide shooting deaths averaged 25 a year. During the recent five-year period, it averaged less than half that, 10 per year – and that figure does include the horrific Newtown massacre.

To put these numbers in perspective, there are about 50 million young people between the ages of 6 and 17. Another 21 million people are enrolled in colleges.

One of the motivations behind the report put out by the gun control groups was that the media was ignoring these so-called “mini-Newtowns.” Yet, all of these cases received extensive coverage. A gun at a school (or even near a school) is considered newsworthy. For example, USA Today ran at least one story on 24 of these cases.

Scaring Americans may be Bloomberg’s only tool for drumming up support for gun control laws. But it ultimately shows how little faith that gun control advocates have in their case.