School Shootings: Whose Numbers Do You Want To Believe?

Last week, the NRA’s favorite academic stooge, John Lott, exceeded even my expectations for the shabbiness of his research by publishing yet another screed on his favorite topic concerning the necessity to arm ourselves in order to protect each other from crime.  In this case he was talking about guns in schools and he took aim at a new report from Bloomberg which claimed that there was an average of 3 gun shootings a month since the 2013 carnage at Sandy Hook.  Here’s Lott’s criticism of the Bloomberg report:

 “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.”

This comment doesn’t tell us what Lott figured out about Bloomie’s report.  It’s exactly what the report itself says.  And it says it right up front.  It says that it counted every time a gun went off in a school, whether someone was injured or not.  It says that it included suicides as well as homicides.  It says that it counted when shots were fired on school property even if the school-day had come to an end.  Lott isn’t telling his readers anything they can’t find out by simply reading the first page (actually mostly the first paragraph) of the report itself.

free schoolBut why bother to read the report?  After all, Lott has read it for you.  And he’s now told you that the report is “misleading” because it includes suicides, after-school shootings and shootings where nobody was hurt.  Now that would be “misleading” if the report simply announced that there had been 44 school shootings since Sandy Hook and Lott had actually done some real research to determine that what the report said was misleading or untrue. But Lott didn’t do any research at all.  Like me, he just read the first page of the report.

But Lott can’t just regurgitate what the Bloomberg report says and pretend he’s figured this out; he then has to throw in some of his own “research” to make his readers believe that he, as opposed to gun-grabbers like Bloomberg, has the inside track on the truth: “Contrary to what many people believe, high school shootings have been falling over the last two decades.”  Well, that may or may not be true, if only because Lott’s source for this information, the National School Safety Center, uses the same newspaper and media sources (not law enforcement) that Bloomberg used for his report.  And both the NSSC and Bloomberg admit that such data, by definition, is probably incomplete.

But notice that Lott wants you to believe that school shootings have declined even though he’s only counting shootings in high schools. nor do his numbers take suicides or shootings in elementary schools into account.  So he takes a slice of what Bloomberg counted, comes up with a smaller number and announces that his number is less!   And this isn’t shabby research?  This isn’t pandering to the NRA crowd?

I’d love to get John Lott on a stage and have a serious and public debate with him about guns.  For that matter, I’m willing to take on Lott and Mike Bloomberg at the same time.  Because both of them are playing to audiences that aren’t interested in what the other side wants to hear. And both use limited and often misleading data to score points in what never seems to be a genuinely honest debate.

Let me tell you the real problem we have with school gun violence and you won’t hear this from Mike Bloomberg or John Lott or anyone else except me.  The real problem is the number of kids who bring real guns into school but thank God they are taken away before a shot goes off. Ask any school safety administrator (as I have) when this pattern begins to appear and you’ll be told that it starts in middle school!  That’s right:  twelve-year-olds start bringing live guns into classrooms and showing them around. Twelve-year-olds.  Think about that.

 

 

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