There Are Fewer School Shootings Now Than During The 1990s

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

Now that I have several children, I'm often in the company of other parents who talk about the way things "used to be." When the issue of child safety comes up, I hear parents sadly shake their heads and say things like "it's not like it was when we were kids...the world is so much more dangerous now." 

Usually, the sentiment behind this idea is that there are more murders now than there used to be. 

Now, I'm not exactly known for being a Pollyanna, but I am willing to admit when things are not, in fact, getting worse. 

And when it comes to things like homicides, there is no evidence that things are getting worse. It is indeed true that things aren't like they were "when we were kids," but that's a good thing. There were far more homicides in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s than there are today. Things were even worse than that during the 1970s. In fact, the homicide rate in the US was cut in half between 1991 and 2014. And while the homicide rate has inched up over the past two years, it is nowhere near where it was "when we were kids." 

homicide1 (1).png

 

For anyone familiar with these trends, it should not be shock to hear that a subset of those homicides — school shootings — have decreased over that period as well. 

In response to the latest shooting in Florida, Northeastern University released a preview of new research by James Alan Fox slated for publication this fall which shows, quite clearly, that there is no growing trend in school shootings. The university notes: 

Mass school shootings are incredibly rare events. In research publishing later this year, Fox and doctoral student Emma Fridel found that on average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and about one of those incidents on average takes place at a school.

Fridel and Fox used data collected by USA Today, the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report, Congressional Research Service, Gun Violence Archive, Stanford Geospatial Center and Stanford Libraries, Mother Jones, Everytown for Gun Safety, and a NYPD report on active shooters.

Their research also finds that shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the 1990s.

Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today, Fox said.

“There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents. There are around 55 million school children in the United States, and on average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school, according to Fox and Fridel’s research.

In a February 22 article, New York Magazine came to a similar conclusion, noting: 

Schools in the United States are safer today than at any time in recent memory. Criminal victimization in America’s education facilities has declined in tandem with the nation’s collapsing crime rate. Meanwhile, as of 2013, the year after the Newtown massacre, mass shootings accounted for only 1.5 percent of all gun deaths in the United States, or 502 total fatalities. 

New York was drawing on research from the US Justice Department showing that "school victimization" rates have plummeted since 1992, as a graph provided by the Justice Department shows: 

victimization.PNG

 

Fox, the author of the Northeastern University research, does not oppose policy changes like increasing the age for purchasing guns. But he notes it's unlikely to impact the numbers very much: 

The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events, and no matter what you can come up with to prevent it, the shooter will have a workaround,” Fox said, adding that over the past 35 years, there have been only five cases in which someone ages 18 to 20 used an assault rifle in a mass shooting.

Ironically, those most familiar with the data on shootings are often less likely to assume that gun control measures are are an easy solution to the problem of homicide. 

For example, last year, Leah Libresco at the Washington Post — hardly an organ of the NRA — concluded that gun control measures are of extremely limited value:

…my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence...

I researched the strictly tightened gun laws in Britain and Australia and concluded that they didn’t prove much about what America’s policy should be. Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans. Mass shootings were too rare in Australia for their absence after the buyback program to be clear evidence of progress. And in both Australia and Britain, the gun restrictions had an ambiguous effect on other gun-related crimes or deaths...

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them.

What Libresco did conclude, was that a host of societal issues are driving much of what we hear about in terms of so-called gun violence. Mental illness, suicidegang violence, and domestic violence are all important factors that drive gun violence. The problem, Libresco admits, is that simply prohibiting certain types of guns doesn't really address these issues.

Accepting the "Crisis" Narrative

In the wake of last month's Florida shooting, many opponents of gun control made the mistake of simply accepting the claim that school shootings are getting worse, and are more deadly overall. 

According to Fox's research, though, this is simply not the case. And we also certainly know that homicides overall are way down from where they were in the good ol' days of my youth. 

These apparent facts, of course, don't stop even rightwing professional Cassandras like Rod Dreher from authoring articles like this one called "Underestimating American Collapse" which uses school shootings as evidence that American civilization is basically on the brink of collapse:

Why are American kids killing each other? Why doesn’t their society care enough to intervene? Well, probably because those kids have given up on life — and their elders have given up on them. Or maybe you’re right — and it’s not that simple. Still, what do the kids who aren’t killing each other do? Well, a lot of them are busy killing themselves.

Maybe American society is in a more perilous position that in the 1980s. But if we're looking for evidence of that, the homicide data won't help the argument. Dreher is right to question why American kids are killing each other. But an equally relevant question might also be "why are fewer American kids killing each other now than 25 years ago?"

School Shootings and Opportunity Cost

Part of the problem with accepting the crisis narrative is that it ignores other priorities and other problems that may deserve our attention elsewhere. 

After all, resources for schools — or anything else — are not unlimited, and it is unclear that extremely rare events like school shootings can be put forward as a priority. 

This problem of priorities can be seen in the fact that cities where snow falls irregularly do not maintain a huge fleet of snowplows. In Naples, Italy last week, for example, the city experienced the largest snowfall it's seen in 50 years. According to the Daily Mail, the snowfall were seen as a citywide emergency and "[r]esidents have been told not to leave their homes unless it is 'strictly necessary.'" One man was said to have even frozen to death in the unexpectedly frigid temperatures. 

Now, if even a few inches of snow can bring the city to a standstill and endanger the lives of residents, why does the city not have far more snow plows than it does? Why is there not a network of emergency workers to ensure that residents are not caught in the cold where they can be injured or even killed by cold temperatures? 

The answer, of course, is that the opportunity cost of such measures would be extremely high. By maintaining personnel and equipment designed to address a rare snowfall, the city would be foregoing the opportunity to train people or purchase equipment for a wide variety of other activities that are no doubt also deemed essential. 

While school shootings no doubt have a greater psychological impact than frigid temperatures, it is no less true that spending large amounts of resources on anti-shooting measures carry with them their own costs. 

Now, in the US, many organizations, both public and private have elected to devote sizable amounts of resources to security. But none of them deny that there is an opportunity cost to doing so. 

Indeed, opponents of added security in schools have been quick to point out the costs of more security measures. 

And yet, proponents of more gun control act as if there are no opportunity costs to these measures. In reality, of course, the costs of enforcing government prohibitions can be very high, both in terms of tax dollars and costs imposed upon otherwise law abiding citizens. The drug war has made this quite clear. In the absence of individual gun ownership, professional security will become more necessary, and in many cases more costly. This imposes a real cost on citizens, especially on those who cannot afford professional security. Relying on the police for protection, of course, has been shown to be unwise at best.

What Are We Doing Right?

Many observers will still point out that even a small number of school shootings is too many. That's true enough, but when the multi-decade trend is downward, it would hardly be honest to attempt to frame the current situation as a "crisis." Indeed the challenge should be to discover what factors have led to the decline in violence, and act accordingly.

Given that gun ownership has greatly increased in recent decades, it may be that the answer lies somewhere beyond a simply government prohibition on guns.

Comments

IntercoursetheEU stizazz Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:04 Permalink

Very comforting news. Yet, there would be one less school shooting  if Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the other Clinton-Deep State minions were already in Guantanamo. 

There are 3007 counties in the US - but Broward County?  Wasserman's? Surely just a coincidence. Here is the Parkland story from America's favorite Truth Cat, excellent summary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kri5IyvDmCE

download and save asap! 

 

In reply to by stizazz

Bollixed IntercoursetheEU Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:18 Permalink

I hired a school shooter via a 'get out of prison early if you can get hired' program back in the mid 1970's. He was 13 years old when he took his dad's 12ga to school and opened fire on a group of teachers who were standing together. He was 18 when he went to work for me. He told me he thought he would be the school hero and be worshiped by the rest of the outsiders if he shot some teachers. He said as soon as he pulled the trigger and almost took a woman's arm off he realized he was the biggest piece of shit that ever walked the planet.

He was the second person I had tried hiring under that program. He was actually a better employee than the black dude I had hired a few years before who robbed an airline company payroll bag full of checks. Neither of them really worked out...

In reply to by IntercoursetheEU

CoolHandLuke IridiumRebel Fri, 03/02/2018 - 08:15 Permalink

The response was WELL organized...almost as if they knew it was going to happen.

Very important read.

http://thefederalist.com/2018/03/01/take-two-weeks-truth-emerge-parklan…

 

On February 28, BuzzFeed came out with the actual story: Rep. Debbie Wassermann Schultz aiding in the lobbying in Tallahassee, a teacher’s union organizing the buses that got the kids there, Michael Bloomberg’s groups and the Women’s March working on the upcoming March For Our Lives, MoveOn.org doing social media promotion and (potentially) march logistics, and training for student activists provided by federally funded Planned Parenthood.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers told BuzzFeed they’re also behind the national school walkout, which journalists had previously assured the public was the sole work of a teenager. (I’d thought teachers were supposed to get kids into school, but maybe that’s just me.)

In other words, the response was professionalized. That’s not surprising, because this is what organization that gets results actually looks like. It’s not a bunch of magical kids in somebody’s living room. Nor is it surprising that the professionalization happened right off the bat. Broward County’s teacher’s union is militant, and Rep. Ted Lieu stated on Twitter that his family knows Parkland student activist David Hogg’s family, so there were plenty of opportunities for grown-ups with resources and skills to connect the kids.

 

In reply to by IridiumRebel

kellys_eye Dr. Bonzo Fri, 03/02/2018 - 05:02 Permalink

"Politicized hysteria..." MEDIA generated.  Once again it's the MEDIA that create the narrative and lead the public's conception of 'how things are'.

I don't know of ANY subject that the media covers RESPONSIBLY, accurately or truthfully - and we all know the subjects that the media DO push, do twist, do promulgate in order to keep the talk about anything other than what really needs to be talked about.

Fuck the media.

In reply to by Dr. Bonzo

Giant Meteor Thu, 03/01/2018 - 22:32 Permalink

Finally some good news! Why, one have a greater chance of dying in a major airline incident than getting shot up at school ...

Of course , this says nothing of equally long odds that the FBI or other law enforcement agencies will intervene just in the nick of time ..

Oh, and you're doin a heck of a job brownie !

 

 

Giant Meteor end times prophet Thu, 03/01/2018 - 22:57 Permalink

True, true enough. On the other hand there was this business of a well regulated militia being the yeomanry of the country, and standing armies being a detriment to a free people. Federalists and anti federalists alike agreed on these fine points.

But aside from this, and deer uprisings, the right to personal self defense is perhaps the most basic human right, and needs no greater understanding.

 

In reply to by end times prophet

curbjob Giant Meteor Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:16 Permalink

The question seems to be what limits the state imposes on the kind of firearms the citizenry can keep. My great grandmother defended her life and family store during a robbery with a sawn off shotgun ... today she'd be the criminal.

If the idea is to put down a tyrannical government,  clearly the citizenry couldn't call in air support.

In reply to by Giant Meteor

Giant Meteor curbjob Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:49 Permalink

Like most all other hotly debated issues of these, our epic times of great disturbances in the force, and general dysfunction, there seems a good bit of emotionalism on all sides. Then again, this is become standard operating procedure, and the order of the day in the great empire of bullshit  ...

I believe what you are saying, there is no real discernable balance in the argument to be made, the extreme ends of each spectrum rule the day. No matter, there is always a price to be paid, and paid it will be ..

To me personally, the macabre cartoon itself speaks in volumes.

I would be in favor of banning all forms of mental illness, 24/7 news/opinion reporting and general shit stirring cycle, and television in general. I would also ban unfortunate genetic aberrations, unsavory envirionmental and  societal conditions, poverty, penury, and  government education. All these seem to spawn evil faster than big pharma can crank out the next mind/mood altering (control) drug.

 

In reply to by curbjob

OverTheHedge Giant Meteor Fri, 03/02/2018 - 05:37 Permalink

As per Freakanomics, Roe vs Wade in 1973 led to the automatic murder reduction in the early 1990s: all those unwanted children growing up on the margins no longer exist to cause mayhem. I assume this is as true for school shootings as it is for murder generally. Now I know that abortion is a hugely politicised topic in America, and I also know that correlation is not necessarily causation, but it is interesting, none the less. 

Would abortion come under the heading of banning " unfortunate genetic aberrations, unsavory envirionmental and  societal conditions, poverty, penury, and  government education". Perhaps not the education, but every thing else?

 

In reply to by Giant Meteor

TheEndIsNear Thu, 03/01/2018 - 22:35 Permalink

If the BATF and FBI had done their jobs while doing a NICS check (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) on Cruz, he wouldn't have been able to purchase a firearm.  If the laws already in place were enforced there would be no need for new laws. There are far too many laws on the books already.

44_shooter TheEndIsNear Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:22 Permalink

keep believing in the process.  it only prevents you and me.

Crazy people can still steal guns.

Crazy people can still buy guns private party

Crazy people can still have family members that own weapons

Crazy people don't need a gun to kill people, knives, cars, hammers, axes - they all work just as good.

As long as your average gang member can buy a gun on the street, so can a nut.

So - you keep believing that really good background checks and waiting periods and bans on certain types of weapons are going to get this fixed.

 

If you truly believe in freedom, then you accept that shit is going to happen, with or without restrictions.  No guns in England, lots of people still being murdered, just with different tools - and no way to defend themselves now.

In reply to by TheEndIsNear

helloimjohnnycat TheEndIsNear Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:27 Permalink

I didn't vote for the joo-commie lawyers to over-write the US Constitution, so there you have it.

The Sodomsteins & Gomorrahmans will continue to suckk you guys dry from head to toe, up one side, down the other, front to rear.

The majority of WHITE Americans is now a collective overweight body of lazy & fearful pussy-whipped, joo-loving, non-combative morons.

Instead of watering our dehydrated Tree of Liberty, the PC slobs are too occupied pissing on each ( greed ), and pissin' their own pants ( fear ).

I'm serious.

 
 

In reply to by TheEndIsNear

PaulDF Thu, 03/01/2018 - 23:02 Permalink

Not to minimize the Florida tragedy; but I’m very glad I’m trained, proficient, armed, and very capable of protecting myself if the need arises. I hope my pistols are carbines are only used at the range and never need to be used in a dangerous or threatening situation.  But I’m glad I choose to have that option.  Without that option, you are a guaranteed victim. 

bloofer Fri, 03/02/2018 - 00:25 Permalink

I wouldn't attach much significance to crime statistics, as they are easily and customarily gamed.

One reason the homicide rate declined is because ERs--doubtless due to political pressure--got a lot better at saving victims' lives. Obviously, if you can keep a larger percentage of shooting victims from dying, you will have a lower homicide rate.

Expat Fri, 03/02/2018 - 05:51 Permalink

This is terrible! Those are rookie numbers!  Gotta get those numbers up.  America deserves more school shootings.  Make America number one in school shootings.  Do your part.

Fuck due process.  MAGA.

Etteguj Guj Fri, 03/02/2018 - 06:43 Permalink

That's good news. It means stupid Mercans can go on slaughtering each other in the knowledge that fings ain't wot they used to be - they're better! More guns - now!

gdpetti Fri, 03/02/2018 - 13:51 Permalink

Most of those former 'school shootings' were gang related or kids mad at each other... not the organized govt training ops designed to meme up the masses... and that number is up and climbing, as so far, we've only seen the warmup acts... wait till the grand finale gets going.