Stop and Think Before Acting
At times of mass hysteria, rational voices must speak up and urge calm. And what we are seeing now in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre can safely be described as mass hysteria.
The media’s anti-gun agenda is clear, and is entirely out of proportion with the facts. For instance, there have been almost 500 murders in (gun-free) Chicago this year, or the equivalent of approximately 19 Sandy Hook massacres. But that gets little to no coverage. The reality is that mass shootings of the type that occurred in Newtown, CT, as shocking as they are, amount to a negligible risk, and are dwarfed by other kinds of violence and more mundane causes of mortality (traffic fatalities in the US last year equaled approximately 1,245 Sandy Hook shootings). It’s not just the leftists in media, either. Joe Scarborough has basically lost his mind and is eagerly throwing freedom under the bus to pander to his audience.
But the media isn’t the only source of hysteria at the moment. Lawmakers, who actually have the power to produce real damage with their overreactions, are throwing around a host of awful ideas. It’s not just the usual and pointless effort to ban scary looking guns – so-called “assault weapons” that are distinguishable from other guns only by cosmetic features – though they want to do that too. The most moronic and hysterical idea I’ve seen to date comes courtesy of Sen. Boxer, who wants to deploy the national guard to schools.
The last time the nation collectively freaked out and made policy in response to an incredibly low likelihood event the result was the TSA – an ineffective and costly bureaucracy that seemingly finds new ways to violate our rights with each passing day.
Schools are, statistically speaking, one of the safest places for children to be. We don’t need armed troops parading the halls. We don’t need to wall them up and turn them into prisons. For God’s sake people, calm down.
Here, have some more perspective:
After spikes in the 1990s and 2000s, both in the number of deadly shootings and victims, mass public shootings have followed no discernible trend. The number of shootings rose in the early 1990s, then dropped just as precipitously. A decade later, it happened again.
In spite of high-profile cases of the past few weeks, there hasn’t been an uptick in mass shootings this year, said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University. Fox tracks mass murders dating back to 1976 and said most occur inside places such as homes and workplaces. But he said public shootings in restaurants and malls are nothing new.
“It’s awful,” Fox said. “Yet this is not an epidemic and we’re not seeing a new upward trend.”
In schools, where public angst over shootings is often highest, the truth is actually more definitive: Deadly shootings are rare and getting rarer.
School shootings have declined dramatically over the past few decades, even as attacks such as those at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 and Scotland’s Dunblane Primary School in 1996 have loomed large in our imaginations. The early 1990s were among the worst years for school killings, as gang-related incidents “spilled over into schools,” Fox said.
After reaching a high of 63 deaths in the 2006-2007 school year, the number of people killed in “school-associated” incidents dropped to 33 in 2009-2010 – the lowest in two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
While a few dozen children are killed each year in school, statistically speaking it remains the safest place a child will likely ever be, with the lowest chance of being killed. “When you consider the fact that there are over 50 million schoolchildren in America, the chances are over 1 in 2 million, not a high probability,” Fox said. “And most cases that do occur are in high schools and less so in middle schools – and hardly ever in elementary schools.”
So lawmakers, please stop and think before acting. For the rest of you, calm down and don’t encourage foolish lawmakers with knee-jerk demands to “do something.”