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John Kim, Dana Point
This is not to disrespect those lives lost in school shootings, and I completely support the right of students to stand up for issues they believe affect them. But some perspective is in order. The U.S. cause of death statistics are readily available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For 2015, the leading causes of death for the 15-19-year-old demographic were: 3,919 deaths from accidents (mostly automobile accidents and drug overdoses), 2,061 deaths by suicide, 583 deaths from cancer, 306 deaths from heart disease and 195 deaths from birth defects.
In comparison, the number of non-gang, non-suicide fatalities in school shootings nationwide (K-12, not just ages 15-19) averages about 15 per year (and has been declining). Since there are approximately 51 million K-12 students in the U.S., a student’s chances of being killed in a non-gang, non-suicide school shooting in any given year are about 1 in 3.4 million. You are roughly three times more likely to be struck by lightning (1 in 1.08 million).
Like airliner crashes, school shootings are one of these extremely rare, statistically insignificant events whose emotional impact creates a large amount of social interest. This causes a disproportionate amount of press coverage, leading people to wildly overestimate the actual danger. If you really want to save high school students’ lives, teach them to drive safely and buckle their seat belts, not to use drugs, seek counseling for depression, stay out of gangs, eat healthy and exercise, get the flu shot, don’t smoke, don’t eat too many sweets and avoid teen pregnancy. All of these will save many more lives than all the hand-wringing over school shootings.