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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.

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comments (2)

  • If I understand your argument here, apparently we should ignore school gun violence issues completely (they are “statistically insignificant”) and focus only on higher death toll problems like car accidents, drug overdoses, suicides, etc. A couple things come to mind, One is that there already are programs for car safety improvements , safe teen driving, drug prevention, suicide prevention, etc. so why should there be no effort made (you did not suggest any) to keep schools safe from gun violence? At what level of death toll, as compared to the other problems you mentioned, would this problem merit our specific attention? My other thought was if there is a dangerous intersection near a school where two students lost their lives, should we forego doing anything to mitigate that problem as it is “statistically insignificant” when compared to the bigger killers you mentioned?

    It is also interesting that you made the comparison between airliner crashes and school shootings as both being “statistically insignificant” given the huge amount of effort, expense, and inconvenience expended to prevent airplane crashes in general and terrorism-related airliner crashes in particular – why is that OK but any effort in our schools is a waste of time? Inquiring minds want to know…

  • Law abiding citizens should not have their rights infringed upon and be disarmed simply because criminals use guns. Government failures to act upon actionable intelligence does not equate to the necessity of requiring citizens to depend on this history of failure.

    @ Roger O’Malley

    Your statement, “Inquiring minds want to know…”

    In Jacqueline Cooper’s excellent editorial (in this past Thursday’s paper) on the causes of the Florida shooting (or in any perusal of news accounts on the subject), she relates how the Obama administration rewarded schools and police departments for not reporting or dealing with dangerous student activity. People saw something, said something (repeatedly), and the school and police department did nothing to protect the students. This failure on the part of government continued even during the shooting when officers failed to engage the shooter (unlike the NRA member who shot the perpetrator of the Texas church shooting which was again, another failure of the government to act).

    I can’t speak for Mr. John Kim but he did say, “But some perspective is in order.” I didn’t hear him suggest we do nothing. The doing nothing is what government did before and during the Florida shooting; the police chief then, inexplicably, blamed the NRA (for his own failures).

    Your excellent question, “At what level of death toll, as compared to the other problems you mentioned, would this problem merit our specific attention?”

    I always think of this very question in regards to being overrun by illegals and Islamic terror, issues leftists are so soft on that they can be legitimately accused of aiding and abetting said activities.

    Regarding the dangerous intersection example above, I think we could all agree that placing stop signs, traffic lights, and/or crosswalks to “mitigate” a dangerous situation is a lot easier than preventing determined individuals from murdering their schoolmates particularly if these individuals don’t care if they themselves live or die.

    As you have correctly pointed out, there are already suicide prevention programs as well as programs dealing with other mental health issues and a renewed focus on bullying, these would help mitigate potential school shootings…if they were heeded. Apparently, this was too much to ask in Parkland.

    As some of these teenage shooters are looking for notoriety and to exceed the body count of past mass shootings, how about our news media exercising some responsibility and not providing mass shooters with what they seek…fame? If miscreants remain faceless, or even nameless, if all media attention is focused on the victims and their families, and if when mentioning shooters they are only referred to in disgust, then perhaps at least one motivation for killing will be “mitigated”.

    I would support teachers being voluntarily armed and trained, but not mandated. What I would NOT support (you did not express support for this), is chasing the fantasy that making it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain firearms would somehow keep these firearms out of the hands of criminals. That is a demonstrably failed policy as made manifest in Chicago, home of some of the nations toughest gun laws.

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