David Ropeik, who teaches at Harvard and who is a risk assessment expert, finally wrote the article I’ve been waiting for…and it was published almost a month after the Parkland shooting, following almost a month of the ignorant and arrogant grandstanding by the high school students who have been used as virtual human shields by the anti-gun lobby, almost a month after the news media and expedient politicians, including the President, began pandering to grief and ignorance while going out of their way to make the public believe that school shootings are a national crisis.
I’m glad that some sunlight of reality made it through the human-made fog, but it is unconscionable that it took this long, Now let’s see how thoroughly the news media, a full partner with the ban-gun effort, will bury it.
Before I start, however, let me salute the Washington Post. I have not read a Post Sunday Outlook section since switching over to the Times—a better paper but far, far more partisan and biased than its only close competitor—and it was stunning to be reminded what a Sunday news commentary supplement looked like that didn’t feature hysterical Trump -bashing in 75%-90% of its articles. Not only that, the Post had the courage to challenge the conventional, and false, wisdom about school shootings being actively promoted by the Times and the rest of the mainstream media.
Among the points made by Ropeik in his essay, “School shootings are extraordinarily rare. Why is fear of them driving policy?”:
- “The Education Department reports that roughly 50 million children attend public schools for roughly 180 days per year. Since Columbine (1999), approximately 200 public school students have been shot to death while school was in session, including the recent slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (and a shooting in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday that police called accidental that left one student dead). That means the statistical likelihood of any given public school student being killed by a gun, in school, on any given day since 1999 was roughly 1 in 614,000,000.”
This is not a great risk. This is not even a significant risk. To say, as the Kiddie Corps has been telling us, that this risk is “unacceptable” can only mean that the official, anti-gun position is that no risk is acceptable. Surely no one is going to argue that a 1 in 614,000,000 chance of being killed in another Parkland or Newtown is unconscionable, but a one in 1, 228,000,000 chance is just fine. And how do we reach no risk? We spend incredible amounts of money, trash our national liberties, send kids to lightless, joyless iron boxes…and there will still be a risk
- “[S]ince the 1990s, shootings at schools have been getting less common.”
What? What about all those statistics that claim the opposite? They are advocacy statistics, spun and manipulated. Cheating, in other words. Ropeik is hardly an NRA shill: it’s clear that he is venturing to make these observations while aware that he is risking his progressive bona fides, and thus his invitations to Cambridge cocktail parties. He writes for example,
The problem with all of this is what our excessive fears could lead to. Having more guns in schools, as President Trump advocates — or more guns anywhere — increases the likelihood of gun violence. …The Parkland tragedy itself teaches that more guns don’t automatically mean more safety: The school was patrolled by an armed guard.
The studies claiming that more guns lead to more gun violence are all based on cross-cultural, international comparisons, which many believe (as do I) pollute the findings. Do more guns in the US lead to more gun violence? Reiko himself cited a stat that suggests otherwise: there are more guns in the U.S. now than before Columbine, and a decline in the frequency of shootings at schools. As for the armed guard, citing a professional with a gun who doesn’t do his job tells us nothing about guns, just that it is who is holding it that matters—which is what the NRA has been saying since I was knee-high to a chipmunk.
More from Ropeik:
- “Another effect of this disproportionate fear is to direct attention to the risks we’re most afraid of and away from those that actually pose the greatest threat. Far more kids are shot outside school than in one — 7,100 a year between 2012 and 2014 , or 19 every day (compared with about 60 shootings at schools each year, according to the Gun Violence Archive). More than 1,000 of them die.”
This statistic could form the basis of a fair legitimate policy discussion about why children are being shot and by whom and with what. Instead, the anti-gun shills are using Parkland, because it is vivid, it is scary, and it eradicates logic and reason.
- “Fear also leads us to do things in pursuit of safety that may do more harm than what we’re afraid of in the first place. Think about the psychological effects on kids from all those lessons about when to run, how to hide, directions from their parents to call home if a shooting occurs…What happens to children’s ability to learn if they spend their time in the classroom wondering, even if only occasionally, who’s going to burst in and open fire? What does the chronic stress of such worry do to their health? What do constant messages of potential danger in a place that’s supposed to be safe do to their sense of security in the world?
The news media and the Left have become really expert, individually and in tandem, at terrifying the public in order to make draconian policies seem like the wisest alternative to disaster. By now the public should be really expert at recognizing this tactic as the propaganda it is.
- “The constant drumbeat of negative news in general — the possibility of nuclear war, terrorism, a bad flu season, hate crimes, climate change — makes the world feel like a darker, more threatening place than it actually is, which makes us more fearful overall. (Media analyst George Gerbner called this “mean world syndrome.”) School shootings don’t happen in isolation but in the context of worrying news about all sorts of things. “
I bet regular readers of Ethics Alarms can write my next sentence without me…so I’ll just leave it at that. Finally:
- “The psychology researchers who study this — Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, Baruch Fischhoff, Melissa Finucane and many others — are cautious about just how well we can use reason to overcome our instincts and emotions, especially the instincts that evolved to help us survive. Just as surely as there will be another school shooting, it will prompt another flood of outrage and fear. That fear, while understandable, will distract us from greater threats and lead to behaviors that do greater harm.”
Read the whole thing. Then share the Post’s article—not mine, but Ropeik’s: he’s the risk expert, and he even defaults to calling for “reasonable gun control,” whatever that is—on social media and with your gun-grabbing friends.
There is no excuse, and there never was, for Jake Tapper, while botching his moderation of the CNN “town hall,” not asking those enraged high schools students, “The odds of an American student being shot in school is about 1 in 614,000,000. Much more remote than your odds of getting killed riding your bicycle or to school in a car, or hit by lightening, or drowning in a flood. Why do you say American students should be terrified?”
if we want to have a debate about restricting gun ownership, then have it, but using reality, adults, and not building it on panic over remote tragedies that seem scary primarily because the media hypes them for ratings, and to get Democrats elected, of course.
73 thoughts on “The Definitive Reason Why The Parkland Shooting Freak-Out Is Cynical, Dishonest Fear-mongering, And Why We Should Not Tolerate It Any Further”
Because it isn’t about saving lives or safety.
It’s about disarming citizens.
Hard to be totalitarian if you are worried about snipers, er, deer hunters who might take great offense to your heavy handed tactics.
One minor quibble: 1 in 614,000,000 is the odds of a student being shot and killed on any given day. Assuming 180 school days per year and 13 years (K-12), a student’s odds of being shot and killed at school are more like 1 in 262,000.
Those odds are still miniscule, but more relevant (since if a 15 year old is killed nobody says “but look at how many days he DIDN’T get killed!”
OK, Luke…you gave me my snort for the day. Thanks, but really?
Correct numbers are worth using- even if the general point still applies, accuracy matters. If you want to be an idealist, it’s because fair disagreement merits rigor in your own claims. If you want to be a cynic, don’t give the other side an opening to dismiss your whole argument because you used an overly charitable statistic.
Luke I think I see what you’re driving at: There’s a disparity between the timespan involved (19 years) and the length of time any particular student is actually a student in a school (13 years).
In fact, I’d like to know how they arrived at the 1 in 614 million figure since I can’t seem to find a way to reproduce it–or anything in the same order of magnitude.
I just took the 614M number at face value.
But yes, it’s a time function- the 614M odds are per day. To illustrate: the odds of flipping heads on a fair coin are 1 in 2. If I said “flip a coin. Heads you owe me $1, tails I owe you $5” you’d likely take that bet.
But what if the terms of the bet were that you had to flip twice, and if either flip was heads you lost? What if you had to flip 10 times?
That’s why using the single day odds (assuming that number is 100% accurate) is still misleading. A single day may be very safe, but a student must survive EVERY day. You lose whether you flip heads on your first flip or your tenth; a student loses whether he’s shot on the first day of kindergarten or the last day of senior year.
As for the odds, here’s my stats- nerd attempt. Rather than worrying about how long a student’s career is, just calculate tree number of total attendance days. If 50M students attend school all the way through, there are 50M students attending at once. Assuming exactly 180 school days per full calendar year, 1999-2017 inclusive, then…
(180 days)*(19 years)*(50M students) = 171 Billion.
The odds of being killed in a given day are thus 200 in 171B, or 1 in 855 Million.
Not an exact match, but within reasonable error if there were some different assumptions.
Why would you use 19 years? K to 12 is 13.
(180*13*50M) = 117B which is 1 in 585 million.
I think they probably used the actual number of school days in a year, or the actual number of students to get the number, the difference between 615 and 585 is about 4%, that’s rough for an error of margin, but could be caused by rounding.
19 years: 1999-2017.
If 50M students attend school, then on any given day there are 50M students in school. A class graduates and is replaced by an incoming class.
once you know the per-day per-student risk you can figure out a specific student’s risk based on 13 years.
But the kids aren’t in School for 19 years… They aren’t “At risk” for 19 years. To trace the risk of an individual, you have to follow the path of the individual, even if you have a larger information sample.
Lets exemplify this.
Lets assume that driving entails some amount of risk. Lets further say that for every 1000 hours that you drive or ride in a vehicle (car/truck/bus etc..) you will be involved in an accident.
There are a couple of things you can measure:
1. You could measure your personal risk. Lets say you ride or drive 1 hour per day, 280 days per year. So 280 hours per year. That means that every ~3.57 years you will be in an accident, statistically speaking.
2. You could measure the average risk that riders / drivers are at. Lets say that the average person actually rides/drives 2 hours per day, 200 days per year. So now, 400 hours per year. This means that every ~2.5 years you will be in an accident, statistically speaking.
Now, which one is useful to society? What one individual’s statistical risk is, or what the statistical risk is to a typical member of society? I am sure you would like to know your specific risk, but that is not really helpful when we are talking about society as a whole.
So, this is really the same thing. We can measure one individuals risk of being killed by guns at school (which is not really that helpful at a societal level) or we can measure the average individuals risk, and over the last 19 years (in aggregate), which is more helpful when we are talking about society wide trends.
Except if you use 13 years, you’re calculating risk based on 19 years of shootings and 13 years of attendance. ABSOLUTE risk isn’t based on a specific student’s risk, it’s the risk that any random student is shot on any one day. Treat the students as fungible- when Billy graduates, Jenny starts kindergarten, and the number of students at school on a given day stays constant.
Once you know the absolute risk of any random student being shot over the 19 year window, you can calculate a specific student’s risk based on how long he is in school.
You’re right, I was having a moment.
I want to point out, for all to see, that THIS is how a difference in opinion is discussed by civilized adults.
Persuasion, facts, and reason carried the day. Emotion, rhetoric, and name calling were not present.
This is what discourse used to be, in intelligent circles.
This is what EA is here for.
This is what we have to bring back in our nation.
Humble: no worries, that’s an easy mistake to make, I did the same thing when I first read the post.
Slick: thanks. I credit my career experience explaining data to people who might fire me if I explain too aggressively 😀
I’m grateful for this thread.
That said, all I really care bout is that the chances of student being shot in school are vanishingly small, and not the opposite, as David Hogg et al. keeps trying to tell us.
Before getting lost in an enjoyable number problem, my point in bringing it up was that at don’t want to be the people who cite some large number of shootings, and when confronted by a more accurate number wave it off as “Well it’s still too many, why are you quibbling over details?”
Luke G wrote, “One minor quibble: 1 in 614,000,000 is the odds of a student being shot and killed on any given day. Assuming 180 school days per year and 13 years (K-12), a student’s odds of being shot and killed at school are more like 1 in 262,000.”
Fun with numbers but that’s actually wrong..
Your odds don’t increase or decrease the more you attend they are exactly the same every single day attended. The only way the odds change is if the quantity of students increases or decreases or the numbers of student deaths increase or decrease. 😉
Your confusing cumulative odds with the Monte Carlo fallacy. It’s true the odds are the same every day, but a student must “win” every single day. A fair coin that flips Heads 9 times in a row still has 1 in 2 odds of flipping heads again, but before the flipping starts it doesn’t have 1 in 2 odds of flipping 10 heads in a row.
Right, and the cumulative odds of something not happening are the odds of it happening, multiplied by itself the number of times something occurs.
1 in 615 million is a 1.62602^-9 chance, the math from there is
Which is about 3.80487^-6 or 1 in 262,821.
Or if you’re scared of exponents, just divide the denominator:
614M / (180*13) = ~262,000
It’s quick and dirty but easier to do on a cell phone 🙂
I think I misunderstood your argument. I understood it as – since the student goes to school for 180 days a year for 13 years then their odds on any given day changes to 1 in 262,000.
I think a cumulative odds argument in this particular context is hyperbole and throws gasoline on the fire of anti-gun advocates that will misuse the 1 in 262,000 argument as propaganda to fog over the daily odds. The 1 in 614,000,000 argument is the argument that people need to hear, it tells them the odds of their child being shot at school on any given day.
I disagree. As stated above, it’s only a “win” if your child makes it all the way through school- unless “look, he went to school a thousand times and only got killed ONCE” is a compelling argument.
When anti gun activists throw out statistics that use technicalities to seem as scary as possible, we rightly call them out. We sound hold ourselves to the same standard, not give in to the urge to use the most favorable number even when it’s not a true reflection of risk.
I’ve really got to clarify; are you, or are you not, stating that the odds on any single given day (how about today) are 1 in 262,000?
Luke G wrote, “When anti gun activists throw out statistics that use technicalities to seem as scary as possible, we rightly call them out. We sound hold ourselves to the same standard, not give in to the urge to use the most favorable number even when it’s not a true reflection of risk.”
I don’t disagree with any of that.
(Assuming the original article is accurate and given the assumptions I’ve specified elsewhere), the odds of being shot and killed at school on any given day are 1 in 614M. The odds of being shot and killed at school at some point between day 1 of kindergarten and the last day of senior year is about 1 in 262,000.
Luke G wrote, “(Assuming the original article is accurate and given the assumptions I’ve specified elsewhere), the odds of being shot and killed at school on any given day are 1 in 614M.”
We are in violent agreement. 😉
Luke G wrote, “We sound hold ourselves to the same standard, not give in to the urge to use the most favorable number even when it’s not a true reflection of risk.”
As I said before, I agree.
Personally I think the 1 in 614M is the true reflection of risk for the general population not the 1 in 262K. Why do I think that; it’s based on my personal experiences?
I have found over the years that when talking about risk factors to the general public most people dump any risk factor into one narrowly focused container, what is my risk right at this moment in time, not what is my risk over a long period of time. It’s all about what is the risk at this moment in time. What parents are in need of knowing is the risk factor related to sending their child to school today.
If the anti-gunners were to use the 1 in 262K cumulative risk factor alone, even if it’s reasonably explained, I found that for most people the time frame is going to blow over their heads and they are going to think that 1 in 262K is the risk at that moment in time and that would be a false conclusion. If the 1 in 262K cumulative risk factor is presented at the exact same time as the 1 in 614M daily risk factor then I don’t have any problem using it. In my opinion, using the 1 in 262K cumulative risk factor without including the daily risk factor is being intentionally deceptive to the public at large because the people want to know what the risk is right now and that number is going to stick in their heads as a daily risk factor – it’s intentional fear mongering, where using the 1 in 614M daily risk factor alone is not being deceptive in any way.
I’d be interested in hearing opinions from our resident Psychologist and Psychiatrist on my perspective.
I will tell you this…statistics are largely descriptive, and neither number is truly descriptive. They show nothing, except that school shootings are rare (which most of us already knew) and that there is no causal clue in these numbers. In other words, neither ratio gives us any insight into why this happened or how to lower the probability of it happening again. Thus, mostly useless.
Except to tell us the shootings are rare, which is all we need to definitively disprove snotty kids insulting adults and saying they are NOT rare, and that everyone should be terrified.
That’s what I have been saying all along.
I completely agree.
Do you have any insight into how people deal with long term vs immediate risk factors?
Any feedback on these parts of my comment; “most people dump any risk factor into one narrowly focused container, what is my risk right at this moment in time”, “for most people the time frame is going to blow over their heads and they are going to think that 1 in 262K is the risk at that moment in time”, “using the 1 in 262K cumulative risk factor without including the daily risk factor is being intentionally deceptive to the public at large because the people want to know what the risk is right now and that number is going to stick in their heads as a daily risk factor”.
…but most importantly…
Since most people can’t really wrap their heads around long term risk factors, “What parents are in need of knowing is the risk factor related to sending their child to school today.”
This may not be one of those topics that comes up very often in private consultations; I’m just being overly curious. 🙂
You can’t be overly curious, unless you’re a cat.
Wait; ARE you a cat???
Z, I am almost instantly suspicious of a statement that starts out with “most people”. We don’t know who “most people” are, and have no way to collect data on them. That said, there is a very human tendency to “live in the moment”. We all, I think, have difficulty with ANYTHING that happens in the long-term, so yes, I would think risk assessment would be on a day-to-day basis.
dragin_dragon wrote, “I am almost instantly suspicious of a statement that starts out with “most people”. We don’t know who “most people” are…”
I completely agree with you; however because of my problem with using “most people” too broadly I did intentionally clarify ahead of time with “it’s based on my personal experiences?”, “I have found over the years that when talking about risk factors…”. 😉
So, I initially started out thinking your number had to be wrong Luke, because it seemed, to my first impressions, like it would have required a lot more deaths to hold true. When I checked it back the other way, trying to figure out how many students would have died before graduation from being shot in school over the 19 year period, if it was right, it actually came out to be pretty close to accurate… and reality is actually doing slightly better than would be expected by the statistics (I anticipate rounding errors to be the cause).
For the record, I’m no statistician, but here’s how I came to that conclusion… If we have about 50M students each year in school, it means that in the 19 years we’re tracking, about 73.08M students have finished their school careers (50M/13 for grades, puts about 3,846,154 in each grade, 19 years worth of which have finished school)… which, if your number of 1 in 262,000 not doing so is right, yields an expected number of people to not complete because of being shot in school at 279.
Overall, you’re probably right that the odds you pointed out are more relevant to the discussion, than the odds of being shot on any specific day. But if we are going to have the discussion using them, we need to make sure that other odds which are used for comparative purposes are calculated similarly (ie, over a lifetime). I just went looking to see how those matched up.
Odds of an American being killed by X in their lifetime:
-Lightning: 1 in 162,000
-Automobile accident: 1 in 114
-By a dog, or complications from a dog-injury: 1 in 112,400
-Accident involving air or spacecraft: 1 in 9,821
-Flood: 1 in 505,801
What are these kids worrying about again?
This is a relevant statistical point.
Interestingly, ironically, or illustratively, about two and a half years ago Obama and the mainstream media scoffed at calls for tighter immigration controls and stronger law enforcement in the wake of San Bernardino and similar attacks, remarking on how miniscule the chances of actually getting killed or attacked by a terrorist were and how that was just fearmongering. Likewise, you never heard word one about gun control after the Chattanooga shootings, or maybe not letting murderers out of prison after the West Webster ambush. It’s not about safety or policy or doing the right thing, it’s about making political hay for your side.
If the stats are on your side pound on the stats, is emotion is on your side pound on emotion- something like that?
Ahahaha. Actually, as we lawyers say, if the law is on your side pound the law, if the facts are on your side pound the facts, if neither the law nor the facts are on your side, pound the table.
Where do you think I stole the joke from?
About these ignorant and misguided teens …. Are you really saying that teens don’t have a right to protest? Is the test whether or not those teens agree with you, Jack Marshall? I see teens every day protesting or supporting causes they believe in — most notably, you will see a lot of pro life demonstrators who are children in DC all the time. Is it okay for them to do that because you agree with pro-life for the most part? Or, let’s take something a little less divisive — the death penalty. I see teens on both sides of that issue. Am I allowed to call pro-death penalty teens ignorant because they are unaware of how the death penalty is imposed in this country? For what it’s worth, I was anti-abortion/pro death penalty as a teen and switched as an adult. Was I ignorant then or am I ignorant now?
Gun rights are no different. The underpinning of most of the 2A’ers arguments is that guns are needed to keep our liberties safe from government interference. I understand that you — and many on this blog — believe that fervently. I, just as fervently, believe that the government could kill us all with drones, our massive military, shutting off the internet (how many of you can feed your family off your land starting tomorrow if you had to?), shutting off power, water, etc. Now, I am willing to concede that I could be wrong — and I certainly don’t want to debate it again here — but I would never call someone who believes that he could stand up to the U.S. military with an AR-15 (insert any gun you want here) ignorant. Similarly, I would expect the same consideration in return if I stated that millions of Americans would die if the government wanted to without even firing a single bullet.
Kids have every right to protest – when they aren’t supposed to be in school, but their words should be given the appropriate weight. That said, I don’t care how strongly my kid feels about something, protesting isn’t going to take away from academics or college-resume building.
Appropriate weight being “almost none at all.”
They have a right to protest, or wear ducks on their heads. If they appear on TV as authorities, they have an obligation to be responsible, do their research, know what the hell they are talking about, and not sew misinformation surfing on emotion. They have no right to be on CNN, or a guest at a rally.
NO, spartan, the underpinning of these manipulated and exploited tots is that schools are unsafe, and that students are being slaughtered because of the NRA. That’s not true. They have a right to lie, and adults have an obligation to call them on it, not promote the lies.
Even Republicans are arguing that schools are unsafe — the difference seems to be how do we deal with that: arming teachers, stronger background checks, restricted firearms, more security in schools, better security measures generally. Is your disgust equally aimed at the Republican grownups who are participating in this discussion? I don’t think so — you are focusing on the younger anti-gun crowd even though they are working from the same premise as Republicans, they just have a different response.
As for dismissing them because of their youth, well, I certainly don’t believe in lowering the voting age any further, but to engage in the statistical debate here for a minute — half of all voting eligible adults are by definition of below average intelligence. Dismissing someone’s viewpoint because of age seems rather silly.
“Even Republicans are arguing that schools are unsafe”
Everybody does it. They don’t have the guts or integrity to do otherwise, that’s all.
Schools are safe. The fact that everyone is running around saying otherwise based on completely hysteria doesn’t make doing so responsible or right.
This is not everybody does it. This is me correctly pointing out that you are focusing (and have been since Parkland) on the young protestors. What you are really annoyed about is their position on the Second Amendment. If you wanted to argue that schools are perfectly safe, you would be skewering both sides.
No, what I object to, because it is dishonest, is that they are beginning with a provably false premise. Schools are NOT unsafe. If the students are “terrified,” they need professional help. (No one in recorded history has been in TWO schools that were shot up.) It is NOT “simple” to avoid the rare mass shooting, and it is impossible to say “never again.” I’m all for debate with open agendas and common terms and facts employed by knowledgeable adversaries.
Schools in general are very safe; however, there are public schools in some areas that are not very safe but it’s not because of school shootings. Some public schools have effectively lost control of the student population and associated behavior problems, there are constants fights, general melees, students roaming the halls, gang problems, drug problems, etc. I know people in my area (a Progressive bubble surrounded by reality) that home school or send their children to private schools because of the constant behavior problems in the area public schools.
Z, I would also guess that we will see this happening more and more frequently, as the Progressive grasp on the educational system tightens.
Whether you call schools safe or unsafe depends on your accepted risk, no? If no kid ever got hurt in any way at school, then it’s safe. If every kid died before graduation then it’s unsafe. Beyond that, it’s all about risk tolerance.
To abstract this a step, do you eat raw cookie dough? It CAN make you sick, or even kill you, but the odds are you’ll be ok. Many eat it anyway, because the risk is small enough they call it “safe.” Many don’t, because the risk is high enough they call it “unsafe.”
Whether schools are “safe” or “unsafe” is a discussion bound to fail because the terms don’t have static definitions. It’s really about “what is the risk of the danger at hand? What changes can mitigate that risk, and what are the costs and side effects of those changes?”
What better way to baptize impressionable teens into the massive brainwashing tactics of progressive propaganda than to have them literally yelling the progressive propaganda at the top of their lungs. For the left, the ends justify the means, how can this tactic possibly go wrong? They are promoting the ignorant opinions of these ignorant teens as experts and “telling” them that their ignorant voice is going to change the world and like a magnet these teens will be sucked into the feel goodness of the Progressive movement. It’s almost like giving these children a giant participation trophy to flaunt at the world “I’m Important”!
“If you can indoctrinate them when they’re children, you will have them forever!” Adolf Hitler
They totally should, and do in fact have the right and even the responsibility to speak their minds and protest. I don’t even have a problem with them expressing themselves while at school (to a reasonable degree). However, and this is a big however, if they choose to engage in an adult conversation, about adult subjects while using childish arguments, they should expect no quarter when it turns out they have no idea what they are talking about, they are spewing misinformation and when they clearly do not have a grasp on the fundamental issues at hand. I am not going to take it easy on them when they are proselytizing to do away with my rights and responsibilities with regard to my life, my family and my community.
If the government were that powerful, why have they not disarmed criminal gangs- let alone shut them down permanently?
“Report of Relative Risks of Death in U.S. K-12 Schools” by Stephen C. Satterly, Jr. was released in 2014. It was prompted by the Sandy Hook school shooting. An effort was made to find the most reliable data available to look at all causes of student death related to going to school from 1998 to 2012. There were uncertainties in some of the data but the results showed that some of the causes of death related to school were: transportation 40%, homicide (not active shooter) 26%, suicide 10%, unknown 10%, active shooter 4%, and wind related (tornado) 2%. There were a few other categories such as gang related with a few percent and accidents other than transportation were 1%. There were a total of 1300 deaths in the 15 year period or about 87 per year. Given the estimated 50 million attending, the individual risk of dying in school related activity from any cause is minuscule. I actually came across this report while trying to find deaths in school from medical causes but this report attempted to find that and states that those statistics are not available. The 27 page report is freely available on line.
Mike, Luke, and Steve mention realistic reasons why there has been so much ballyhoo about the school shooting incidents. But I think there is also the issue of how humans perceive risk. Basically, we greatly overestimate the chance that a very rare event will occur and are not good at dealing with very small probabilities. Rare and horrific events have a much greater impact on us than events that occur frequently but are less horrific due to our greater experience with them. There were 14 children killed at Parkland and there should be concern for them but in 2013 about 6.9 driving age teens were killed per day in driving related accidents. The inability of people to accurately evaluate small probabilities is a windfall for the lottery.
Well said. My degree is in microbiology and it frustrates me to no end that people are more afraid of Ebola or the flaming weasel pox than they are of dull old flu and Listeria, even though diseases like the latter are way more likely to kill them.
Rare is scary. Rare and showy is scarier yet.
It’s not that rare is scary, it’s that a school shooting can’t be prevented. Of course driving is dangerous, but as a parent, I make sure that I drive a safe car, my kids always wear seat belts, I drive slow, I never drink and drive, etc. My kids always get their flu shots. We wash all fruits and vegetables properly before eating them. We identified anxiety in my youngest early and are spending time and money to treat it — I certainly don’t want my child to commit suicide as a teen. My kids don’t have cell phones, so we don’t have the risks of online predators or cyber bullying. I can’t eliminate every known risk, but I can reduce them — however rare. (I used to always cut up hot dogs too because choking was high on my fear list.) But what can I do to prevent a school shooting, however remote that event might be? I can’t.
But I hate this argument anyway. So what if it is rare? My daughters also have a 0% chance of becoming coal miners, but I still support MSHA. I believe that I have sufficiently scared them into never getting on a motorcycle, but I still support helmet laws. Just because something is unlikely to happen to YOU doesn’t mean that it won’t happen to somebody. And if it can be prevented, then we should prevent it. The rub here is the balance between preventing gun violence and the Second Amendment.
Good point about control. I’m more scared of a plane crash than a car crash because a car crash is something I have a chance to avoid or mitigate with my actions, a plane crash is out of my hands.
I think you’re using a poor analogy. Motorcycle helmets may not help you kids because they don’t ride, but are a huge factor in risk for a subset of the population. The risk is unequal. The school shooting risk is equal, but minuscule. Tree argument isn’t “It won’t be my kids, other kids are the ones at risk” but rather “the risk to EVERY kid is so tiny, what magnitude of response is appropriate?”
Fair point. But I’m not sure the analysis should be, “Only X percentage of children will be shot this year.” Yes, we are a big nation and have a seemingly endless supply of children, regardless of the number that are shot each year. But that isn’t and shouldn’t be the analysis. We certainly don’t focus on that when we are talking about abortion vs. pro life. Or vaccinations.
My point wasn’t “the risk is so small we should do nothing whatsoever,” but rather that it’s not fair to characterize punting out the low risk as saying “this affects someone else’s kids not mine so I don’t care”
Vaccinations? We do exactly that: we accept the reality that vaccinations are vital, and that a certain number of deaths from them are inevitable.
“But what can I do to prevent a school shooting, however remote that event might be? I can’t.”
It is true that you cannot prevent a school shooting but you can prevent your children from being the victim of a school shooting. Since Parkland, there has been a surge in interest in home schooling in Florida and I suspect that increased interest extends beyond Florida. I personally would not home school my child for that reason given the exceedingly small risk of a school shooting but would not fault anyone who made that choice. Home schooling doesn’t ensure perfect safety. About 2000 children age 14 and under die in home accidents each year so children being home schooled will be at increased risk from that cause. I got my gray hair when my daughters started driving. Every time they were out and the phone rang I would have a moment of dread. Sounds like you still have that to look forward to.
Oh, just wait until the first parent goes nuts and shoots their kid mid-home schooling. I was tempted many times…
What are the odds of that happening?
‘The lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math’
Apparently gun control advocates have the same problem.
I would say most people do. It’s an old joke in my field that nobody wants a scientist on a jury because when a lawyer says “Now what are the odds of that happening by chance?” The scientist will tell him.
I have a Diet Coke addiction and find myself in a 7-11 at least once a week. I did pay the idiot tax today and bought a lottery ticket. I decided the dream of winning $400 M was worth flushing $2 down the toilet.
That was a form of entertainment, no? Somebody wins, usually.
My dad does not go to movies, rarely eats out, etc… but sometimes plays the lottery. His disposable income, out of his ‘entertainment budget, so more power to him.
Of course, we all know who the heir is, right?
My point is that you don’t seriously expect to win, right?
Ha ha. No. More times than not, I find a lottery ticket in the bottom of my purse 6 months later because I don’t even bother to check my numbers.
On a related note.
Note that this is the same Kamala Harris who said this.
America, I think, never quite got over the embarrassing failure of “DUCK AND COVER!!!” With the usual not-so-hidden political agendas in mind, some people just keep on using the children to justify their fear of losing power.