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.