Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who are outspokenly in favor of increased gun control, appeared on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday and claimed their generation has become the “mass shooting generation.”
But according to a recent analysis studying school shootings, school shooting massacres are not a “growing epidemic,” as NPR phrased it.
What did the students claim?
During a comprehensive interview featuring the two most prominent high schoolers — Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg — the Parkland, Florida, students said they have been forced to deal with mass shootings their entire lives.
“The thing about it is we are the generation that’s had to be trapped in closets, waiting for police to come or waiting for a shooter to walk into our door. We are the people who know what it’s like first-hand,” student Alex Wind said.
“We’re the mass shooting generation,” Cameron Kasky added. “I was born months after Columbine. I’m 17 years old, and we’ve had 17 years of mass shootings.”
The students recited similar talking points in other interviews. They claimed gun violence is an epidemic gripping schools across the country, and one that has only become worse, often even claiming mass killings at school happen more often than they actually do.
The facts do not corroborate that narrative — they actually show the opposite.
“We’re the mass shooting generation.” On Saturday, the students are organizing a march in Washington. They want congress to ban military-style rifles, along with the kind of high-capacity magazines that were used in the Las Vegas and Sandy Hook attacks. pic.twitter.com/xGIoZ9DHqs
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 18, 2018
What do the facts say?
“Schools are safer today than they had been in previous decades,” James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston who has studied mass murder for three decades, told NPR.
Fox and doctoral student Emma Fridel recently ran the numbers and discovered there have been very few actual “mass shootings” — defined as a shooting with more than four deaths, excluding the killer — at schools since 1996. In fact, there have been just eight, while there have been just 16 multiple victim shootings.
Not only are school massacres not an “epidemic,” Fox said, but they are actually becoming less frequent than they were in the 1990s. “Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today,” Fox told News@Northeastern.
Meanwhile, Fox noted more children die each year in bicycle accidents and pool drownings than in mass killings at school.
Do some increased gun control measures have merit?
Fox said they do, such as raising the purchase age limits for rifles and banning bump stocks. Still, he cautioned mass killers will always find a “workaround.”
“The thing to remember is that these are extremely rare events, and no matter what you can come up with to prevent it, the shooter will have a workaround,” he explained to News@Northeastern.
In addition, Fridel said measures to prepare students for a mass shooting aren’t helpful.
“These measures just serve to alarm students and make them think it’s something that’s common,” she explained.