What if Our Schools Are Actually Safer, and School Shootings Aren’t Actually More Common?


Protesters demonstrate in the Not One More rally for gun legislation, held at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Feb. 17, 2018. Since Wednesday, when a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., teenage voices have resonated where those of longtime politicians have largely fallen flat. (Saul Martinez/The New York Times)

One point I’ve been trying to make in the debate which erupted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is that America is actually a far less violent country than it was a generation ago.

The public perception driven by myopic and sensationalist media coverage is that violent crime, and gun violence specifically, is on the rise in America. The truth, per this data from the Pew Foundation, is the opposite:

Violent crime is down significantly:

Crime rates have fallen since the early 1990s

So is gun crime:

Gun Violence Has Declined Since '90s

These declines have happened despite an overall loosening of U.S. gun laws. The trend in state legislatures, in Congress, and in the courts has been toward a more permissive gun laws. If those who think gun control is a useful antidote to crime and violence are right, why do these declines exist?

But it’s not just violent crime and gun crime that’s down overall. According to research from James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, our schools are not less safe than they were a generation ago. They’re actually safer.

Not only that, school shootings aren’t any more common either. “There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” Fox says.

There is lots of data and analysis here, but I found this graph to be particularly striking (click for a larger view):

What it shows is that, since the 1990’s, shooting incidents involving students has been on the decline.

Fox does claim that some gun control measures could help this issue – he suggests banning bump stocks and raising the age limit to purchase some firearms – the overall data is more important.

The perception the public has, thanks to the media not to mention crusading celebrities and politicians, is that school shootings are an epidemic which is getting worse. That’s simply not true.