Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Putting school shootings into context: Risk of being killed about 1 in 2 million

A new report by  Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns suggest that school districts and policymakers are not doing enough to protect students. “The numbers are clear: we are not doing enough to keep our children safe at school,” said Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY).
However, not everyone agrees.  James Alan Fox a professor at Northeastern University wrote in the USA Today that the suggestion that school shootings are a problem on the rise and in need of immediate resolution tends to promote quick and easy responses that don't work and may make matters worse, instead of more difficult approaches that will indeed improve the climate at schools of all levels.
Posting armed guards at school doors, running children though lockdown drills, and surrounding classrooms with cameras and metal detectors not only fail to prevent some teenager or adult determined to wreak havoc upon innocent children and their dedicated teachers, but they send the wrong and excessively scary message concerning the risk. Overinvestment in visible security can serve as constant reminder to impressionable youngsters that they indeed have a target on their backs.
In the process of trying to protect children's lives, we can easily destroy their sense of safety and ultimately disrupt the learning environment even more than the occasional incident in one of the thousands of schools nationwide. We should instead look toward programs and policies that promote healthy kids and respectful relationships in schools.
According to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, there have been as many as 44 shootings, including 28 deaths, in schools and colleges nationwide since the devastating massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that had millions of Americans demanding change in gun regulations.
As it happens, the numbers assembled by the moms and mayors are not out-of-line with historical patterns, and, in fact, are lower than two decades ago when gang violence was especially problematic at school settings. And, as added perspective, consider that there are more than 50 million school children in America, making the risk of fatality well below one in two million. By comparison, many times more youngsters are killed annually in bicycle accidents. I would trust the moms, if not the mayors, would support a national helmet law as quickly as a gun restriction.
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