A 15-year-old lone gunman, now identified as Jared Padgett, invaded an Oregon high school on Tuesday and opened fire in a gym locker room. He shot and killed 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman and wounded a teacher before then killing himself.
It was the seventy-fourth shooting at an American school since the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 — and the thirty-seventh this year, according to a tally by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. US President Barack Obama responded on Tumblr the next day: ‘This is not acceptable, this is not normal. We’re the only developed country on Earth where this happens and it happens now once a week and it’s a one-day story. [Gun violence in America] is off the charts.
‘There’s no advanced, developed country on Earth that would put up with this’, he said. ‘This is becoming the norm and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me… If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.’
When it was suggested to Obama that mental illness was the underlying problem in many of the shootings, he responded: ‘The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people.’ The problem, continued Obama, is the availability of guns. ‘This country has to do a lot of soul searching’, he said.
Obama was not alone in calling for increased gun control. Everytown for Gun Safety, a hastily formed gun-control advocacy group, has also been vocal. Huffington Post editor Mark Gongloff mapped Everytown’s data about the seventy-four shootings that have taken place since Sandy Hook and put it out on social media. The result is currently doing the rounds on Twitter:
This is indeed a frightening-looking map. Where is it safe to send one’s children to school with so many shootings going on?
But take a closer look, and a different picture emerges. First, 35 shootings occured on or near a college campus. In other words, these incidents involved adults not children. Second, the figure includes teaching staff who either fired a gun or were fired upon while at school. Third, the figure did not represent fatalities but – literally – shootings; in at least four incidents, no one was injured. If we look at the 44 school shootings between December 15 2012 and February 10 2014 analysed by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the 28 fatalities includes 11 suicides.
The 17 remaining include, as Jesse Walker pointed out in Reason magazine, a 19-year-old shot in the dead of night on the grounds of an elementary school. It is, of course, still a tragedy, but only peripherally a school shooting.