As Mark Twain once quipped, there are three kinds of lies: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Whether or not former President Obama, a one-time University of Chicago lecturer who graduated from Harvard Law school, is aware of the falsity of certain shooting statistics flying around in this charged political atmosphere, it would behoove him to stop spreading lies.
The origin of these lies, namely the infamous “18 school shootings in 2018” statistic, is Everytown for Gun Safety, an activist gun control group that is interested in ‘action’ first and facts second.
At a keynote address to a physician’s conference known as CRT 2018 near the White House, the former president referenced the misleading statistic.
“If you ask me the thing that broke my heart, particularly when now I see there have been, and I’ve gotta update this, […] 18 shootings in schools this year… this year!” Obama said, as reported by the Washington Examiner. “And for the medical community, you see the statistics. The leading causes of death among young people in this country have all but, [car] traffic starts going down and stabilizing, gun-inflicted fatalities where you combine suicide and gun violence, it just keeps rising.”
Indeed, one must combine the firearms suicide rates and homicide rates in order to see an increase in gun deaths. As Mother Jones, which has assiduously collected such statistics, illustrates in one chart:
Former President Obama does need to update his statistics and replace them with the correct ones. Several analyses have falsified the ’18 school shootings’ statistic, which was certainly inflated deliberately by Everytown in order to push its activist agenda.
In addition to the Washington Examiner, The Washington Post has also debunked the number. The publication aptly captures the background:
The stunning number swept across the Internet within minutes of the news Wednesday that, yet again, another young man with another semiautomatic rifle had rampaged through a school, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in South Florida.
The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings.
“This,” the organization tweeted at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, “is the 18th school shooting in the U.S. in 2018.”
Then the Post proceeds to expose the statistic as false:
It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong.
Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counted as the year’s first: On the afternoon of Jan. 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers. There were no students.
The Washington Post explains the root problem with Everytown’s statistics: They do not define what people think they define.
Everytown explains on its website that it defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”
Then, Barack Obama recounted his time in office and his experience handling school shooting tragedies.
“Probably the thing that haunts me the most is the fact that after 20 six-year-olds were gunned down in the most brutal fashion possible, so much so that the police who found them had to get counseling and I had to spend hours with the parents after children they had sent off to school, almost toddlers, did not come home,” Obama said.
“Despite that, I could not get this Congress to move on anything, even the most modest approaches to reducing gun violence in our society,” Obama continued. “It was the worst day of my presidency. I’ve said it before. And the fact that we didn’t try was shameful. It was embarrassing.”
At least the former president is taking ownership for the fact that his administration wasn’t able to take the action he demands of his political opponents, despite a Democratic majority Congress for two years of his term. Even if he had, the statistics do not suggest that it would have had the effect that his opponents claims.
The Democratic Party has long taken the view “never let a crisis go to waste.” It is understandable that grieving citizens would want to take action in order to prevent more tragedies, but that should always start with the truth about what happened and the facts about what is known to work and what doesn’t.
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