New report disproves five key myths reinforced in a 2018 report on school safety released by the Trump administration
February 12, 2019 — Today, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released a new report debunking dangerous myths peddled by the gun lobby about school shootings. The horrific shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, sparked students and Americans across the country to demand accountability and action in addressing the country’s gun violence crisis. The Truth about School Shootings exposes five key myths repeated routinely by the gun lobby and that were reinforced in a December 2018 report from President Trump’s Federal Commission on School Safety.
While the nation has reeled from the damage the gun violence epidemic has inflicted on our country’s schools and youth, many opponents have sought to gloss over the power of gun safety laws and focused instead on policies that might put students in greater danger. The report released today makes clear that school shootings are a uniquely Americans crisis exacting a heavy toll on students, both in lives lost and in psychological trauma experienced by survivors.
“Freedom from fear is something we should strive to give to every child in America. But millions of children live in fear of how a gun could forever change their lives,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center. “We have allowed this country’s gun violence crisis to weigh heavy on the hearts and minds of the next generation. We should not accept that shooter drills are now a routine part of a school day, or that students are constantly worried about whether they will hear gunfire while sitting in a classroom or walking home. This crisis is unique to our country. We know what works. We know how to provide relief to our students by passing stronger gun laws. It’s on leaders to find the courage to act.”
Gun violence in America has reached its highest level in nearly 40 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that in 2017, nearly 40,000 Americans died from gun violence, more than 100 Americans every day. America’s gun violence epidemic has also impacted schools across the country. In 2018—a year in which America experienced two of the deadliest school shootings in recent history—there were more incidents of gun violence and more gun deaths at schools than any other year on record.
The full report debunks five key myths:
Myth 1: School Shootings are just a fact of life. School shootings are a problem that’s only getting worse. 2018 saw more incidents of gun violence and more gun deaths at school than any other year on record. A student’s chance of dying in a school shooting reached its highest level in at least 25 years.
Myth 2: Nothing can be done to prevent school shootings. It’s clear that gun laws can prevent shootings and save lives. Almost 1 million high school students can legally purchase an AR-15, the firearm used in 6 of the 10 deadliest mass shootings. Evidence shows that child access prevention laws encourage safe storage practices, extreme risk protection orders can allow law enforcement or family members to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual in crisis, and minimum age laws would help to prevent individuals at increased risk of violence from accessing dangerous weapons.
Myth 3: Schools need armed teachers to respond to shootings. Decades of public health research indicate that arming teachers will not prevent violence in schools. In fact, armed teachers would likely increase, rather than decrease, students’ exposure to gun violence in schools.
Myth 4: School shootings are largely caused by mental health issues. The gun lobby often tries to blame mental health after school shootings. But the vast majority of people with mental illness are not more violent than the general population. However, students who experience school shootings can suffer severe anxiety and debilitating trauma. During the 2017–2018 school year, 4.1 million students endured at least one lockdown.
Myth 5: Children are most likely to experience gun violence at school. School shootings are just the tip of the iceberg. Every day, children and teens fall victim to gun violence in their homes and communities. Nearly a third of gun homicides of young children occur in the context of domestic violence and black children are 10 times more likely than white children to be fatally shot by a gun. Every year, more than three million children witness gun violence.
Speak With an Expert
Gun violence prevention experts from the Giffords Law Center, including Robyn Thomas, are available to speak with the press. To arrange an interview, email Jason Phelps at JPhelps@Giffords.org.