Recently I (here) spent some time looking at the left-extremist incapacity for making an argument without making up the data. For that matter, I also commented here about at least one incident on the other pole of the spectrum. It appears that neither “side” is immune from the temptation to manufacture support for their arguments.
The point of distinction between the two sets of history mills (to borrow a favorite Mark Twain expression), Gentle Reader, is that — at least as to the latter-linked topic — the underlying argument is actually valid, namely that what is commonly referred to as the “food stamps” program is organized as if for inefficiency and abuse. The subjects touched upon in the former-linked post are just false. Marx was wrong on the facts, so he and Engels just made them up. This Piketty fellow, the left-extremists’ new media darling, is wrong on the facts, so he just cooked his books to make his argument. Sacco and Vanzetti were actually guilty. And so forth.
Now we’ve got Little Michael Bloomberg and his anti-civil-rights movement, Everytown for Gun Safety, putting out the terrifying statistic that, since the Sandy Hook massacre (on 14 Dec 2012) there have been 74 “school shootings,” with the clear import that My God we’ve got to disarm the lawful gun-owning public. And so forth. To give it its due, this particular organization of Bloomberg’s doesn’t appear, thus far, to be actively engaging in criminal activity, like his Mayors Against Illegal Guns (e.g. sending straw buyers to other states to make illegal weapons purchases). It’s just confining itself to the usual left-extremist playbook of making up data. From its report linked above, “Data: Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings.”
Little Mike is correct that if you include every incident in which a firearm went off — even by accident — inside a school building or on campus, then you can get some pretty sobering numbers. So where’s the dishonesty? The first point of dishonesty is conflation. Notice how the goalpost is carefully moved. Sandy Hook was a shooting. People were shot, and over two dozen actually killed. But what does it take to make it onto Little Mike’s List? That “a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds.” A lawful concealed carry permit holder dropping his weapon on the parking lot while going to secure it in his trunk before going to see his child’s principal makes the list, if the gun goes off when it hits the ground. Someone carelessly leaving a round chambered in one of the high school rifle team’s weapons and having it go off in the armory makes it onto the list. And so forth.
More subtle is the false equivalence suggested between what happened at Sandy Hook and these other firearm discharges. Why use Sandy Hook as the measuring point, after all? There was nothing that changed about the legal or operational landscape on or about 14 Dec 2012. Guns didn’t suddenly become more prone to discharge, nor did ammunition become significantly more deadly. The legal atmosphere more or less fizzled as people began actually to look at what the Sandy Hook perp did and why, and to ask themselves exactly how banning guns or any category of them would have helped. You know, common sense (to borrow an expression from the Everytown report) questions that a reasonable person might ask himself before he launches a frontal assault on a civil right that was written into the Constitution. And so next to nothing changed there, either. Use of Sandy Hook as datum for this list is intended to communicate the point that these other firearm discharges are of the same character of what Lanza did at Sandy Hook.
So are they? Short answer: No. At least one free-lance journalist went back through and identified no fewer than 33 of these incidents that don’t pass the Sesame Street test, in that they simply aren’t anything like some person (crazy or not) coming onto a school campus for the purpose of randomly shooting children and teachers. The 33 questionable incidents range from a guy who was chased onto school premises by the police and shot a student accidentally to one where a 19-year-old was shot over a dice game . . . in the parking lot . . . at 9:00 p.m., to one where the shooting didn’t even occur on campus at all, to a fistful of kids who decided to commit suicide on campus (in at least one incident in front of the class) to the usual crop of gang-related and/or drug-dealing activity. CNN also fine-toothed the list and came up with . . . 15 incidents which factually resembled the Sandy Hook tragedy. And those 15 (enumerated and briefly described over at CNN) aren’t even necessarily what you’d describe as “mass shootings.” By CNN’s analysis, almost exactly 80% of Bloomberg’s list is bogus.
As has been correctly noted, however, 15 is still 15 too many. But when you compare apples to apples on this kind of an issue, the non-solution of infringing on a constitutionally-guaranteed right loses a lot of its weight when you start asking what to do about it. No one, and I mean no one, is suggesting that any of these bans will in fact stop the Adam Lanzas of the world and pointing to any kind of data that demonstrate so much. I haven’t seen, heard, or heard of anyone showing how any of the stated policy goals of Bloomberg’s criminal or non-criminal organizations will in fact prevent the seriously crazy or seriously criminal from arming themselves as they see fit and doing as they please, until stopped with counter-force.
The whole argument behind the Bloomberg agenda rests on nothing more than, “We’ve got to Do Something!!!!” Because scary guns. Or something like that. Again, let’s go back to the Everytown report. This is the totality of its argument as set forth on the linked page: “Since the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, CT, there have been at least 74 school shootings in America. How many more before our leaders pass common-sense laws to prevent gun violence and save lives?Communities all over the country live in fear of gun violence. That’s unacceptable. We should feel secure in sending our children to school — comforted by the knowledge that they’re safe.” Notice how the world of the factual “laws to prevent gun violence and save lives” is juxtaposed with “live in fear,” something “communities all over the country” are supposed to be doing (although I’ve yet to notice any such fear around here), and “feel secure,” which is something we’re all supposed to be entitled to do.
The whole exercise is a great big let’s-do-what-makes-us-feel-good-about-ourselves campaign. If we do, we’ll “feel secure” about sending our children to school. Except we aren’t secure, and neither are our children. Not from the Adam Lanzas of the world. We can lock up every last 1st grader who chews a pop-tart into the shape of a pistol, and it’s not going to prevent another Sandy Hook.
I much more greatly fear the psychological abuse of my children by their (well-meaning, let it be said) teachers than I do some random crazy who strides onto the school grounds and opens fire. My relative fears of such occupy their respective positions on the What Keeps Me up at Night List not because I discount the possibility that my child may be wounded or killed by an Adam Lanza. It’s because I know that there is nothing I or anyone else can do to stop an Adam Lanza, short of shooting him once he starts. It’s because I know that even if an Adam Lanza actually makes into the school and actually begins killing, the odds of any particular child (my own or anyone else’s) falling victim are still pretty slim. To compare another context: In an honest-to-God battle, where both sides are armed and killing is the whole point of it, a unit that loses 20% in killed or wounded is considered to have been savagely used. Even if 80% aren’t killed or wounded, the unit is thought to have been so badly mauled that it will typically be sent to the rear to reorganize and reinforce before returning to the war.
To go back to Sandy Hook: This was among the very worst school shootings ever, anywhere (outside Russia at least). Lanza killed 26 and wounded two. As of the end of November, 2012, there were 456 students enrolled there, served by however many teachers, administrators, and staff. Lanza killed 20 children (if you add the two wounded in that makes 22), or just over 4.8% of the total enrollment. Meaning 95% of those children survived without a scratch. At Columbine I can’t find enrollment data for April, 1999; Wikipedia.org reports it currently at 1,700. Let’s assume it was 1,300 at the time of the massacre. The perps there, who may have been psychopaths but certainly nowhere nearly as crazy as Lanza, methodically shot 13 people to death and wounded another 21, for 34 total. Out of a student population of 1,300 that works out to just over 2.6%, meaning that over 97% of the students that day escaped without a scratch.
None of the above is said to diminish the loss of those killed or wounded. The very thought of something happening to one of my boys is enough to make me nearly physically ill, and I have no reason to suppose that any other parent or family member out there would not feel the same. Nor is it said in disregard of the emotional trauma of the survivors, both those who are direct witnesses and those who aren’t. Single-trauma events, however, are something you at least have a fighting chance of working through. The survivor of a rape can never be expected to “get over it,” and the suggestion that she ought to is monstrous. On the other hand, she is by hypothesis alive and what is her possibility for forging a meaningful and useful life, with some degree of spiritual wholeness, relative to the victim of a gang rape, or someone held in sexual slavery for years on end, or who has been sexually abused over a course of years, and those the most formative years of her life? Phrased slightly differently, all rape is evil, but if you could somehow know you were to be a victim and if you had to choose, which would you choose? The survivors of Sandy Hook, Columbine, the Amish school shooting (which had a much higher death toll as percentage of enrollment) will carry the scars of those days until the end of their own. But with effort, and contemplation, and the spiritual presence and assistance of friends and family, they do have a reasonable shot at living “normal” lives.
But the sustained, day-in-day-out, relentless demonizing of my sons’ maleness? By the very people (the teachers) whose sole function in their lives is supposed to guide them to being their most complete, most productive, most honorable selves? These processes include the subtle and the explicit messages that There’s Something Wrong With You Because You Don’t act Like Little Suzy, and the medication, and the “counseling,” and the disciplinary processes, and the disparate grading. That last happens, folks, by the way. Girls routinely are graded better on the squishy stuff like “classroom participation,” because they don’t blurt out answers, they stay in their seats, they are more tractable. When a large portion of the students’ grades is on exactly such criteria, what does that do to the grading curve, class standing, and all the other gates a student now has to navigate successfully if he is to have a chance at the space-limited, extremely competitive later opportunities? With each advancing grade, your opportunities are more and more expanded or limited based on what happened in previous grades. Don’t get into the advanced math section in 3rd grade, and you won’t be there in 4th either, which means that you won’t be doing algebra in 5th or geometry in 6th, and so by the time you get to high school, AP calculus is a shot that simply isn’t even on the table for you. So when you go to apply for college and your pool of applicants from all over the country has 70% in it who took AP calculus, what does that do to your chances? Parents, or at least those capable of thinking things through in advance, understand that these days.
I don’t have the time to link to all the stuff out there on what is driving the very observable and alarmingly steep drop in male life achievement, both in purely academic or occupational terms but also in terms of human fulfillment. Falling rates of marriage — at all — falling rates of involvement in their children’s lives, falling labor force participation, you name it: America’s males aren’t doing well, and all the information points to school, and specifically very early school, as being the place and time where they begin not to do well. Why should that be? Why should a country whose males have done some pretty damned awesome stuff over the generations suddenly see the current crops all go slack? Those are all questions for other posts.
But every last one of those dynamics is something that I know for a fact is happening to my boys and will continue to happen to them. I know for a fact that the effects of what is happening to them are cumulative and except in the rarest instances irreversible. My sons can never go back to 2nd grade. Once they’re in high school either they’re eligible for those classes and programs that will open doors (or at least not close them off), or they won’t be. It will be too late.
But I’m not supposed to worry about what is happening to my sons in school (no less), day by day, or its effects on their likelihood of living lives that will permit them to be the men God gave them the ability to be. Rather, I’m supposed to grasp for an illusory feeling of “security” by sacrificing my own and my children’s rights — including their right to defend themselves from the Adam Lanzas of the world. The argument for that sacrifice is quite simply a lie. You cannot call it otherwise.
Beware anything that cannot be sold without lying to you. Even if it’s for your own good.