This past week youths all across America walked out of class in schools in an effort to prod adults all across America to do something about gun violence.

I think it’s a good thing to exercise your right to free speech and assembly.

And certainly, it would be wonderful if government could do something – anything – to eliminate mass shootings.

But to get there, I think policy makers and those pushing policy should be armed with facts, not emotion.

So I am going to list some facts. These things are not opinions. They are not ideological. They are not hyperbole.

They are simply facts.





• Four times more children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today.

• Shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the 1990s.

• Since 1996, there have been 16 multiple victim shootings in schools, or incidents involving four or more victims and at least two deaths by firearms, excluding the assailant.

• Of these, eight are mass shootings (defined as incidents involving four or more deaths, excluding the assailant).

• Mass school shootings are incredibly rare. On average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and one of those incidents on average takes place at a school.

• There are 55 million school children in the United States. On average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school.

• Over the past 35 years, there have been five cases in which someone ages 18 to 20 used an assault rifle in a mass shooting.

Now, none of this is meant to diminish the loss of life we saw a month ago at the high school in Florida.

If policy makers want to raise the age to 21 to buy rifles, I’m OK with that. But policy makers should know that it won’t make a dent in school shootings.

If they want to ban this gun or that gun, fine. But they should know that it won’t make a dent in school shootings.

Why? Because school shootings are so rare in the first place, it will be almost impossible to make them more rare.

The perception in America right now is that there is an epidemic of school shootings and we need to take dramatic measures to  combat it.

Problem is, there is no epidemic of school shootings. Of course, one school shooting is one too many. But one school shooting is not an epidemic, either.

The perception is driven by the fact that everybody has a computer/TV/video camera in their pocket these days. Social media spreads the “news” far and wide. There is little regard for facts. Videos of gunfire get played over and over. Surveillance video gets released and viewed millions of times.

I am  republishing an excerpt from a column about violence in schools I wrote four years ago.

The worst school massacre in U.S. history occurred in Bath Township, Mich., near Lansing on May 18, 1927.

A guy by the name of Andrew Kehoe killed 38 elementary school children and six adults and injured at least 58 other people.

Kehoe, 55, was a school board treasurer. He was mad about tax increases and the fact that he lost an election for township clerk. He was in financial trouble and his wife was suffering from tuberculosis.

On that fateful day in 1927, Kehoe first murdered his wife. Then he set off a bunch of firebombs at his home and other farm buildings on his property. At about the same time, an explosion destroyed the north wing of the school, killing 36 kids and two teachers.

Kehoe used a timer and a detonator to ignite explosives he had rigged up over previous weeks. As rescuers were working at the blast site, he drove up, stopped and used a rifle to detonate explosives in his truck, killing himself, the school superintendent and several others and injuring many bystanders.

It’s what happened afterward that brings me to my point.

Nobody thought to institutive a whole bunch of new rules and regulations to keep kids safe.

No emergency lockdown procedures. No installation of security cameras. No keeping all doors locked. No emergency communication systems. No practice evacuation drills. No school resource officers. No student identification badges. No zero tolerance policies. No background checks. No gun-free zones. No threat assessment teams. No school safety conferences to improve safety strategies. No armed teachers or guards.

People all across this great land just kept sending their kids to school as if nothing had happened.

I think people back then were able to see the incident for what it was. An extremely rare, extremely bizarre incident that would never be repeated.

Nobody perceived their child as less safe because of it.

I think that’s because in 1927, if you lived in New York, you might have read about the Bath School disaster a few days later in a newspaper. Or you may never have heard about it at all.

And even if you did hear about it, you didn’t feel connected to it. It might as well have happened in some Third World country.

But today, you feel like it happened right next door no matter where in the world it happened. Time and space have been compressed by technology and the media. You know anytime anything bad happens almost instantly, right on your smartphone. And when you get home you see continuous live coverage.

So even though it’s more likely your child would be struck by lightning before being shot at school, you feel like it’s an alarmingly real possibility. You feel like evil things are happening to children everywhere. All the time.

It’s this perception that drives kids in schools to walk out. It’s this perception that drives policy.

Unfortunately, this perception is not the reality.

I understand what’s going on here. I get it. We have to do something.

Problem is, even if you turned schools into fortresses with razor wire fences, magnetometers, impenetrable steel doors and armed guards in every hallway, you wouldn’t make schools any safer because they are almost immeasurably safe already.

And everyone understands a determined mass shooter would find a way to subvert all the safeguards and carry out his evil plan anyway.

I am not against reasonable measures to curb gun violence, things like expanded background checks or keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

But I can’t get past the notion that we’re never going to solve this problem until we figure out what it is in American culture that makes someone want to shoot up a school in the first place.