When is a School Shooting Actually a School Shooting?


As the nation mourns victims of yet another school shooting, some groups and media continue to struggle with how to define one.

No one seems to have the definitive answer to ensure a school shooting never happens again.

Every time one happens, the endless debate moves right back to the front burner. As usual, there is a lot of shouting, a lot of talking points and no solutions.

I’m old enough to remember growing up at a time when we didn’t have stories about one school shooting after another. For that matter, I’m old enough to remember a time when students didn’t even bring unloaded guns to their school.

I’m not one of those people who always insists the “good old days” were better. But in this specific category, I think that’s true.

When does a school shooting qualify as such?

The most recent incident — as of this writing, at least — left 10 people dead and 10 wounded at a Texas high school. Time cited CNN, who called it the 22nd school shooting of 2018. That’s based, they said, on shootings on a school campus, including universities, and involved at least one person getting shot.

But Time also pointed out this interesting fact:

“Some nonprofit groups dedicated to ending gun violence have provided higher estimates. For example, Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings across the country, counts the Santa Fe incident as the 34th school shooting this year. The Washington Post … said there have now been 16 school shootings this year — all of which occurred on K-12 campuses, and not on college grounds.”

Why does it matter? Well, it should go without saying that the higher the number, the stronger the argument some groups feel they can make for gun control. The lower the number, for others, sounds like less ammunition for such an argument.

Gun Violence Archive comes up with their count of 34 by including all gun incidents where someone is shot in a school.

As such, their list includes incidents that killed a total of 44 deaths, 67 injuries and a total of 110 shot. (The deaths and injuries don’t exactly add up because the Santa Fe High School shooting shows 10 killed, 12 injured but 21 actually shot.

As an example, one of the shootings The Washington Post doesn’t include happened on April 12 in Baytown, Missouri. Police said a man was wounded in a shooting at a school’s parking lot during a track meet.

It’s a shooting that happened at school and when students were present, but not in the immediate area where the students were and not inside a school.

Does it qualify? Should it qualify?

I’m not certain that it matters a great deal. Whether you count it in the “official” list or not, it’s one more shooting that shouldn’t have happened.

As both sides argue over how far is too far in dealing with gun violence and how little is too little, the incidents keep happening.

Maybe, instead of arguing how many there have been, we could put our attention on making sure there’s not another one that might qualify as a “legitimate” incident for anyone’s list.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.