Washington Post: No, there haven't been 18 school shootings so far this year

If you’ve been online in the last 24-hours you’ve probably heard this factoid about the number of school shootings that have (supposedly) taken place so far this year:

There are many more examples like this. But as the Washington Post points out today, this claim comes from the anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety which uses some dubious methods to pad the numbers.

Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. Take, for example, what it counts 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.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20, when — at 1 a.m. — a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting…

Just five of Everytown’s 18 school shootings listed for 2018 happened during school hours and resulted in any physical injury. Another three appeared to be intentional shootings but didn’t hurt anyone. Two more involved guns — one carried by a school police officer and the other by a licensed peace officer who ran a college club — that were unintentionally fired and, again, led to no injuries. At least seven of Everytown’s 18 shootings took place outside normal school hours.

Even Everytown agrees the first shooting doesn’t belong on their list, telling the Post (after the story went up today) that it would stop counting the suicide near an empty school as a school shooting.

This isn’t the first time the Post had called out misleading claims based on Everytown’s counting methods for school shootings. In 2015 one of the Post’s fact checkers gave Sen. Chris Murphy four Pinocchios for this misleading claim, “Since Sandy Hook there has been a school shooting, on average, every week.”

The source for the claim then, and for Murphy’s recent statement, is a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, which describes itself as “a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.”

The group keeps a tally of school shootings since Sandy Hook, counting at least 126 as of June 8, 2015…

This list comprises a variety of shootings at or near a school, including: attempted and committed suicides, accidental discharges, armed robberies, gang fights, shootings resulting from altercations, and shootings similar to the rampages at Sandy Hook or in Charleston, where a person intends to kill multiple people…

There are many ways to define school shooting. But applying the “reasonable person” standard, as is the standard at The Fact Checker, it is difficult to see how many of the incidents included in Everytown’s list — such as suicide in a car parked on a campus or a student accidentally shooting himself when emptying his gun and putting it away in his car before school — would be considered a “school shooting” in the context of Sandy Hook.

The fact is, even if there were five school shootings this year, that’s more than we want to see. Reality is bad enough without padding the numbers with incidents that have no relation to what most people think of as a school shooting. Everytown is a repeat offender in efforts to mislead people about the facts.