When students are killed, injured, or put in harm’s way on school grounds, when does it “count” as a school shooting? Not all of the time, according to a number of right-wing commentators — and CNN.
In a news report published Thursday, CNN amends its prior reporting that there were 74 school shootings since the Newtown Massacre — a number calculated by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety — and concludes that there have instead been just 15.
“CNN determined that 15 of the incidents Everytown included were situations similar to the violence in Oregon — a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school,” the article explains. Except for the times when those criteria don’t apply: “Some of the other incidents on Everytown’s list included personal arguments, accidents and alleged gang activities and drug deals,” the article explains, apparently nixing Everytown’s bright line criteria that encompassed all incidents “when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts” in exchange for its own subjective assessment.
Among those incidents not included was a brawl that escalated outside a college basketball game at Chicago State University, a shooting at a Mississippi town’s football game that left a 15-year-old dead, and a Georgia college that saw two shootings in two days. As Everytown points out in response to CNN, these discounted shootings led to 25 deaths and 45 injuries. They included familiar scenes of students hiding under desks and running for cover. And many of them were characterized by CNN as “school shootings” at the time of the incidents.
CNN’s coverage does not mention it, but its change of heart followed a series of criticisms from right-wing commentators and outlets. Those 74 school shootings amounted to almost one shooting per week over the past year and a half, a rate that left some gun activists concerned about gun regulations. As Media Matters tells it, the criticism started with tweets from Charles C. Johnson, a self-described journalist who called several of the shootings listed as “fake,” including one in which an honors student shot himself in front of his class. A number of conservative outlets including NewsBusters, Hot Air, and Gun Rights Radio piled on, purporting to “expose” the “lie.” In the Independent Journal Review, Kyle Becker calls the school shootings phenomenon an exaggerated problem, suggesting that we should all buy bullet-proof blankets to deal with it.
CNN appears to have appropriated these far-right commentators’ sensibility that we should only be worried about certain types of gun violence in school, the kinds that tend to affect certain seemingly serene neighborhoods, rather than those where there might be gangs, or drugs, or “personal arguments.”
Annette Holt’s son was murdered on a school bus in Chicago, and his murder wasn’t deemed worthy of CNN’s list. “Whenever a gun is fired at school, parents are rightfully terrified,” she writes in a Huffington Post column. “Students are rightfully terrified. Try explaining to a shocked and devastated community that the school shooting it’s mourning is disqualified because the gun was fired as the result of a ‘personal argument.’”