Barely a week after a 13-year-old shot a classmate and a teacher at Noblesville West Middle School, Indiana politicians were questioning a state law that requires the student to face justice as a juvenile, not an adult. Fortunately, any change in the law will have to wait until early next year when the legislature is back in session. Maybe a reasoned approach will prevail by then.
Not that all laws, including those dealing with juvenile justice, shouldn’t be reviewed from time to time. But making big changes in response to one horrifying incident is a good way to get it wrong.
According to news reports, the boy asked to leave class on May 25, returned with two guns and began shooting. Ella Whistler, also 13, was shot seven times and faces a long recovery. Teacher Jason Seaman, credited with tackling the student and preventing more carnage, was struck but not seriously injured.
It was Indiana’s turn. An incident last week at Noblesville West Middle School brought the plague of school shootings close to home. We’ve had school shootings here before, of course; but following closely on deadly incidents in Florida and Texas, the Noblesville shooting grabbed national attention.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
The odds of a shooting in your child’s school are extremely low. School shootings are so horrifying and get so much media coverage that it seems they’re happening everywhere, all the time. But there are 50 million students attending over 100,000 schools in the United States. Very few of them will experience a shooting at their school.
As Harvard professor David Ropeik writes in the Washington Post, the odds of a child being shot to death at school on a given day are roughly 1 in 614 million, considerably less than the odds of dying from a serious disease or being killed on the way to or from school or from a sports injury.
I’m hearing stories of parents who are thinking about homeschooling their children rather than risk sending them to school. Of course, parents have every right to worry and make decisions about their children’s safety. But for most children, schools are among the safest places they can be.
It’s the guns. The United States has more mass shootings, including school shootings, than other countries for one reason: We have a lot more guns and put few restrictions on them. As Max Fisher and Josh Keller report in the New York Times, Americans are 4.4 percent of the world’s population but own 42 percent of the guns. Nearly one-third of gunmen in mass shootings are Americans. Continue reading