What is a 'school shooting'? It depends who you ask

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
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Brandi Wilson, left, and her daughter, Trisha Wilson, 15, right, embrace Trish Hall, a mother waiting for her student, as students arrived at the Fred Meyer grocery store parking lot in Wood Village, Ore., after a shooting at Reynolds High School Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in nearby Troutdale. A gunman killed a student at the high school east of Portland Tuesday and the shooter is also dead, police said. (AP Photo/Troy Wayrynen)

Oregon school shooting

How many school shootings have there been since Sandy Hook? It depends on who's doing the counting.

After this week's deadly shootings at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon, Everytown, the  grass-roots gun-control group launched earlier this year by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, published a list of what it says is every American school shooting since the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. There have been 74, by Everytown's count.

The group defines school shootings as incidents in which "a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds" and includes "assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings."

Mark Gongloff, a Huffington Post editor, used Everytown's list to create a map and posted it on Twitter, where it was quickly retweeted more than 1,000 times.

Media outlets, including CNN, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Yahoo News, published stories citing the map and Everytown's figure.

Charles C. Johnson, a conservative journalist and former contributor to conservative website the Blaze, took to Twitter in an effort to debunk Everytown's list, claiming many of the incidents the group classified as a school shooting — including suicides and gang-related violence — should not have been included.

“It’s not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus," Johnson wrote. "It’s a shooting that happens to take place at school."

By Johnson's count, just seven of the 74 incidents listed by Everytown should have counted as school shootings. (The rest, as Johnson put it on Twitter, were "fake.")

Several conservative outlets — including the Blaze, Hot Air and the Daily Caller — picked up Johnson's criticism of Everytown's "inflated" list.

On Wednesday, CNN.com published an article concluding 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" — and tossed out shootings that involved "personal arguments, accidents and alleged gang activities and drug deals."

That didn't sit well with Annette Holt, Chicago Fire Department battalion chief and the mother of one of the victims of a shooting excluded by CNN.

"Whenever a gun is fired at school, parents are rightfully terrified," Holt wrote on the Huffington Post. "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.'"

Holt continued:

I suppose if your innocent son is shot by a gang member, it doesn't make the cut. Or if he was shot in an "accidental" shooting (how it's an accident that a gun wound up on school grounds to begin with is beyond me). Or if he pulled a gun out in a classroom and shot himself. Or if he got into a "personal argument" and was shot down in the type of mild playground fight that happens every day in schools, but turned deadly in that instance because a gun was present.

Maybe I should be giving CNN credit because they've managed to do something Washington politicians could not. They've reduced the number of school shootings across the country. But their insistence that 59 school shootings — which have killed 25 people and injured 40 others — don't matter isn't much consolation to parents like me.

In an email to its members, the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm of the NRA, accused Everytown of trying to mislead legislators with a list that "stretches the parameters of the term 'school shooting' past any commonly understood notion of that term."

Everytown, though, is standing by its list.

"We use very clear criteria for what constitutes a school shooting and we state exactly what we do and don't count," Erika Soto Lamb, communications director for Everytown, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "[CNN's] analysis makes light of the 60 other school shootings where fatalities and injuries occurred — not that they had to, ANY gun going off in ANY school should be cause for alarm."

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