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Perspective

Dear Editor:

It is always a shock when we hear about a mass shooting somewhere and it is particularly horrendous when it occurs at a place like Sandy Hook Elementary School.  That said, we need to put that shooting incident into perspective.

When evaluating the overall threats to an organization or group of people, it is useful to consider both the most dangerous threat and the most likely threat.  Overall, our schools are relatively safe.  Fewer school age children are killed in school than die in other locations and by other means.

Reviewing a variety of websites (NCES, CDC, NHTSA, MADD, NVSS, NSSC, Wikipedia, etc.), we discover that there are a little over 55.2 million students, approximately 3.9 million teachers and 132,183 schools in the US.  Since the 1992-1993 U.S. school year when there were 42 homicides by students, there has been a significant decline in school-associated violent deaths (deaths on school property for K-12 and resulting from school functions or activities).  In 2010, there were 38 school associated deaths.  In 2012, there were six school shootings.  In three of those, only one shot was fired — when the shooter committed suicide in front of their classmates or a professor, and in a fourth no one was killed.  The fifth shooting had three students or teachers killed and the sixth was Sandy Hook where 20 students and six faculty members were killed before the shooter committed suicide.  That is a total of 33 school shooting deaths in 2012, a death rate of .06 per 100,000 — possibly the most dangerous threat to school age children — but not very likely.

Compared to that, we discover traffic crashes are the major cause of death for children under the age of 15; teen alcohol use kills about 6,000 people each year; and in 2007 there were 6,669 fatal crashes by teen drivers with 7,650 fatalities and 31 percent of the young drivers, were legally intoxicated.  So your teenage student is approximately 200 times more likely to be killed from alcohol use or from teenage driving than any student is to be killed in a school shooting — certainly a much more likely threat.

The people that do these shootings are crazy, by any definition, but they are not stupid.  Reportedly the shooter in Aurora passed up several theaters to get to the one that was a “gun free zone.”  One size fits all solutions from Washington or Denver never “fit all” — what might work for Chicago or Denver will not work here.  The decision on what to do needs to be made at the local level.  We need to repeal laws declaring schools “gun free zones” and the decision on whether to allow guns to be legally carried on our local campuses needs to be made at the school district level.  Only those working for the district and those parents or grandparents with children eligible to be in or about to enter the schools should be allowed to vote on the issue — those with children at risk should have a direct say in what protective measures should be taken.  Personally I believe that just changing the large decal on the door from “No Guns Allowed” to “This Facility Is Protected by Armed Staff” would significantly reduce the likelihood of a shooting taking place.

Jim Huffman

This story was posted on January 10, 2013.