Democratic politicians and several media outlets this week have pushed the misleading, but widely spread, claim that there have been 18 school shootings in the U.S. so far this year.
Multiple fact checkers have noted that this statistic, first put out by the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety, is inaccurate.
The Washington Free Beacon reported last month that Everytown defines a school shooting as "any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds," even when no one is injured. The group includes in its figure, for example, an incident from last month, when someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot of a Michigan high school. No one was injured and the shots were fired several hours after class ended. Still, Everytown counted the incident as a school shooting equivalent to Wednesday's massacre at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.
On Thursday, the fact-checking website PolitiFact investigated journalist Jeff Greenfield's use of the 18-shootings figure in a tweet after the shooting this week.
PolitiFact found that Time, Politico, CNBC, the New York Daily News, ABC News, and HuffPost all reported on Everytown's figure. Several politicians have used the number as well.
Heartbroken by the news from Florida. There have been at least 18 school shootings since 2018 began. Each one is a tragic reminder that it’s way past time for change.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) February 14, 2018
My heart breaks as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, FL faces the unthinkable horror of gun violence – the 18th school shooting of 2018. When will Congress wake up? Enough is enough.
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) February 14, 2018
WATCH @USRepKCastor, @RepSarbanes and @RepJoeKennedy push for gun violence prevention research at a hearing today with HHS @SecAzar. The #ParklandShooting was the 18th school shooting this year. #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/aTVdYqN4vC
— Energy Commerce Dems (@EnergyCommerce) February 16, 2018
40 mass shootings in first 35 days of 2018, 18 of which were in schools.
"See something, say something" has its place but to keep our children and people safe from gun violence, it is not enough to say something; we must DO something. #GunSenseNow @HouseDemocrats @HouseJudDems pic.twitter.com/l1z6NaLZRL
— Sheila Jackson Lee (@JacksonLeeTX18) February 16, 2018
Maybe, just maybe, after 18 school shootings in America in just 43 days of 2018 the Congress might want to consider common-sense gun safety legislation and save innocent lives.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 14, 2018
EIGHTEEN school shootings in a month and a half is absolutely outrageous and appalling. We owe it to our children to fight the gun lobby and pass common sense gun safety legislation both in Congress and here in N.J.
Inaction is not an option. #Parkland
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) February 14, 2018
Some lawmakers even claimed that this week's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was the 19th school shooting of the year.
17 killed at a school, in the 19th US school shooting of 2018.
If it was swords no one would say "what we need is more swords."
Imagine doing nothing if foreign terrorists attacked 19 times in 6 weeks.
Congress only tolerates this American carnage from guns. It makes NO SENSE https://t.co/fuSCzoXcfm
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) February 14, 2018
Another terrible school shooting, this time in Florida. At least 18 other school shootings have already happened this year. My heart breaks for those children and their parents. How many more victims until we decide gun violence is a national problem? https://t.co/QbLjIbTQEO
— Eliot Engel (@RepEliotEngel) February 14, 2018
But PolitiFact noted that of the "18 incidents in which a gun was fired inside a school or on school property," nine involved no deaths and no gunshot injuries. Furthermore, two were suicides, with no other injuries, and three were unintentional.
Others have debunked the 18-shootings figure. The Washington Post‘s John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich called the number "flat wrong."
"Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings," they wrote, noting an example from Jan. 3, when a 31-year-old man parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. He killed himself, but the school had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers or students.
"The figures matter because gun-control activists use them as evidence in their fight for bans on assault weapons, stricter background checks, and other legislation," Cox and Rich wrote.