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The seventh-grade student said last week that she was afraid to go to school. Her desk in homeroom, she told her parents, was near the classroom exit into the hallway. If someone burst into the room with a gun, she might be one of the closest targets.

What do you say to a middle-school kid who is genuinely worried, her father wondered?

It adds to tragedy when lies are told about school shootings, like the one last week in Santa Fe, Texas, that are designed to stoke irrational fears in youngsters for the purpose of swaying public opinion.

In the muddied water of modern communications, fake and real news can pass for kissing cousins at first glance.

Skillfully produced propaganda has always been difficult to discern; a 24/7 online news cycle can give even shoddy disinformation an air of fleeting credibility.

Being first with a story has traditionally been important to journalists and the news organizations that funded the profession, operating under constitutional authority with a duty to serve the public interest.

What passes for "news" to a 21st century seventh-grader, however, doesn't even remotely resemble the journalistic product her parents and grandparents grew up with.

Among the negative social shifts besieging American culture is the blurred-beyond-recognition lines that once discretely separated news and entertainment, and the subsequent loss of boundaries that helped confine political exploitation. The power of the Internet, and the accompanying development of handheld device technology, has enabled everybody to connect with everything.

Not only every good thing, but also every bad thing.

Anybody with a smartphone can publish a "report" with the potential of "going viral." And even if it falls short of the 15 seconds of social media fame, deceptive information can still misguide, misinform and mis-influence people before the longer process of correction catches up.

Internet "news" has fostered a red-herring factory on steroids--a dynamic never lost on minions who believe the importance of their cause trumps all principles and truths that might be trampled in getting their policies enacted as law.

Which brings us to CNN and others irresponsibly preying upon the fears of middle-schoolers, instead of keeping facts forefront.

When a "school shooting" like the one in Texas happens, the event is self-defined. It means what happened: a heavily armed student went on a rampage inside the school.

For CNN to hurriedly report that there have been "22 school shootings" in 2018 is a scare tactic of the most despicable sort, because it implies 22 crimes like the one at Santa Fe.

People who see only the headline--"one school shooting every week"--become unnecessarily frightened. The few who read the story closely realize that CNN redefined the term to include a harmless BB-gun incident.

Half of the 22 didn't involve children at all, three of them were accidental discharges, and several others were gang-related or domestic violence incidents that just happened to occur on school grounds.

But the shared, reposted, retweeted and repeated headline survives. And the wrong purpose--to deceitfully alarm rather than truly inform--persists.

One need not work hard to find substantial factual evidence to calm the hysteria young 'tweens might unreasonably indulge. Relative to the rest of American society, the rate of homicidal violence experienced by the subset of K-12 school students--comprising 50 million children--is very low.

In California alone, with a population of under 40 million and a nationally low homicide rate, the average week features 35 murders, most by guns. Nearly 300 Californians survive assault with a weapon every single day--and that's despite the nation's largest police force.

For 50 million students to experience, even by CNN's exaggerated count, 21 firearm fatalities and fewer gunshot injuries over a five-month period is remarkably safe on a per-individual basis compared to most cities and states.

Chicago and its 2.7 million residents will consider it cause for celebration if fewer than 40 people get shot over the Memorial Day weekend.

Little wonder there's gridlock on gun violence, given the tsunami of untruths swamping the facts. Let's recount a few particularly pertinent ones:

Fact--every modern mass school shooter except one was either a student or former student at the school he attacked. Knowing the pool from which the next perpetrator will come is a tremendous crime prevention advantage, if schools will employ successful threat assessment techniques.

Fact--mass shooters always formulate and execute a plan. There are no instances of impulse mass attacks at schools. Planned, premeditated shootings easily circumvent gun possession impediments, such as waiting periods and background checks. Shooters either adjust their timeline or (like Santa Fe) choose to steal their weapons.

Fact--"gun-free zones" invite armed attacks by killers seeking to maximize casualties and willing to die themselves in the end. They case their targets and pay attention to perceived risks. Even mentally unstable, suicidal would-be murderers don't set out to get killed before they have a chance to kill others.

An Israeli-style machine-gun-wielding guard at the school door would make students safer. That may not be a feasible or desirable idea, but it's a fact.

And facts, not irrational fears, must drive the discussion for effective solutions.


Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.

Editorial on 05/25/2018

Print Headline: Stoking irrational fears

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  • Razrbak
    May 25, 2018 at 7:38 a.m.

    "An Israeli-style machine-gun-wielding guard at the school door would make students safer. That may not be a feasible or desirable idea, but it's a fact." Time to put down the pipe Dana, you're two tokes over the line.

  • JakeTidmore
    May 25, 2018 at 7:55 a.m.

    From PoliceOne website regarding the varied definitions of gun-free zones and why reports differ depending on which definition is used:
    "Here’s where things get muddy. In a 2013 report, Mother Jones found no evidence that any of 62 mass shootings that occurred between 1982-2012 were at sites targeted specifically because of a gun ban. Many of the attackers had a personal connection to the site of their rampage, such as their place of work.

    A study by Everytown for Gun Safety found only 13 percent of mass shootings between January 2009 and July 2015 occurred in gun-free public spaces, as pointed out by Newsweek.

    On the contrary, an oft-cited 2014 study by John Lott, economist and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, found that 98.4 percent of mass public shootings from 1950 to July 2016 occurred in gun-free zones.

    A big reason it’s hard to verify whether these claims are factual is because of the various definitions of what constitutes a “mass shooting,” a “gun-free zone,” and the differences in gun prohibition from state to state.

    As reported by Politifact, not all "gun-free" zones are completely free of firearms, which researcher Louis Klarevas used in part to argue against Lott’s study. For example, armed security was present at military sites categorized in Lott’s findings as “gun-free.”
    Dana is more than two tokes over the line. He has put on blinders and reported only a narrow, prejudicial view of the "facts". Dishonest and disingenuous make for poor opinion writing and this is definitely poor work, indeed.
    Just google gun-free definitions and spend some time looking at the variety of definitions, what differentiates them, and what the research in toto says. Look at the cherries Dana left out of his pie. Dana's result is more like one of those cheap cherry fried pies you get in the store - mostly a thin paste with a lot of artificial ingredients. One serious bite will reveal how little flavor and natural ingredients are actually there.

  • hah406
    May 25, 2018 at 8:10 a.m.

    Dana, you are wrong this week, in so many ways. Your "gun-free zone" comment is completely false, as stated by Jake. Your comments about redefining what constitutes a school shooting is dishonest as well, as an accidental discharge can shoot a student dead just as easily as a targeted shooting. Finally, I wouldn't call any of this "entertainment." David Hogg and others were reporting the reality on the ground just as surely as reporters on the battlefield in Vietnam were showing the realities of war. The facts are that these kids are scared, and they should be. That is because the adults in the room refuse to take the concrete actions that could protect them.

  • Foghorn
    May 25, 2018 at 8:12 a.m.

    I’d like to pistol whip Kelley when he writes shlt like this. I’m sure he wouldn’t consider it actual ‘gun violence.’

  • LRCrookAttorney
    May 25, 2018 at 8:58 a.m.

    The main issue presented by Kelley is overlooked by all of the responses here. Kelley is stating, with facts, that CNN bolstered their report (FAKE NEWS) to scare teenagers into activists. CNN has learned that anyone who says anything negative to a scared teenager, whether that fear is based in reality or not, will be shot down and ridiculed by the public at large. I mean, who wants to tell a teenager that their fears are irrational. Kelley specifically showed that, in reality, there has not been 22 "school" shootings in 2018 and to say there has been is akin to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, when in fact there is no fire.

  • WhododueDiligence
    May 25, 2018 at 9:06 a.m.

    An Israeli-style machine-gun-wielding guard at the school door would make students safer. That may not be a feasible or desirable idea, but it's a fact."
    That is not a fact. That's Kelley's belief--his opinion expressed in his opinion column. In reality, the guard could be the first person shot and the machine gun could be used at an extremely high firing rate against students. The United States is not Israel. In Israel, schools are fenced-in with guarded gate entry. In Israel gun ownership is rare among civilians and gun ownership is very strictly regulated. The Feb 2018 Washington Post article "Why school shootings are so rare in Israel, where guns are such a common sight" states that only 3.5 percent of Israelis are allowed to own guns. Military service is mandatory and military service members carry weapons in public. At the guarded school fence gates, backpacks aren't even checked because civilians civilians rarely own guns and--unlike the US--unstable individuals aren't allowed to own them. If "Israeli-style" is meant to imply the US should adopt Israel's style of allowing only 3.5 percent of the population to own guns, then Kelley's opinion would be much closer to a fact, but it's doubtful Kelley meant that.

  • PopMom
    May 25, 2018 at 9:11 a.m.

    People who watch CNN are well educated and know that there have not been 22 school shootings of the magnitude of the ones in Texas and Florida. Dana just wants to please his bosses by writing an anti CNN and pro gun piece. His attitude that parents and children should just sit back and allow the gun nuts to have unfettered access to guns is disgusting. People are more important than guns. We need to limit access to weapons.

  • Packman
    May 25, 2018 at 9:14 a.m.

    Better be careful, Dana, you're gonna pi$$ off the gun grabbers by confusing them with facts.
    Sadly, pretty much all the gun grabbers have is fear-mongering because facts and logic defeat their narrative. The silly call for a ban on sporting rifles is a prime example. Over the last ten years (according to the CDC) sporting rifles have accounted for less than 1% of homicides in the US while handguns account for almost 40%. If the gun grabbers were serious they would be calling for a ban on the device used in almost 40% of the time instead of less than 1%. But as we all know, they are only serious about promoting a political narrative.
    Regarding the Parkland attack it's being reported the inept school resource officer who failed to act and potentially cost many kids their lives covered up a sexual attack by Sheriff Israel's son a few years back, which explains why Israel covered for the guy. The cover up was facilitated by Broward County School's sanctuary schools policy.
    Speaking of Parkland, the pro 2A kid Kyle Kashuv was recently ranked first in his junior class of some 900 students! Congratulations Kyle!
    Meantime, the anti 2A Parkland kid Emma Gonzalez was dropping F bombs during a televised event. Congratulations Emma!

  • LRCrookAttorney
    May 25, 2018 at 9:16 a.m.

    PM..."People who watch CNN are well educated and know that there have not been 22 school shootings of the magnitude of the ones in Texas and Florida." Then why put a headline that is false, because unlike you, I do not believe that "people" who watch CNN are necessarily "educated." Just like this girl in the article, she sees a headline and takes it as truth. CNN knows as does most educated writers, that the bulk of the story will not be read and the headline will be what is shared with everyone else. It is exactly what people (at least a third of them) are yelling about when they say fake new.

  • JakeTidmore
    May 25, 2018 at 9:37 a.m.

    LRAC - "CNN knows as does most educated writers, that the bulk of the story will not be read and the headline will be what is shared with everyone else...."
    Please back this up with research and evidence. So far you've done neither on any of your statements.
    And get a real name and/or get a real job where you don't spend most of the day on a blog spouting political propaganda.
    No name cowards are neither brave nor free. Just folks with their heads stuck in the sand telling you what they see.