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Responses to School Shootings Should be Based on the Level of Risk, Not the Level of Fear

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This article was written by James Alan Fox, professor of criminology, law, and public policy at Northeastern University.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s horrific shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, emotions are raw and fears are running high. As the nation attempts to make sense of what took place, it is important to provide some reassurance to anxious students, parents, and school personnel that, despite the tragic loss of life in a fourth grade classroom, the risk of a deadly school shooting remains low.

Since 2013, a total of 77 students in grades K-12 have been killed in 11 school mass shootings, each involving at least one student fatality and four or more gunshot victims overall, based on my analysis of a school shooting database compiled by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Adding to these casualties, another 17 students whose shooting deaths were not part of a mass shooting, and the annual averages stands at 10 students killed.

Every one of these assaults caused immense pain to the families who lost a child and to the communities that endured senseless tragedy. Yet the risk of such fatalities at school is actually low. By my calculations, with more than 50 million school children in America, the likelihood is about 1 in 5 million that a child will be killed by an armed assailant at school in any given year. While recognizing that school shootings tend to have a ripple effect extending well beyond those directly impacted, there are many greater perils that children confront in their daily lives. For example, about 400 children perish each year in pool drownings. Perhaps we need more lifeguards at pools rather than armed guards at schools.

Read the full article in the Boston Globe.

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