Odds of Getting Struck By Lightning Three Times Greater Than Being Killed in K-12 School

September 23rd, 2014

In The Shooting Cycle, Shelby Baird and I explain how mass shootings at schools are rare, and are not happening more frequently. Shootings–a subset of mass shootings–are equally rare. At Cato@Liberty, Jason Bedrick highlights some new statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics. In short, you are three times more likely to get struck by lightning than to be killed in a K-12 school.

According to the National Center for Education Statstics’ 2013 “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report, from the 1992-93 school year until the 2010-11 school year, there were between 11 and 34 homicides of youths ages 5-18 at schools each year (including attacks with weapons other than firearms), with an average of about 23 homicides per year. Comparing that to NCES’s enrollment statistics, about 0.000044% of public and private K-12 students were killed at school per year between 1992-93 and 2010-11. That’s about one out of every 2,273,000 students per year. By contrast, the odds of being hit by lightning in a given year is one out of 700,000 according to National Geographic.

I do not offer these numbers to make light, or trivialize the loss of life. Rather, policy decisions should be made on the basis of facts. And I’m not talking about gun policy. Today, more and more schools are becoming militarized, based on the rationale that we need to stop mass shootings. Students are more likely to get caught up with criminal matters when police officers are combing the grounds. We should not allow these rare tragedies to turn our schools into police states.

Update: Radley Balko states it well:

In the debate over police militarization, law enforcement officials and defenders of militarized cops frequently cite mass shooting incidents, particularly school shootings, as a big reason why cops need big guns, armored vehicles, and other battle gear. In truth, as University of Virginia sociologist and school violence scholar Dewey Cornell has pointed out, the average campus can expect to see a homicide about once every several thousand years. But it’s clear that much of the law enforcement community believes that it’s only a matter of time before a mass shooting incident comes to every community in America. And it seems reasonable to ask if those fears may be affecting the way police respond to incidents like those in Las Vegas and Beavercreek.