The gun control advocacy group Everytown For Gun Safety has published an interactive map of what it says are all 149 school shootings that have taken place in America since January 2013, essentially since the late 2012 tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The most recent incident depicted when the map was first released was the now notorious Oct. 1 Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, where a gunman killed nine people and injured seven others. But since it was published this week, another shooting took place at Northern Arizona University and was apparently added to the data.
The 149 shootings on the map represent an average of nearly one every week since Sandy Hook, Everytown notes, and the map is constantly getting updated as the group’s researchers come upon records of shootings they may have initially overlooked. Or as more shootings take place.
The news analysis site Vox explains the map shows a marker for “any incident where a firearm is discharged inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds,” but excludes three acts of self-defense with guns at schools.
So, to be clear, the majority of the incidents illustrated on the map are not “mass shootings,” and two of the incidents depicted took place in Maine: A December 2014 case in which a 41-year-old man shot himself in the parking lot of Benton Elementary School near Waterville, and a September 2013 case in which a 19-year-old shot himself on the grounds of Gray-New Gloucester High School during homecoming sporting events.
The Maine shootings are the only ones listed in New England, as well as the only ones northeast of Philadelphia.
Vox analyst Zack Beauchamp writes that including shootings that didn’t result in mass casualties — or in some cases, any casualties at all — actually reinforces the argument for more stringent gun control laws:
“Everytown’s map is best understood as a map illustrating the threat guns pose to schools in addition to their toll. Moreover, many of the cases of fatal shootings or injuries on the map aren’t like those of Columbine or Newtown. Often, they’re a result of arguments between romantic partners or friends. This speaks to why, according to gun researchers, the mere presence of many guns makes society more dangerous. When people routinely carry deadly weapons, the chances of emotionally charged conversations spiraling out of control are substantially higher.”
Since the latest shooting in Oregon, President Barack Obama and top 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, among others, have renewed calls for stricter gun control measures in the country.
In Maine, an organization called the Maine Gun Safety Coalition is advocating for a 2016 referendum that, if passed, would require background checks on the buyers in all gun transactions. Currently, background checks are not required on private gun sales.
But while researchers have found a general correlation between more restrictive gun laws and fewer gun-related deaths, opponents of stricter laws argue outliers like Maine and New Hampshire — which have few shootings, despite relatively loose gun rules — provide evidence that the guns themselves are less of a problem than the identification of mental illnesses and the availability of treatment.
That argument has then attracted responses from researchers and advocates who claim it unfairly stigmatizes the many more thousands of people who struggle with mental illnesses, but don’t commit horrific crimes.
Update: Since this was published Friday morning, another shooting has been reported, this one at Texas Southern University in Houston. It has been added to the map.