- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2018

Last month, a shot fired at a high school near Seattle entered an office window and hit a three-ring binder. Six weeks later, 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

What do the incidents have in common? They were both listed by Everytown for Gun Safety as two of the 18 “school shootings” so far in 2018, a figure that has been decried as exaggerated and misleading since making the rounds after Wednesday’s shooting in Florida, even by liberals.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont Independent, posted a correction online Friday after tweeting the “18 in 2018” figure, which was shared 23,000 times, calling it “incorrect and inflated.”

“Correction: Information we released Wednesday, along with most major news outlets, stating that there have been 18 school shootings this year turned out to be incorrect and inflated,” tweeted Mr. Sanders. “One school shooting is too many, and this is a crisis that must be addressed now, but it is important that we use correct stats when discussing this horrific situation.”

Still, Everytown, a gun-control group backed by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg, defended the figure, which includes incidents in which a gun was discharged inside or on the grounds of a school campus, even when the firearm was fired by accident and nobody was hurt.

“Every time gunfire breaks out on school grounds, it can shatter a child’s sense that they are safe in their school and in their community,” said Sarah Tofte, Everytown director of research and implementation, in a Friday statement. “Tracking each of these incidents is an important way to measure some of the many ways that shootings affect children in this country.”

At the same time, the group did remove one of the 18 incidents. After tweeting Wednesday that Parkland was “the 18th school shooting in the U.S. in 2018,” Everytown later pared down the list on its website to 17.

Missing was the Jan. 3 suicide of a 31-year-old man in St. Johns, Michigan, who shot himself in the parking lot of an elementary school that had closed for seven months, which was deleted Thursday, according to CNBC.

Conservative websites were quick to accuse Everytown of juicing the numbers shortly after a slew of Democratic lawmakers, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, celebrities and media outlets referenced the “18 in 2018” figure.

The Media Research Center, citing a January report in the Washington Free Beacon, blasted Everytown’s figures as “highly misleading,” and chided the three major networks for including the figure in their nightly news broadcasts.

“[T]he efforts to paint the latest shooting, which was truly horrible, as another in a series of mass shootings compressed so closely in time is simply not an accurate reflection of reality,” said the Daily Wire in a Wednesday post.

USA Today’s David Mastio followed up Friday with an op-ed headlined, “No, there have not been 18 school shootings already this year,” while the Washington Post called the number “flat wrong.”

PolitiFact rated the claim as “mostly false,” while another fact-checking website, Snopes, defended Everytown’s count, arguing that the fault lay with the media for not characterizing the “18 in 2018” figure accurately.

“We find no fault with Everytown’s raw data, which is useful and important, only with the overly broad way it is categorized and then parroted in the media,” said Snopes.

Everytown was founded in 2014 after two Bloomberg-backed gun-control groups, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, joined forces.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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