The best and worst thing about social media is that others can and do respond to whatever we post—and they can do it in anonymity. This is something Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City and the backer and funder of just about every gun-control ploy known in modern politics, learned again on Dec. 16 when he tweeted: “21 students are shot every day—because of Trump’s unwillingness to act. Between protecting the NRA and our children, he’s made his choice. Which is why we need to beat him.”
The tweet has a one-minute video imbedded that purports to count off “every school shooting since Trump took office.” It stops at 263.
The 2,000-plus comments to this tweet are harsh. A few apparently believe his numbers, but many just come right out and call Bloomberg a “liar.” One wrote, “Bloomberg can’t wait to attack all of the bill of rights. Once he gets the 2nd, he will go after the rest.” Another said, “Gun safety means exercising the Second Amendment.” Most of the memes replying to the tweet—clips of “Dr. Evil” from the movie “Austin Powers” and so on—call baloney on Bloomberg’s numbers.
Many replies to Bloomberg’s tweet just ask, “Source?”
So let’s take a look at these numbers.
The first statistic—that there are 21 students shot every day in America—means that, if this were correct, 7,665 students would be shot every year in the United States. Whether or not that number is accurate is nearly impossible to say, simply because the term “student” is intentionally vague.
Though Bloomberg doesn’t offer a source for the wild statistic, a Google search finds this statistical claim on Brady’s (a gun-control group) website. Brady cites data from HCUPnet. This group describes itself as “a free, online query system based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). The system provides health care statistics and information for hospital inpatient, emergency department, and ambulatory settings, as well as population-based health care data on counties, regions. States and the nation.”
How Brady is using these emergency room and other statistics to determine the numbers of children and teens shot is, to be very kind, unclear. They also appear to be lumping suicides and suicide attempts with the victims of murderers and much more. There is no clear way to fact check this further, as Brady doesn’t give a detailed explanation of how they came to these numbers—this is hardly peer-reviewed research.
Bloomberg, though, was happy to simply repeat this “statistic” with no questions asked.
Perhaps more important is that Bloomberg, and others, use the term “student” to cause readers to wrongly infer that all of these incidents took place at a school.
The next number—that there have been 263 school shootings since President Donald J. Trump took office in January 2017—has been looked into before.
In 2019, for example, after the murders in Parkland, Bloomberg’s group Everytown for Gun Safety claimed that there had been 290 “school shootings” since Newtown, which occurred more than five years before. An analysis of Everytown’s claim soon showed, that while its examples all involved a school of some type, almost half were “completed or attempted suicides, accidental discharges of a gun or shootings with not a single individual being injured. Of the remainder, the vast majority involved either one fatality or none at all.”
In a similar instance, Politifact (also in in 2018) called Everytown’s claim about a statistic on the number of mass murders “mostly false.” Politifact determined that Everytown’s “database [of school shootings] includes incidents when no one was injured; attempted or completed suicide, with no intent to injure others; and cases when a gun was fired unintentionally, resulting in injury or death. The list also includes incidents on college campuses.”
Bloomberg’s Everytown had broadened the definition of “school shooting” into a meaningless statistic for their propaganda—or, to be less kind, a bald-faced lie; nevertheless, Bloomberg has continued to peddle these falsehoods as a presidential candidate.