27 Comments
Jan 4Liked by Handwaving Freakoutery

Excellent write up. I think the only way that people could possibly be consistent in terms of "I fly" and "I want to pull my kid out of school to avoid getting them shot" is if they happen to live in a very dangerous school district, of the sort where gang violence in the school is a problem. I could see that, although blaming it on school mass shootings is sort of defining the problem incorrectly on their part.

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A couple of things to note: the wikipedia list includes several adults among the victims(and one incident where it seems adults were the targets). This probably makes the actual numerical risk for kids that much smaller. Also, the death rate comparison graph indicates that your health should be a much higher concern than all the other dangers people get panicky about.

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I may not be able to *visualize* ten million grade schoolers (that being five times the population of my entire state) but I'm sure basically everyone is aware of the expression of incredulity, "that's a one in a million chance".

Well, this is a one in six million chance.

(Yes, we still run into the difficulty of actually visualizing that, but the rhetorical phrase is well embedded in our culture.)

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oh please please please add lightning strikes and fatalities.

Lovely stuff. Keep it up.

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Tuning language to maximize colloquial misunderstanding is their superpower. Given your shockingly low stats I wrongly presumed ‘grade school” here meant K-6 - thanks for another verifiable fact to help fear riddled people understand context.

School shooter describes anyone on the skeet team. Active shooter describes anyone that practices on the reg. On the YT channel serpentza, mass public killings in China are described as “revenge against society attacks” , strikingly descriptive of the real root cause, isn’t it?

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Having been shot, seen people shot, I will now Unsubscribe

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It seems odd to compare US stats in one realm to global in another. The US, per capita, flies a heck of a lot more than anywhere else in the world, while also having far fewer fatalities per passenger mile. Since 2006, US scheduled airlines have had two fatal mishaps, with 50 total fatalities. That rate is even less distinguishable from zero than spree shooting deaths per student year.

Perhaps better would be US passenger vehicle fatalities. As an offhand guess, driving a child to school is probably at least two orders of magnitude more likely to result in injury or death to the child than spree shootings.

Yet the hand waving freakoutery of the latter is at least six orders of magnitude than the former.

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Great article! I went to post this on Twitter, and then realized this comes on the heels of the shooting in Iowa - did you write and post this in response to that, or was it coincidental?

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In March of 2020, a COVID-motivated office closure meant the end of my 50-miles-each-way commute on busy highways that regularly saw rush-hour accidents.

I remarked that because of the closure, COVID had become my most likely cause of death.

Prior to the closure, the commute was more likely to kill me than COVID was, but the policy removed the commute from the equation, leaving COVID as the most serious threat remaining.

People are generally innumerate.

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LOTS of other reasons to homeschool, or have one's kids in a private school, but school shooters is way down on the list.

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I agree with you and would still like to see “ deaths per million” for only school ages , not entire population to be able to present a stronger argument when this discussion comes up.

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Airline fatalities are nonexistent in the US, whereas most of the school shootings are located here. Also your child being killed at school is about 10000000x more devastating than the whole family perishing in a plane crash. But your overall point is well taken

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