Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

A Digital Map Reveals America's Deadly History of School Shootings

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, December 20 2012

A new map created by a Seattle entrepreneur hopes to show the world that school shootings in the United States are far from rare.

In fact, such shootings have happened with disturbing frequency. In 2012, there were at least 12 gun-related incidents at schools across the country, according to data Whitepages.com CEO Alex Algard has mapped out at Stoptheshootings.org.

In January, police in Brownsville, Texas, shot and killed 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez after he waved around what turned out to be a pellet gun in class. In February, a 14-year-old shot himself in the school cafeteria at Walpole Elementary in New Hampshire. Twelve days later, a nine-year-old brought a loaded handgun to school in his backpack. It went off accidentally and the bullet hit an eight-year-old at Armin Jahr Elementary School in Bremerton, Wa. Five days after that, a 17-year-old boy walked into the school cafeteria at Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio, and shot five students, three of whom died.

"The whole point of this website is to bring home the message that these school shootings happen all across the country, and they happen regularly and frequently," Algard said in an interview. "It's not something that happens just once every two or three years. It happens consistently."

The reports, which date back to 1992, are based on local news reports of the incidents gathered through Google Alerts and from the National School Safety Center, a non-profit.

Algard, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of Whitepages.com, said he became actively involved against gun violence after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007. He joined a local group dedicated to reducing gun violence called Washington Cease Fire, but wanted to do more. A former Goldman Sachs investment banker and an engineer, Algard said that he wondered how he could contribute in his own unique way. He came up with the idea of the web site in 2009, but he had not updated it much until the events of last weekend. He said that he was particularly disturbed when he came across an article in the New York Times that reported that the National Rifle Association had lobbied to defund research at the Centers for Disease Control on guns as an issue of public health.

"There been a lot of discussion on [school shootings] recently, and unfortunately some not-so-well informed discussion," he said. "My hope is that some people can bolster their arguments with some of these statistics."

While the data may not be broken down in exactly the same way reported by Algard on his web site, both the CDC and Bureau of Justice Statistics do publish statistics on youth violence and causes of death. On Thursday, for example, the BJS published a new study on violence against youth in and out of school. The report found that serious violent crime against youth between 12 and 17 years of age declined by 77 percent between 1994 and 2010, and that in 2010, the rate of serious violent crimes against youth at schools was similar to the rate happening outside of school.

Still, it's the fact that the shootings happen at all that also bothers Algard, a father of two young girls and a boy, one of whom is kindergarten age. Algard says that other than his involvement in trying to contribute to the conversation about gun violence, he's generally apolitical.

"I grew up as a kid in Sweden and Canada," he said in an email message. "People have access to firearms there -- for example hunting is a popular sport in both countries -- but there is nowhere near the level of gun violence in either country. It never even crossed my mind to worry about gun violence."

Algard revived his site this weekend with updated information. The site says there have been 386 school shootings in the past two decades, including Sandy Hook. The site also provides the age distribution of victims (298, or almost 60 percent of them, are teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19) and the ages of the shooters (167 of them, or almost 70 percent of them, were also between 10 and 19).

I asked him on the phone what he thinks the best solution to the current situation would be. He replied that he doesn't know what legislative solution would be the best.

"What I do know is that there is an epidemic, and we've got to do something about it," he said. "The answer is not to sit on the sidelines and not do anything about it. What I've chosen to do is work on a Web site, and I think others can work on legislation."

News Briefs

RSS Feed tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

More