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Did CNN just call Bloomberg’s ‘Everytown’ group liars?

Shannon Watts claimed there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook, but that figure is facing a stiff challenge.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

UPDATED (1:06 p.m. PDT) - Having used what may be a faulty statistic on the number of school shootings since the December 2012 Sandy Hook tragedy, CNN reported that it “took a closer look at the list” that has been pandered by Michael Bloomberg’s “Everytown for Gun Safety,” and its associated group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA).

Now, CNN is not alone in its questioning of the statistic. The Portland Oregonian, National Review and Spectator all have on-line stories. And Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, has issued a press release suggesting that Bloomberg change the name of his $50 million organization to "Every Liar for Gun Safety."

MDA founder Shannon Watts yesterday repeated the questionable statistic in an Op-Ed piece she wrote for the New York Daily News, that there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. As Examiner reported yesterday, The Blaze published several Twitter notes from journalist Charles Johnson that debunked the Everytown/MDA claim.

Here is what Watts said in the article: “(T)hese shootings also reinforce a troubling reality: 74 school shootings have occurred in the last 18 months since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, yet elected officials have continually failed to enact common-sense reforms to fix our broken gun laws.”

Here is what CNN reported:

"The statistic came from a group called Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella group started by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a passionate and public advocate of gun control.

"Without a doubt, that number is startling.

"So on Wednesday, CNN took a closer look at the list, delving into the circumstances of each incident Everytown included.

"Everytown says on its web site that it gleans its information from media reports and that its list includes school shootings involving a firearm discharged inside or on school grounds, including assaults, homicides, suicides and accidental shootings.

"CNN determined that 15 of the incidents Everytown included were situations similar to the violence in Oregon -- a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school. That works out to about one shooting every five weeks."

CNN’s analysis determined that just 15 of the incidents on the Bloomberg group’s list appear to be genuine school shootings that "were situations similar to the violence in Oregon," as opposed to the remaining 59, which may be questionable at best. Those include gang-related incidents, suicides and even one slaying that might be a case of domestic violence. Of course, 15 verifiable school shootings is too high a number, say gun rights activists, but it is nowhere near 74.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the CNN report is that the network repeated the alarming “74 shootings” statistic without first verifying the number. CNN evidently only looked past the rhetoric after spreading the bogus number, acknowledging in its report that it came from Bloomberg's gun control lobbying group. Would CNN ever do that with data from the National Rifle Association?

KVI’s John Carlson, the morning drive-time host, raised this question. Incredibly, yesterday morning, the Salem Statesman-Journal published an editorial constructed around the increasingly questionable statistic.

All of this emerged in the aftermath of Tuesday’s fatal shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore. Authorities yesterday identified the shooter as Jared Michael Padgett. His single victim was 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman, and teacher Todd Rispler was wounded but made his way to the school office to sound the alarm, bringing “good guys with guns” to the scene, where they confronted the teen gunman who was armed with an AR-15 rifle and a pistol.

At a press briefing yesterday, Lt. Steve Alexander of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office revealed that Padgett brought the guns from home, where they were securely stored. “He defeated security measures,” Alexander reported. No motive has yet been determined.

Blind faith use of the Everytown/MDA statistic raises questions about press bias and gullibility. For many years, gun rights activists have complained that the so-called “mainstream” press, which evidently flows with the strongest current along the left bank, accepts whatever they get from the gun prohibition lobby as gospel.

More importantly, of course, is the use of an alarming statistic that appears to be far from accurate. If anti-gun lobbying organizations stretch credulity by carefully spinning data into deception, what else are they fibbing about? What else have they not been telling the truth about? According to gun rights advocates, the one-word answer is “Everything.”

This could become a dilemma for Washington gun control proponents as the campaign for Initiative 594 gathers money and steam. Already, the sponsoring group – Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) – has raised and spent a fortune to push the 18-page gun control measure. A repeated claim is that the “big money gun lobby” is going to spend millions of dollars, yet Public Disclosure reports show WAGR has far out-raised and out-spent the grassroots group sponsoring an alternative measure.

Protect Our Gun Rights (POGR), which backs Initiative 591, has raised about half of the WAGR sum, yet gathered more signatures on its petitions. Yesterday, the Washington Arms Collectors sent an e-mail appeal to its 20,000 members to step up to the plate and support I-591. Even if each member kicked in $20 apiece, it would be a fraction of what Seattle’s moneyed elite have contributed or promised to the I-594 war chest. Gun owners have never tried to portray themselves as the underdog in this battle. They didn't have to.

There were attempts to imply the National Rifle Association was somehow behind I-591, which is demonstrably false. The NRA has not contributed nor committed any funds to that grassroots effort, and the PDC reports verify that. The NRA has been rather busy elsewhere fighting gun rights battles, but testimony from NRA lobbyist Brian Judy in Olympia during hearings on the dueling initiatives demolished I-594 as something of a sow’s ear disguised as a silk purse.

Once more for the record, POGR is a statewide grassroots coalition that includes the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors, Washington State Rifle & Pistol Association and Hunters Heritage Council.

But a pattern of dishonesty is emerging. Rather than clarify or outright retract claims about 74 school shootings, anti-gunners simply move on and try to shift the subject. This time, however, CNN and others are raising alarms about how gun control proponents define "school shootings." In the process, the taint of dishonesty has been affixed to the gun prohibition lobby that may not be easy to cleanse.