Fox Wastes No Time Pushing Right-Wing Canards After Oregon School Shooting
Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Following reports of an active shooter at a high school near Portland, Oregon, the hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered offered baseless predictions that mental health was to blame for the shooting, false characterizations of past school shootings, attacks on "anti-gun nuts," and calls for more guns in schools.
Many details about the shooting are still unknown or unconfirmed, although it has been confirmed that the incident has ended and the shooter and at least one victim are dead. Though Outnumbered co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle explained to viewers that the network was "awaiting breaking news details about the circumstances of exactly what happened," the lack of information didn't stop Guilfoyle and her co-hosts from speculating wildly.
Although no biographical details of the shooter were known at the time, Fox News psychiatrist Keith Ablow said on the June 10 edition of Outnumbered, "I predict again that we'll find that yet another person who used a gun was compromised by one or more psychological or psychiatric illnesses that could have been detected." Ablow also attacked "anti-gun nuts" who he said would blame the shooting on firearms.
But the existence of a mental health condition alone is an extremely poor predictor for violence. According to a 2013 report authored by mental health and gun violence researchers from top universities and research programs including the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to mental health conditions. Furthermore, the researchers determined that only under very limited circumstances does a link exist between "individuals with serious mental illness" and violence. Instead the report found factors such as substance abuse or violent misdemeanor convictions served as a better predictor for future violence.
Although Ablow and other members of conservative media typically cast immediate blame for high-profile shootings on mental health conditions -- unfairly stigmatizing millions of Americans in the process -- the most significant factor in gun violence is access to firearms.
Outnumbered co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle also offered a false history of the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting and 2007 Virginia Tech massacre to promote the right-wing media falsehood that places where guns are not allowed attract violence.
According to Guilfoyle, Columbine and Virginia Tech offered evidence that school shooters pick their targets "because they are traditionally gun-free zones, and that's where people that are mentally -- they figured it out and they get in there and they're gonna do the most harm they can."
There is no evidence that either school was targeted because of its gun policy. In fact, an armed police officer present at Columbine attempted to fire on one of the shooters, but was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon. At the time of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, the school had an accredited police force with an emergency response team that was described in a report on the mass shooting as "like a SWAT team."
During the segment, Ablow posited that he thinks "arming one or more people at these schools makes sense. Why wouldn't you want somebody duly empowered to protect the kids?"
Despite horrific shooting incidents, schools -- where guns are typically not allowed -- are almost always safer for children than the surrounding community. Since the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics began recording homicides at schools in the 1992-3 school year, the proportion of youth homicides that occurred at school has never exceeded 2 percent of total youth homicides: