Thousands of pairs of shoes dotted the lawn of the U.S. Capitol this week, prompting photos and media coverage about what it meant.
Global activist group Avaaz set up the demonstration of 7,000 pairs of shoes on March 13 to represent child deaths from gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre. Many major news outlets including CNN and USA Today shared striking images of the shoes, but some Internet bloggers were confused about what the shoes really symbolized.
Take, for example, Equality House, one of many blogs that shared this post on their Facebook page:
The image says that shoes on the Capitol lawn represent 7,182 students "killed in U.S. schools since 2012." (The image offers a comparison to deaths from overseas wars since 2001, which is a safer estimate.)
But that’s the wrong interpretation.
It’s been more than five years since Sandy Hook, so the display featured 7,000 pairs of shoes. That total includes children who are killed at home, in neighborhoods, and by suicide.
Far fewer children have been killed in schools.
The estimate for 7,000 child gun deaths traces back to a June 2017 study by Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal. It found that 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds every year. The study looked at children from birth to 17 years of age.
The Avaaz news release stated that the shoes symbolize the children who have been killed by all gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting, not children killed in U.S. schools.
There isn’t one uniform way of tracking school shootings and deaths, but no matter which what you look at it, the 7,000-figure isn't accurate.
The New York Times published an analysis of the number of people who have been shot in school shootings on Feb. 15, the day after the Parkland school shootings.
Using data from the Gun Violence Archive, the Times found that 138 people have been killed in school shootings since Sandy Hook. That total includes school personnel who are not students, so the number of students would be even smaller.
The Gun Violence Archive defines a school shooting as an incident that occurs on the property of an elementary, secondary or college campus and only included incidents in which people were injured or killed.
So, even if you count all of the other instances of a student being killed on a school campus (for which there is no official count) it’s likely it would not come anywhere near 7,182.
Equality House, for its part, noted the difference between the image and the way Avaaz described it in the caption of its post. But the group still circulated the flawed information and did not delete it.
Bloggers said shoes on the Capitol lawn this week represented 7,182 students killed in U.S. schools since 2012.
That’s not accurate. The pairs of shoes symbolized more than 7,000 children who had been killed by gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shooting. The number of children killed in school violence, while fluid, is certainly smaller than that total.
We rate this claim False.