Cleveland State University criminologist says schools are still the safest place for children

CLEVELAND - The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. may make many people feel as if the United States is becoming a more violent nation, and that schools are unsafe. However, a northeast Ohio criminologist said statistics show the opposite is true.

"The truth is that schools, even in spite of this horrific incident that happened, are still the safest place for children in this country," according to Wendy Regoeczi, the director of Criminology Research at Cleveland State University. "Children are far less likely to be injured or killed at school than they are almost anywhere else."

In 2009, there was a rate of one to two homicides per one million school children, according the U.S. Department of Justice. Shopping malls, street corners and their own homes are more dangerous for children, Regoeczi said. 

Regoeczi also said gun violence dropped dramatically from 1993 to 2009, from a rate of 5.9 per 1,000 persons 12 and older, to a rate of 1.4 per 1,000 persons 12 and older.

"We are actually on a decline when it comes to gun-related violent crimes that occur in the U.S," she said.

Gun ownership is also declining in the United States, according to the General Social Survey. In 1977, 54 percent of households reported having guns. In 2010, that number had dropped to 32 percent.

Diane Donnett, who owns the gun shop and shooting range Stonewall LTD in Broadview Heights, doesn't believe the gun ownership numbers. She said business is booming.

Donnett said many of her customers fear the violent school shooting in Connecticut and other recent mass shootings, like at an Aurora, Colo. movie theater this summer, will cause the government to crack down on gun owners and make it more difficult for them to buy guns they believe they need for protection.

"People are beginning to become more afraid of what's going on in society today," she said.

But others question how could gun control prevent such crime, when, for example, Adam Lanza, the elementary school shooter, wasn't able to buy his own gun and Sandy Hook Elementary School was said to be in a gun-free zone?

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