There was another school shooting this week. This time a student shot another student, then shot himself at an Oregon high school. Even one school shooting is too many, of course. There’s no argument there. But what I find troubling is how these things – school shootings specifically, and crime in general – are portrayed to us these days. The media portray these events as common. In their reporting, they used phrases like “violence is rampant” and “the latest in a string of shootings.” Again, any violence is unacceptable, but sometimes I think news media have a tendency to make things seem worse than they really are. I take that back. I don’t think media make things seem worse than they are, I know it. Pew Research did a fairly exhaustive study of gun violence and crime in America. It was released in May 2013. Here’s the headline at pewsocialtrends.org: Gun Homicide Rate Down 49 percent Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware Here’s the overview of their 63-page study. National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Beneath the long-term trend, though, are big differences by decade: Violence plunged through the 1990s, but has declined less dramatically since 2000. Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49 percent lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm — assaults, robberies and sex crimes — was 75 percent lower in 2011 than in 1993. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall (with or without a firearm) also is down markedly (72 percent) over two decades. Nearly all the decline in the firearm homicide rate took place in the 1990s; the downward trend stopped in 2001 and resumed slowly in 2007. The victimization rate for other gun crimes plunged in the 1990s, then declined more slowly from 2000 to 2008. The rate appears to be higher in 2011 compared with 2008, but the increase is not statistically significant. Violent non-fatal crime victimization overall also dropped in the 1990s before declining more slowly from 2000 to 2010, then ticked up in 2011. Despite national attention to the issue of firearm violence, most Americans are unaware that gun crime is lower today than it was two decades ago. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, today 56 percent of Americans believe gun crime is higher than 20 years ago and only 12 percent think it is lower. Aside from the fact that gun violence is declining, you have to also consider two factors that would seem to be counterintuitive to a decrease in gun violence. There are lots more of us than there were 20 years ago. At the same time, gun sales and gun ownership have skyrocketed per capita to all-time highs. Gun permit requests also are at historic highs. More people. More guns. More people with guns. Less gun violence. Go figure. So its pretty clear that as bad as gun violence is in America, for whatever reason, the media are making it seem worse. Case in point. Just this week, after Tuesday’s shooting, lots of media outlets reported there have been 74 school shootings in the past 18 months – since 26 people died at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The statistic came from a group started by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Everytown for Gun Safety. Bloomberg, as you may know, is a big-time anti-gun guy. That jarring stat was published by virtually every national news outlet, including CNN. But on Wednesday, CNN – to its great credit – took a closer look at the list of shootings. After studying the circumstances of each incident – I won’t go into all the details, but its all spelled out at CNN.com – CNN determined that only 15 of the incidents actually were similar to the violence at Newtown or Oregon. So this anti-gun group exaggerates its statistics by 500 percent to make gun violence look worse than it really is and media across this great land gobble it up and regurgitate it to the masses. That’s journalism today, I guess. Again, proper credit to CNN for at least taking a second look. But, to quote Hillary Clinton, “What difference does it make?” I mean, so what if the perception of gun violence is askew from reality? Here’s what. We get people saying stuff like this: "The United States of America has become a war zone. There's violence in the workplace, there's violence in schools and there's violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that's what I'm going to do." Who was this? This was Sheriff Michael Gayer, of Pulaski County, right here in Indiana. He was quoted by the Indianapolis Star shortly after purchasing a giant Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle from the US government. Pulaski County has a total of around 13,500 residents. Now the sheriff has a 55,000-pound, six-wheeled military patrol vehicle to help keep them all in line. (Hey, Sheriff Rocky and Chief Scott, don’t get any ideas.) So far, eight different law enforcement agencies in Indiana have purchased these MRAPS that were formerly used in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep troops safe from improvised explosive devices, roadside bombs and sniper attacks. So despite the fact that crime rates have been falling, law enforcement agencies apparently feel the need to arm themselves with military hardware – assault rifles, grenade launchers, camouflage gear, night vision – up to and including armored vehicles. This is a trend not only in Indiana, it’s nationwide. Now, I am not sure why the Pulaski County sheriff – and lots of other law enforcement officials around the country – feel the need to have all this military gear. I am not sure why they feel so threatened. But if I had to take a wild guess, I would say the media had a role. And that’s just a little troubling to me. Because if that’s the case, the media is partially to blame for the trend toward militarization of police departments. And I don’t view militarization of police departments as a good thing.