A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of June 30 – July 7

The FactCheck Mailbag is back! This week, readers sent us letters about school shootings and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


What Constitutes a ‘School Shooting’?

I appreciate your effort to clarify the accuracy of various school shooting reports in view of the divergent claims being made [“Spinning Statistics on School Shootings,” June 25]. I take issue, however, with arguing about what constitutes a school shooting. If one is concerned with the issue of “copycat” mass shootings, it is a legitimate argument. If the issue is having guns in schools, however, what does it matter how one’s child (or adolescent, or young adult) is killed in a school setting? That child is still dead.

When discussing school shootings of all kinds (including “legitimate” ones and those which don’t meet criteria) it would be relevant to show the statistics in other countries as well as in the U.S. My understanding is that other developed countries do not have guns in the schools and have many fewer school shootings, whether they be accidental, suicidal or mass shootings.

Sally Cohen
Boca Raton, Florida


Keystone XL Pipeline Jobs Not Considered

I recently read your review of the Keystone XL pipeline [“Pipeline Primer,” March 10] and have a comment. As a railroad consultant, I must point out that there are, apparently, significant employment offsets that have not been considered. Pipeline construction jobs were reviewed, and pipeline operation jobs (about 50 full-time) were mentioned, but a new pipeline would also have a meaningful impact upon the alternate transportation modes, primarily railroads. By diverting the oil to pipeline, many jobs related to rail transportation would be lost, including those who load & unload the rail cars, build the tracks, locomotives and railcars, maintain the track, locomotives and cars, operate the trains, etc. While RRs are much less labor intensive than trucks, they are far more labor intensive than pipelines, which would certainly result in a net loss of transportation jobs in this case.

It is possible to accurately estimate the offsetting loss in RR jobs that you could expect for any given (barrels/year) volume of oil transported via pipeline. Contact me if you would like to discuss this methodology — it’s relatively simple and can be done in a very objective and unbiased manner. I believe that any estimate of the impacts of this or any pipeline should include the impacts upon competing transport modes, something that seems to have been overlooked by the various parties.

I am neither for nor against this particular pipeline, I’m only an observer who mentions this in the hope that this important issue receives some consideration.

Mark Amfahr
Woodbury, Minnesota