804 People Have Been Killed by Guns at U.S. Schools

Most school gun violence is the result of escalated disputes and occurs in parking lots during morning classes, according to one study.

804 People Have Been Killed by Guns at U.S. Schools

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This article, originally published on March 11, 2024, has been updated to reflect current 2024 school shooting statistics.


More than 800 people have been killed by guns in American K-12 schools in the last 58 years, according to one analysis.

The K-12 School Shooting Database, maintained by researcher David Riedman, found 804 victims have been killed and an additional 2,221 have been wounded in 2,699 incidents since 1966. These findings include every instance in which a gun was fired, brandished, or a bullet hit school property regardless of the number of victims.

The author notes the number of incidents, victims, and deaths has increased dramatically in the last six years, made evident by the chart below.

School Shooting, Guns in Schools, School Gun Violence

Source: David Riedman, K-12 School Shooting Database

The year 2020 saw many incidents (116) despite most schools being shut down for several months. When campuses reopened, gun violence skyrocketed to 256 incidents in 2021 and has increased every year since. In 2023, there were 346 recorded incidents. So far in 2024, as of April 3, there have been 69 incidents of gun violence with 65 victims, including fatal and wounded. If Riedman’s projections are accurate and the current rate continues, there will be 276 more incidents this year.

These findings align with an investigation conducted by the Washington Post which found 51 of the country’s largest school districts reported a sharp increase in the number of firearms recovered on campus. The investigation also determined that from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2022-2023 school year, 47 districts that provided full data experienced a 79% increase in gun seizures. Overall, during the 2022-2023 school year, more than 1,150 guns were seized on K-12 campuses.

A research letter published in April 2022 in the New England Journal of Medicine also found guns were the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens in 2020. More than 4,300 people ages 1-19 died of firearm-related injuries in 2020 — a 29.5% increase from 2019.

Most School Gun Violence Linked to Escalated Disputes

While indiscriminate active shooters have been and will continue to be the most “newsworthy,” this particular data set, similar to many others, shows most school gun violence is linked to an escalated dispute (30% or 830 incidents). Indiscriminate shootings are fifth on the list, making up 4% of all incidents. More common are accidental shootings (8.5%), drive-by shootings (7.8%), suicide/attempted suicide (5.7%), and shootings linked to illegal activities (5.6%).

While active shooters aren’t the most common, they have resulted in 382 injuries and 167 deaths. Of all active shooter deaths dating back to 1970, 62% have occurred in only the last 12 years, supporting Riedman’s findings that the number of victims and deaths has increased dramatically in recent years.

School Shooting, Guns in Schools, School Gun Violence

Source: David Riedman, K-12 School Shooting Database

When and Where Do Most School Shootings Occur?

The K-12 School Shooting Database also looks at the location of where school shootings occur. According to the data, most school gun violence has occurred in a parking lot (639 incidents). The next most common locations are in front of a school (287) and beside a building (218). These findings align with the fact that most day-time school shootings happen during morning classes (424 incidents) and at dismissal (292 incidents) — the times when the most amount of people congregate outside the school building.

School Shooting, Guns in Schools, School Gun Violence

Source: David Riedman, K-12 School Shooting Database

School Shooting, Guns in Schools, School Gun Violence

Source: David Riedman, K-12 School Shooting Database

As violence has increased in recent years, communities have called on schools to provide additional security during arrival and dismissal times. In Nov. 2021, following a spate of violence in New York City Public Schools, the Department of Education announced there would be an expansion of random metal detector scannings at 30 schools, and that more NYPD officers would be deployed to offer support during arrivals and dismissals.

More recently, in Feb. 2023, New York City Police Chief of Department Jeff Maddrey ordered more NYPD officers be pulled from administrative duties to provide extra security during dismissals for the remainder of the school year. In July 2023, all employees assigned to the NYPD School Safety Division were issued ballistic-resistant vests to be worn both inside schools and outside schools during student arrivals and dismissals.

In Worcester, Mass., a school safety task force recommended the addition of school liaison officers (SLOs) to provide neighborhood-based foot beats and offer assistance during morning arrivals and afternoon dismissals to manage increased traffic. There are now technologies available to help manage school dismissals through features such as geofencing and direct messaging.

The second-most common location for a shooting at a school is after-hours during sporting events (335 incidents), which lends itself to the previously mentioned statistic that the majority of shootings happen in parking lots. Sporting events bring together large amounts of people with various connections to two competing teams, many of which have longstanding rivalries.

Monitoring people who come in and out of these events is nearly impossible, but there are various ways crime can be mitigated at after-hours school events. Following a 2020 deadly shooting at a basketball game, the Dallas Independent School District started using metal detectors to screen attendees at its athletic events and implemented a temporary ban on all bags, purses, and backpacks.

Over the summer, to better control rowdy athletic event crowds, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) announced it was doubling penalties on home teams when fans rush game fields or courts. All SEC schools must now also provide security and uniformed police presence around each team and game officials before, during, and after every game. Environmental design can also help mitigate violence.

Here are three additional resources on violence prevention and response at athletic events:

Who Are The Most Common Offenders of School Gun Violence?

While schools and the media so often focus on the outsider threat, students are the most likely to perpetrate gun violence in schools, making up 40% of offenders in this study.

School Shooting, Guns in Schools, School Gun Violence

This statistic emphasizes the importance of focusing on internal preventative measures, including behavioral threat assessments, weapons detection, anonymous tip lines, community programming, restorative justice programs, mental health support, and a campus culture that focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

A 2020 targeted school violence report released by the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center concluded most of the active shooter events that happened in the previous decade were preventable. Nearly every attacker (94%) experienced negative home life factors and most elicited concern from others beforehand (80%). Time and time again, anonymous tip lines and nurturing connections between students and a trusted adult — both in K-12 and higher education settings — have proven to improve student well-being and subsequently mitigate violence.

Here are some resources on school violence prevention:

Additional school violence prevention articles and resources can be found here.

Determining What Constitutes a School Shooting

We’ve covered similar findings in the past on Campus Safety, and many readers have voiced strong opinions on what should constitute a “school shooting.” In Riedman’s analysis, he offers several points that give perspective as to why his research includes all types of incidents that involve guns — even the ones that don’t result in injuries.

“Regardless of how the incident is defined, the initial impact to a reported shooting that occurs at a school is generally the same. There is widespread fear and panic at the school. The campus needs to be locked down. Police, fire, and EMS respond. Law enforcement personnel systematically search and clear building(s). Children are escorted to safety. The media begins continuous coverage. Frantic parents scramble to find their children. Public officials need to make statements and assure everyone’s safety. After action reports are written. Policies are put in place to prevent a similar future incident. This type of response occurred following both the February 2018 indiscriminate shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which thirty-four people were either killed or wounded, and the August 2018 non-student gunfire during a fight at Palm Beach Central High School, in which there were no deaths and only two injuries.

To allow anything other than location to qualify an incident as a school shooting is both arbitrary and subjective. All school shootings represent social, cultural, and interpersonal issues. As such, they should not be categorized based on who fired the gun or why it happened, but rather where it occurred.”

Schools, students, staff, and first responders are now also facing an increase in false swatting threats which elicit similar responses and associated trauma.

Since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, more than 360,000 U.S. students have experienced gun violence at school, according to an analysis from the Washington Post. This means hundreds of thousands of families have also been impacted and many have likely had difficult conversations with their children about gun violence and the complicated topics that are inextricably intertwined.

Continuing to track all forms of gun violence on school property is critical to improving mitigation, response, and recovery from these incidents. Monitoring gun violence not only helps schools but entire communities.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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5 responses to “804 People Have Been Killed by Guns at U.S. Schools”

  1. Det. Patrick Chagnon says:

    Articles like this are a head scratcher. According to the article, it would appear society has lost its way over the past five years anyway, based on the increase spike of weapons being used to solve “disputes”. It would be interesting to see a chart on location of these crimes, Urban or Suburban? My hunch is that most of these incidents are from areas with a higher crime rate. It is also important to point out (Particularly with Schools) the incidents that are specific to an actual “intent” to show up at a school to cause the death of another (Uvalde/Parkland/Sandy Hook) as this is a completely different issue for someone in a school leadership position. School leaders certainly can reduce their risks of being victimized from a “mass” shooter by having a good internal threat teams. What goes on outside in the community is probable not in their control. Lumping actual targeted mass shootings as mentioned above, with “disputed” incidents does a diservice to those who are engaged trying to protect kids at schools. I call in mudding the waters – 804 deaths over the past 58 years is statically pretty low number. However, if the article intent was to cause fear and push a some agenda, then well done!

    Det. Patrick Chagnon
    CT State Police (Retired)
    Lead Instructor
    Protecting Our Schools Training Course

  2. Amy Rock says:

    Hi Detective Chagnon,

    Thank you for your comment and your service. My intent wasn’t to create fear or push an agenda but instead analyze the data gathered by the researcher and provide resources we have for addressing the various associated issues. As to not create fear, that is why I didn’t put “Killed in School Shootings” in my headline as “Killed by Guns” is a more accurate statement.

    I understand your concern about lumping together disputes and targeted shootings, which was why I emphasized in several ways that indiscriminate active shooters (Uvalde/Parkland/Sandy Hook) are much rarer than other forms of gun violence in schools. Because of that, I wanted to ensure the main focus of the article was the incidents that are more likely to happen, which is where I feel the study’s findings regarding location, time of day, and perpetrator’s affiliation are helpful.

    That is also why I emphasized the importance of focusing on the insider threat (i.e. students) as they are much more likely to perpetrate gun violence than a non-student shooter. I wanted to ensure I acknowledged and provided resources for addressing internal threats through measures like behavioral threat assessments and increased mental health support.

    I do agree that seeing the data broken down by Urban vs. Suburban would be helpful, but the researcher did not provide that information in this data set (not that I saw). It would help in providing a “bigger picture” of gun violence in schools, but I don’t feel as though I shouldn’t share the other data because it doesn’t include that information.

    I also agree with your statement that gun violence from a dispute vs. an incident like Uvalde and Sandy Hook is a totally different issue for someone in a school leadership position. However, the goal is the same: protect students, so they must be prepared for and address both. I do feel the researcher’s point that “the initial impact to a reported shooting that occurs at a school is generally the same” carries some weight. When people hear “school shooting,” they instantly think an active shooter threat and go into that mode because they don’t want to be the school or law enforcement agencies that don’t respond adequately. Some of the lockdown practices followed in an active shooter situation and in a dispute are the same as well.

    I think for some purposes, combining the data is helpful, and for others, it would be more helpful to separate it out by incident type. 804 deaths in 58 years is a statistically low number but hopefully studying all forms of gun violence in schools can help get that number even lower for the next 58.

  3. Bruce Westberg says:

    How many of these shootings were gang related?

  4. Scott Grandy says:

    I think it would be interesting to see the definitions of the time periods. When I look at Night, Evening, and Not a School Day; that accounts for 459 shootings.
    Riedman was quoted:
    “To allow anything other than location to qualify an incident as a school shooting is both arbitrary and subjective. All school shootings represent social, cultural, and interpersonal issues. As such, they should not be categorized based on who fired the gun or why it happened, but rather where it occurred.”
    I think the opposite is true. There were 153 suicides listed in the article, if some of them were among the 172 shootings that occurred at night, counting that as a school shooting seems to be intellectually dishonest. This would also apply to gang/drug related shootings that happen to occur because people were on the school property. To be a “school shooting” there should be something more than the property, especially if school is closed and no one involved is a student or faculty.

  5. George Joy says:

    Most of these alleged “school shootings” are anything but. The researcher is being intellectually dishonest to push a narrative which is unsupported by the facts. When you lump in any event involving a firearm or the discharge of a firearm (student pulling a BB gun, random bullet hit the school, individual shot in a vehicle blocks away from school crashes by the school for example) you are simply inflating numbers that are used to elicit a certain response. Whether that response is a call for further restrictions on the ownership of firearms or creating unnecessary fear in the minds of educators, students, parents, administrators or elected officials, the end result is the same; needless and reckless manipulation of “facts” to achieve an skewed outcome.

    When will those who compile ‘statistics’ on school shootings be intellectually honest? When you artificially inflate numbers to make the issue seem larger than it is, you negatively affect everyone. Poll after poll shows educators fear coming to work and are ready to quit because artificially inflated numbers scare people and mask the reality of life in 99% of our schools. I expected Campus Safety to be more rigorous in it’s analysis of so called “studies” which are anything but, before they engender more fear in our schools and colleges.

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