The U.S School Shooting Statistics Everyone Should Know
Are you aware of these important U.S. school shooting statistics?
Although some experts have argued there’s been too much focus on school shootings compared to other campus emergencies, that focus has resulted in a mass collection and analysis of school shooting statistics that provides valuable insights about the nature of the school shooting threat.
These efforts, taken by multiple organizations, have resulted in several valuable reports that provide a comprehensive— if somewhat overwhelming— look at school shooting data of the past. School officials and first responders should familiarize themselves with these statistics even as they maintain an all-hazards approach to emergency planning.
By now nearly all schools have planned their response to school shootings: In 2016, the CDC found nearly 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for responding to school shootings, and 70 percent of those schools had drilled students on the plan.
This is for good reason: Shootings are among the most deadly types of emergencies a school may face, and one recent study even found that school shootings are increasing on college campuses.
Our goal by providing this in-depth look at school shooting statistics is for readers to understand this threat more completely so they can take a data-driven approach to emergency planning.
Putting School Shootings Into Context
First lets compare the prevalence of school shootings to school violence overall. Fortunately, the National Center for Juvenile Justice (or NCJJ) found the rate of violent crime in schools dropped significantly over a recent 18 year stretch ending in 2010:
Still, school violence remains a real problem: More than 750,000 incidents of violent crime took place in U.S. schools during the 2013-2014 school year, according to the government-sponsored report Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2015.
Fortunately, the chances a student will be killed at school are far lower than the chances they’ll experience school violence.
A 2004 Secret Service report dubbed the Safe Schools Initiative put the odds of a high school student getting into a fight at school at 1 in 7.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned 2015 report counted just 31 homicides of students aged 5-18 that occurred at school or while traveling to or from school between July of 2012 and June of 2013. That puts the likelihood a student will be killed at school at less than one in a million!
U.S. School Shooting Statistics
Focusing on gun-related school death statistics is necessary to zero in on school shootings. The CDC counted 123 instances of students using guns in school-related homicides or suicides between July of 1992 and June of 1999.
Of these 123 school shootings, here’s some statistics on the attackers:
- 93.5 percent of the shooters were male
- Five students used two firearms each
- 26.8 percent of the shooters committed suicide
- 69.1 percent of the shooters perpetrated a homicide
- Of those homicides, 15.6 percent of shooters killed multiple people
Including non-fatal school shootings makes things look more worrisome. Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control, has tracked 254 school shootings in America since 2013, defining school shootings as public reports that a gun was fired inside a school building or on school grounds.
Of the first 160 incidents (tracked through 2015), the group’s analysis gives us the following statistics:
- 84 incidents occurred at K-12 schools (or 53 percent of the total)
- 76 incidents occurred at colleges or universities
- In more than half of the incidents, the shooters intentionally injured or killed at least one other person with a gun (an act other groups defined as targeted violence)
- Nearly one in six shootings occurred after a confrontation or verbal argument
- 12 shootings were unintentional
- No one was injured in 33 of the shootings on school grounds
Statistics on U.S. School Shooters
The Safe Schools Initiative report focused on behaviors of school shooters leading up to their attack.
For the report, researchers from the Department of Education and the Secret Service studied 37 incidents of “targeted school-based violence” between 1974 an 2000. The researchers defined targeted school-based violence as “(i) a current or recent former student who attacked someone at his or her school with lethal means (e.g. a gun or knife); and, (ii) where the student attacker purposefully chose his or her school as the location of the attack.”
The Secret Service could produce no useful “profile” of a school shooter, finding that attackers “varied considerably in demographic, background, and other characteristics.” Still, they offered several notable insights.
Below are some of the report’s statistics, which incorporate school shootings:
- All of the attacks were committed by males
- 98 percent of the attackers experienced or perceived a major loss prior to the attack
- 78 percent of attackers had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts prior to their attack
- 71 percent of attackers felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked, or injured by others prior to the incident (in several cases that harassment was described as “long-standing and severe”)
- Almost all of the attackers (95 percent) were current students at the school
- More than half (59 percent) of the attacks occurred during the school day
- In 73 percent of the incidents, the attackers had a grievance against at least one of their targets
- Most attackers used a gun as their primary weapon, with 61 percent using handguns and 49 percent using rifles or shotguns
- Three quarters of attackers used only one weapon, although nearly half of them carried multiple weapons during the attack
- In the majority of incidents (81 percent) the attacker carried out the incident on his own
Many of these statistics describe the perpetrator in the shooting at Seattle Pacific University in 2014. That attack was carried out during the day with one shotgun by a male with a history of suicide attempts and thoughts. The attacker had even been hospitalized after reporting to hear one of the Columbine High School shooters in his head “telling him to hurt people.”
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