U.S. School Shooting Statistics: Data on Incidents, Shooter Warning Signs

Analyzing school shooting statistics, including those gathered from averted incidents, provides valuable insights into the nature of the threat and how to prevent it.

U.S. School Shooting Statistics: Data on Incidents, Shooter Warning Signs

This article, originally posted on Dec. 6, 2017, has been updated to reflect current statistics. 

While this data is important and may be intimidating, we want to emphasize that active shooter events in schools are still extremely rare. There are many layers to keeping schools secure and students and staff safe. Active shooter response should only be part of your campus safety plan — not all of it. 


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 provide 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 2020, the CDC found 96% of public schools had a written plan for responding to school shootings, and 98% of those schools had drilled students on a lockdown procedure — up from 90% and 70% in 2016.

This is for good reason: Shootings are among the most deadly types of emergencies a school may face. According to a government-sponsored report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2021, there were 93 school shootings with casualties at U.S. public and private elementary and secondary schools in 2020-2021 — the highest number in 20 years. Compared to 2000-2001 when there were 23 school shootings, the number recorded in 2020-2021 nearly quadrupled. (See graphic below)

Our goal in 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. School shootings are still extremely rare but the latest statistics show our society can’t afford to ignore them.

Putting School Shootings Into Context

First, let’s compare the prevalence of school shootings to school violence overall. Fortunately, the rate of violent crime in schools dropped significantly from 2009 to 2020. Violent crime experienced by students away from school also dropped. (See graphic below)

However, these statistics do not take all pandemic years into consideration. While completed statistics are still being finalized, a study released by the American Psychological Association (APA) this March found that during the pandemic, rates of violence and aggression against K-12 school personnel were high, despite most schools being remote during the survey. A third of teachers surveyed reported they experienced at least one incident of verbal and/or threatening violence from students during COVID.

Furthermore, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the number of physical attacks with weapons in K-12 public schools nearly doubled from 5,326 incidents during the 2015-16 school year to 10,472 incidents during the 2017-18 school year. Threats of an attack with a weapon also increased from 18,260 to 26,676. (See graphic below)

Fortunately, the chances a student will be killed at school are far lower than the chances they’ll experience school violence. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2019, 11% of male students and 4% of female students reported having been in a physical fight on school property — meaning the odds of a high school student getting into a fight at school is around one in 7.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned 2021 report counted just 29 homicides of students aged 5-18 that occurred at school from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019. As a comparison, K-12 public and private enrollment in 2018 was 57,500,000. James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, says the annual odds that an American child will die in a mass shooting at school are nearly 10 million to one. Furthermore, less than 2% of youth homicides occur on school grounds, on the way to/from school, or at or on the way to/from a school-sponsored event, according to the CDC

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 are some statistics on the attackers:

  • 93.5% of the shooters were male
  • Five students used two firearms each
  • 26.8% of the shooters committed suicide
  • 69.1% of the shooters perpetrated a homicide
  • Of those homicides, 15.6% of shooters killed multiple people

Including non-fatal school shootings make things look more worrisome. Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control, has tracked at least 1,000 incidents of reported gunfire on K-12 and higher education campuses in America since 2013. As a result, 331 people have died and 698 have been injured. So far in 2022, 50 people have died and 122 have been injured in 152 incidents. The breakdown by intent can be seen in the graph below. 

 

The group’s analysis also gives us the following statistics:

  • From 2013 through 2021, there were 848 incidents of gunfire on school grounds
  • Between August 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022, there were 193 incidents of gunfire at preschools and K–12 schools
  • Between 2013 and 2021, there were 302 incidents of homicides, nonfatal assaults, and attempted assaults with a firearm on school grounds, resulting in 96 deaths and 265 injuries
  • There were four mass shootings — incidents where a shooter killed four or more people — in a preschool or K–12 school between 2013 and 2021
  • Mass shootings account for 19% of overall gun deaths and 10% of all people shot and wounded in schools

Statistics on Averted School Shootings

Just focusing on school shootings that were actually carried out may miss the full picture. Analyzing data on behaviors that could plausibly lead to school shootings can also give us an idea of the nature of the threat. The U.S. Secret Service’s 2021 report, Averting Targeted School Violence, largely focuses on the behaviors exhibited by students who planned to carry out school shootings.

For the report, researchers studied 67 disrupted targeted school-based violence plots against K-12 schools from 2006 to 2018 to determine best practices for school violence prevention. The researchers defined targeted school-based violence as “(i) a current or recently former K-12 school student (ii) took steps to advance an attack plan (iii) to cause physical injury to, or the death of, at least one student and/or school employee.”

In the report, the Secret Service said there is no “profile” of a school shooter, finding that attackers varied considerably in demographics, background, and other characteristics. Still, they offered several notable insights, including the fact that students who plotted school attacks shared many similarities with students who carried out attacks. The report emphasized that this piece of information shows that targeted school violence is preventable when communities identify warning signs and intervene as necessary. 

Below are some of the report’s other important findings regarding the plotters:

  • 95% were males
  • Plotters ranged in age from 11 to 19, with an average age of 16
  • 95% were current students and 5% were recently former students who had attended the targeted school, or a school from the same district, within one academic year of the plot
  • Plotters ranged from 6th to 12th grade with the majority in grades 9-12
  • Plotters usually had multiple motives, the most common involving grievances with peers or staff (45%) (See graph for additional motives)
  • 85% engaged in planning related to weapons
  • 73% detailed how they would execute their attacks
  • 57% documented some of their thoughts and intentions regarding their planned attacks
  • 31% conducted research into prior attacks as part of their planning
  • 16% attempted to recruit others to carry out their attacks
  • 55% chose to use at least two or three types of weapons
  • 96% of the weapon(s) of choice included one or more firearms
  • 94%shared their intentions about carrying out an attack
  • 37% received some form of school discipline prior to the discovery of their plots
  • 30% had contact with law enforcement prior to the discovery of their plots
  • 70% exhibited behaviors indicating the presence of some type of mental health symptom in the time
    leading up to, or around, the discovery of their plots
  • 63% exhibited emotional or psychological symptoms
  • 33% had a history of substance use and/or abuse
  • 91% experienced life stressors in the five years prior to their averted attack
  • 67% had an interest in violence

Additional “Red Flag” Behaviors

Another potential red flag behavior is bringing a weapon onto school property. Fortunately, the data here is encouraging: A 2021 report by the National Center for Education Statistics found that between 2009 and 2019, the percentage of high school students who reported carrying a weapon onto school grounds in the last 30 days decreased from 6% to 3%. Below is a breakdown by location, race/ethnicity, and sexual identity of students who reported bringing a weapon to school in 2019. 

Another red flag is students who report having access to loaded guns. The Secret Service’s 2021 report found 70% of school shooting plotters had access to a family member’s firearm in their home with 63% having unimpeded access.

The National Center for Education Statistics’ 2016 study also offers insights. The data, which depicts students who have access to a loaded gun without adult permission, shows minimal variation when broken down by more recent school years. See the breakdown below.

Putting These Statistics to Use

It’s our hope that these reports and the school shooting statistics within them are used by officials to make more informed decisions when crafting emergency plans. But school officials aren’t the only ones who can use these statistics to help prevent shootings. A look at where attackers got their weapons reveals the role gun safety plays in the equation.

We’ve published content by experts on spotting concealed weapons and active shooter prevention strategies, all with the belief that a smarter society is a safer society. Staying informed about school shooting statistics is the first step toward preventing these horrible attacks.

Do you have a Threat Assessment Checklist? If not, you’ll want to download this free Active Shooter Checklist now!

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32 responses to “U.S. School Shooting Statistics: Data on Incidents, Shooter Warning Signs”

  1. Preston Esslinger says:

    Where did you get your sources

  2. Tony Parks says:

    Nowhere, do I see (I may have just missed it), that you included how many of the shooters were under the influence of either prescription medication, alcohol, illegal drugs, etc. The pharmaceutical industry alone has a very high percentage of our teens (and the general population) on a plethora of drugs for everything from ADD drugs to anti-depressants, and psychotic (mental health drugs), add to this the illegal drug addicts and you have a very serious epidemic. Don’t you think that the drug abuse and/or prescription drug industry effects on people’s mental state just might be important to investigate? I think you’re going to find that as high as 90% have a compromised mental state due to drug use of one kind or another. Or you might find that a specific drug or group of drugs contribute most. Everybody points the finger at gun control, but barley anybody looks at the drugged mental state connection. It might be wise to remember that it is the person and their mental state that pulls the trigger.

    • Brittany says:

      If a person is on meds for mental illness and they shoot up a school, then it’s because they stopped taking their medicine. Most of these kids have some sort of mental illness or are tried of the bullying OR become mentally ill BECAUSE of the bullying. I think that we need to address this as it is a bigger portion of the problem.

      • Keith says:

        No. Just no. Even starting SSRI medications can lead to immediate personality changes.

        My own father was put on a very low-dose anti-depressant 5 years ago. Within 3 days he was cutting at his skin with a knife “to get the ticks out”, and was telling me that “If the police come, don’t open the door, just give me to them.” This man, a brilliant engineer, had never broken a law in his life.

        Fortunately, he was living with me at the time, I recognized that the SSRI was making him psychotic, and I took it away from him. He recovered in a few days. But a month later he was living in his own apartment, and his pharmacy refilled the prescription even though I had ordered them not to after speaking with my father’s doctor. So after a frantic call from my mother, I had to go confiscate the SSRI (again) because he was harming himself to “get at the ticks”.

        Now, imagine a man or young boy who’s put on an SSRI, and the psychosis (too much serotonin in the brain) comes on more slowly. They seem upbeat, talkative, etc. “Cured”, right? But over time they get deeply paranoid, and start compulsively planning violence to control their anxiety. If not stopped, they will feel compelled to act out violently in some way. Most will be noticed by a vigilant parent or doctor at some point during this personality shift. But if they live alone, or are neglected by parents/friends, they’re very likely to wind up on the news after hurting themselves or others.

        Which is why most of these shooters are “loners”, “bullied”, etc. Nobody is paying any (positive) attention to them after putting them on mind-altering chemicals.

    • Keith says:

      These are exactly the questions that we need to start asking as a society. How often did a school shooting occur before SSRI anti-depressants were released into the market? What common drugs can interact with them to produce psychosis? How do we ensure that everyone taking these drugs is adequately monitored? Should people living alone or in neglectful households be given these drugs at all?

  3. Heather Taylor says:

    How about good old peer pressure, social media and the dynamics of a developing brain? Why are we not looking at that? Is it a mental health issue or just a teenage brain issue? I don’t see a lot of mass school shootings being done by 40-50 year old men. Check out this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QWoP6jJG3k&feature=share

  4. Keith,

    The first shooting occurring on a US campus took place on Thursday, April 9, 1891 and the last to date occurred on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

    Here is some data to consider relative to incidents during these periods:
    – Age of shooters both male and female: between 5-years of age and 70-years of age
    – Shootings at Public Schools: 1062
    – Shootings at Private Schools: 92
    – Type School Unknown: 33
    – Colleges: 217
    – High Schools: 649
    – Middle Schools: 154
    – Elementary Schools: 140
    – Number students, teachers, etc., Killed: 2,580
    – Number students, teachers, etc., wounded: 3,317

    The reason that determining the information on SSRI’s you are seeking is going to be nearly impossible to obtain is that offender medical information is confidential just as is there mental health history. However, medical committees or physicians that determine an individual is mentally defective/ill or are a threat to themselves or others are required to report this information. Unfortunately this information and information determined by a court , board, commission, or other lawful authority does not get entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

    So unless the individual attempting to purchase a firearm through legal means answers question 11.f on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) Form 4473, honestly there would be know way the firearms dealer would know the individual was mentally defective/ill.

    11.f “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mentally defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution (See instructions for question 11.f.)”

    [Instructions for Question 11.f. Adjudicated as a Mental Defective: A determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) is a danger to himself or to others; or (2) lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs. This term shall include: (1) a finding of insanity by a court in a criminal case; and (2) those persons found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility. Committed to a Mental Institution: A formal commitment of a person to a mental institution by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority. The term includes a commitment to a mental institution involuntarily. The term includes commitment for mental defectiveness or mental illness. It also includes commitments for other reasons, such as for drug use. The term does not include a person in a mental institution for observation or a voluntary admission to a mental institution. EXCEPTION: Under the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, a person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution in a State proceeding is not prohibited by the adjudication or commitment if the person has been granted relief by the adjudicating/committing State pursuant to qualifying mental health relief from disabilities program. Also, a person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution by a department or agency of Federal Government is not prohibited by the adjudication or commitment if either: (a) the person’s adjudication or commitment was set-aside or expunged by the adjudicating/committing agency; (b) the person has been fully released or discharged from all mandatory treatment, supervision, or monitoring by the agency; (c) the person was found by the agency to no longer suffer from the mental health condition that served as the basis of the initial adjudication/commitment or (d) the adjudication or commitment, respectively, is based solely on a medical finding of disability, without an opportunity for a hearing by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority, and the person has not been adjudicated as a mental defective consistent with section 922(g)(4) of title 18, United States Code; (e) the person was granted relief from the adjudicating/committing agency pursuant to a qualified mental health relief from disabilities program. Persons who fall within one of the above exceptions should answer “no” to question 11.f. This exception to an adjudication or commitment by a Federal department or agency does not apply to any person who was adjudicated to be not guilty by reason of insanity, or based on lack of mental responsibility, or found incompetent to stand trial, in any criminal case or under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.]

    It should also be noted that to date all Federal Firearms License (FFL) sales are, by law required to be submitted via paper documentation only. There is no United States database that immediately updates and tracks the legal sale or purchase of firearms. Once the FFL paper work reaches the BATF it is immediately placed in storage until such time that a BATF analyst reach the documents during the normal course of their FFL paperwork duties. It is also important to note that owners of legal firearms have no legal obligation to have a criminal background check completed on an individual they contemplating selling a firearm(s) to.

    It is however, illegal to make a ‘Straw Purchase’ in the United States. A straw purchase is where an individual who is capable of legally purchasing a firearm from a legal firearms distributor goes to a legal firearms distributor and intentionally purchases a firearm(s) for another person who would not be able to legally purchase the firearm(s) from the legal firearms distributor themselves.

    The worlds number one resource available for data and data analysis relative to; school violence around the world, professional threat assessment relating to school violence, mass school violence/murder, pre, during, and post offender communications in incidents of school violence, as well as target hardening and school safety is Psychosocial Dynamics, LLC.

  5. Bunnie says:

    There’s a website related to this, it’s called ssristories.org and it’s pretty self explanatory. I also know from personal experience that ssri drugs do in fact change a persons perception of reality. You do things you wouldn’t normally do while on these prescriptions, like cheat, steal, and murder. Now that’s not normal either while taking them or abruptly stopping these drugs!

  6. keith says:

    one important and vital statistic i dont see on here…and that is; where they accessed these weapons, and how many weapon owners were charged for their weapons being so easily accessed by the kids. i believe that is where some if the responsibility lies, not the politicians or the nra. if youre gonna be responsible enough to own these weapons, then accept responsibility of the damage done by them. because if it had not been in your possession then it would not get in theirs,..legally or illegally.

  7. Zane Sterling says:

    As a Doctor in practice for 33 years i have watched this phenomenon and kept my own statistics. Almost without exception, every student involved in these shootings has been on or on/off these powerful mind-bending drugs. This is a good discussion and needs to be heard more often – why are so many young people given drugs that clearly alter their mind and their thought processes? I see these kids in court weeks or months after they have shot and killed people and they look so harmless and confused. They often don’t even comprehend what they did or how they did it.

    As far as guns being the problem, think again. Guns just happen to be the most convenient and most available weapons. If these kids can’t get guns they are creative and they will find other ways to cause harm and pain. Take guns away and we will have more stabbings, more assault by vehicles, more arson and many other terrible attacks. Take a long, hard look at the terrible effects these powerful drugs have on these young minds and you are on the right path.

    • Larry Lopata says:

      Hello Zane,

      I live in Newtown, CT and have a son that went to the sister elementary school of Sandy Hook. I would very much like to see your data on the medication of the kids committing these horrible acts. Or if you could point me to public data it would be appreciated. I find it frustrating that this aspect of the issue is being almost completely ignored because I feel strongly that it is a major factor in preventing future tragedies. Thank you in advance.

  8. Jeff says:

    Depending on the time of year and the location of the school in question, having a weapon on school property may or may not be a red flag. In rural locales its not uncommon for Seniors and possibly Juniors to have shotguns or rifles in their vehicles during hunting season to go hunting as soon as they are out of school for the day. Outside of hunting season its probably a safe assumption to make that it is a red flag. What I’m saying is that you need to know the kids hobbies to make that judgement.

  9. Mark says:

    In 2015 2,333 student age kids were killed in traffic accidents, 235,845 were injured. No march or protest about these unfortunate kids. Must not be as dead as the shooting victims I guess. Where is the protests against GM, Ford, Toyota and so forth? What about the American Auto Dealers Association? We need a march for justice!

  10. Rob Goldsmith says:

    I came to this page as a Google hit looking for some data on what percentage of all schools or public schools encounter shooting incidents. Can’t find that here.

  11. Ken Pruitt says:

    The problem with this article, and the problem with all such articles on the subject, is that many, miscellaneous studies, periods, angles, etc are being compared so that it looks like a “detailed” comparison of apples and oranges!

    Also lost, it seems, in such studies (and at a time when students are marching) is that the shooters are often school students with known emotional problems, or home trouble or having experienced bullying or feeling like an outcast thanks to the inconsiderate attitude of his FELLOW students!

  12. Dan says:

    I came to this website looking for stats on shootings on closed campuses vs. open campuses. I was also wondering about occurrences at “inner city” campuses where security measures, i.e. metal detectors, armed guards, are common place security practices. Has this type of information been compiled and where can it be accessed?

  13. Bill says:

    When you use Everytown for Gun Safety as a source you lose a great deal of credibility their criteria for a “school shooting” is umm very questionable, to say the least.

  14. […] you’ll be happy to know that the rate of school shootings has been dropping for decades, and today kids are about ten times more likely to be killed walking or bicycling to school than […]

  15. […] you’ll be happy to know that the rate of school shootings has been dropping for decades, and today kids are about ten times more likely to be killed walking or bicycling to school than […]

  16. Bunnies says:

    That is very helpful but you also realize that while the rate has gone down often the amount of kids that are killed per shooting almost making it even.

  17. C Jensen says:

    Some of the commenters need to reread the article as statements are made that certain info is not discussed when in fact that info is directly addressed. As far as it including a number of sources, that’s usually a sign the author took time to research. Normally, I would object to his using a source that advocates gun control, but he is transparent about that fact, and they are not his only source. Given the shortness of the article, he gives solid statistics with some common sense suggestions.

  18. Cathy says:

    I am done with just doing nothing about this. I marched in March for gun control. But after Santa Fe, I want to do more. Gun control should be pursued but WHAT is causing this aberrant behavior at such high rates? I want to see research on the SSRI drugs too. I want to see the connection. If that’s not the cause then why are there so many more violent shootings than w0 or 49 years go? What is causing this level of nicety in our kids??? I want to help. I’m compelled to do something!!

  19. Lyn says:

    Do you have any historic to present statistics on the specific local of each school shooting? I’m trying to define shootings that occurred in multiple classrooms or areas within a school VS. shootings that occurred in only one specific area or classroom of the school.

    thx.

  20. Jonathan Quimbly says:

    Your headline says “Shootings” but almost all your stats include all weapon types.

    So you didn’t answer your own question.

  21. […] another research study done on 37 lethal attacks conducted on […]

  22. Debbie Olson says:

    Does anyone know of any statistics on the racial makeup of the victims of school shootings?

  23. Lucinda says:

    This is sad

  24. […] Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., opened fire on the campus, making it the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012,” he […]

  25. Mariana Anaya says:

    What issue is this article from?

  26. Charles says:

    What research has been done or considered in regard to the prevalence of violent first person shooter video game use by school shooters? The disregard we are seeing for human like in our society is staggering. Anecdotally, it appears that as our young people have become more dependent on electronic communications and mediums of entertainment they have lost human empathy and compassion. More attention needs to be placed on the control of games that teach our children a disregard for human life.

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